No more PARCC exams

One huge line item was missing Tuesday when Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the new $71.2 billion biennial budget into law: Controversial PARCC exams, which drove complaints this year from parents and educators alike, were cut.

House Bill 64, the state operating budget, dumped funding for the standardized math and language arts tests as Ohio withdrew from the 12-state Common Core consortium.

The compromise bill leaves the Ohio Department of Education scrambling to find a new test provider with about a month and a half to go before the fall semester begins.

“We knew this was probably going to happen. We had rumblings this was going to happen. But the next question is, ‘What are we going to use?’ No one’s been able to answer that,” said Wellington Schools superintendent Dennis Mock. “We’re in limbo right now because we don’t have that information.”

Educators countywide complained this spring of problems with the PARCC roll-out, which involved a series of long and tedious online tests. Many students opted not to take the exams in protest.

The big question is how the annual state report card will reflect test results and whether there will be any funding impact to our local districts.

Mock feels any data the state puts forward that is a result of the tests is invalid and useless.

But whether any of the results will soon see the light of day is in question. Normally available to districts by July 1, the state has delayed its release until possibly January.

That leaves Wellington teachers with little feedback on where teaching was strong or weak and how to improve, Mock said.

Many who put in hours of development and training seminars are now frustrated that PARCC — and possibly the Common Core — have been thrown out the window, he said.

There is a strong possibility the state will put a “safe harbor” policy in place for the next three years because there is so much turmoil over testing methods and how to use data from exams, educators from several school districts have told us.

The biennial budget also outlines state funding to public schools.

It includes provisions for a $955 million increase in basic aid for kindergarten through 12th grade schools and guarantees no district will fall below its 2015 funding level.

There’s also a line item for an additional $20 million per year for testing, though it doesn’t stipulate what company’s standardized tests will be purchased.

Other provisions of Ohio’s new two-fiscal year budget include:

• A 6.3 percent decrease to personal income tax rates for all Ohioans.

• A continued 75 percent tax cut for small businesses earning less than $250,000 in business income, falling to a 100 percent cut in fiscal year 2017.

• A new three percent flat tax rate for businesses with income above $250,000.

• $286 million to increase home- and community-based services for Ohioans with disabilities.

• New policies focusing on welfare benefits for residents ages 16 to 24.

• Enhanced maternal services through Medicaid health plans with the aim of reducing the infant mortality rate.

• A budget freeze for tuition at two- and four-year state-supported colleges and universities.

“At a time when many other states are struggling with fiscal challenges, Ohio’s new state budget is among the strongest, thanks to conservative budgeting and smart management,” said a release from Kasich’s office. “The result is an economic climate friendly to job creators and a formula for future prosperity that helps more Ohioans participate in our state’s economic revival.”

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.