Opt-out bill gets one more week to get through House

SHARE Opt-out bill gets one more week to get through House

A bill allowing parents to legally sit their students out of the PARCC test has been given more time in the General Assembly. | Sun-Times file photo

The last day Chicago Public School children have to sit for a new state-mandated exam could also be the final day for a bill allowing their parents to legally sit them out of the 11-hour PARCC test.

The opt-out bill sponsored by Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, was one of only a few given more time late last week to move from one chamber to another before the General Assembly adjourns May 31.

Guzzardi said House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office granted his request for more time, but he expects the vote to be close.

Children already have been refusing the PARCC — the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — even without a law in place, Guzzardi said.

“If we don’t do anything, students will continue to opt out. All that will continue to happen is it will happen in a problematic way. . . . We can’t just plug our ears and pretend opt-out isn’t happening,” he said. “We need to make sure it’s done in a way that respects the wishes of our parents.”

Guzzardi’s bill would allow parents to opt their children out of state-required PARCC testing ahead of time; Illinois now places the onus on the child to refuse a test at the time it’s given. The bill also directs schools to provide an educational alternative for students who don’t test so they aren’t made to “sit and stare” as some districts have required.

Should House Bill 306 get the 60 votes needed to pass the House, it still has to make its way through the State Senate.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, a longtime supporter of the school reform movement, has threatened to veto the opt-out bill and has been leaning on Republican lawmakers to vote “no.” The governor’s administration worries Illinois could lose federal funding for poor students — or local control over that money — should more than 5 percent of students statewide refuse to take the PARCC.

Raise Your Hand, a parent group in Chicago, has been lobbying for the opt-out law, saying it’s unfair not to let parents make decisions about their children’s education and ineffective to make children sit in silence while classmates are testing. The group also believes PARCC, at up to 11 hours long, eats up too much instructional time.

“Parents around the state are calling their reps about this,” director Wendy Katten said.

The Illinois State Board of Education has opposed opting out. ISBE doesn’t expect to have a count on how many children sat out PARCC until at least July, saying it’ll take that much time to clean up the data.

Meanwhile, CPS students in grades three through eight and some high-schoolers have been taking the second part of the PARCC exam since April 27. The first window also spanned four weeks in March and April.

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