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BUSTED…California Faces $15 Million-plus in Federal Fines Over AB 484

Last month, California passed AB 484, the widely-popular education bill that did away with the annual, federally-mandated STAR testing required by the No Child Left Behind Act.  On the eve before its signing, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned that its passage would create a conflict between state and federal law and threatened sanctions against the state if the bill was signed into law, though he did not clarify exactly what those sanctions might be.  Now we know: $15 million and possibly much more.

A letter was released Monday, October 28, 2013, from an assistant secretary of the federal Department of Education to Michael Kirst of the California State Board of Education, and to State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson.  The letter cites that California risks losing the $15 million reserved “in Title I State administrative funds and additional Title I funds in the amount that California spent on assessments last year.”  Additionally, the “Department may also designate California as a ‘high-risk grantee,’ potentially hampering its ability to receive federal discretionary funds or flexibilities available to other states for which California may apply in the future (including flexibilities from requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act).”  The letter goes on to inform that, depending upon how AB 484 is implemented, additional funds could be at risk, including funding for programs from which California received more than $3.5 billion in 2012-2013.

Apparently, the Feds mean business.

Proponents of AB 484 argued that the federally-mandated STAR test has been rendered obsolete by the implementation of the new curriculum designed around the Common Core standards.  Instead, districts across the state will be field testing the new computerized MAPP test…but for the first few years will only require testing in either math or English language arts (not both), ostensibly to allow time for schools to purchase additional computers and for teachers to settle into the new way of teaching.

It will be interesting to see how the State and the Feds resolve this one, as California was an early and ardent supporter of the federal push for national education standards.

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