The feds’ $10 million threat is a joke

Because the consequences of not testing 95 percent of the students in the state (using the state-approved standardized SBAC test) are so misunderstood and overblown, there’s a lot of pressure being directed at parents, school board members, school administrators, and teachers about what might happen if Idaho doesn’t reach the 95 percent testing requirement in No Child Left Behind and the NCBL Waiver.

In a letter from the U.S. Dept. of Education to Alaska from earlier this year, Alaska asked, “What are the consequences if the State or district fails to adhere to the Federal Assessment requirements?”

In response, USED listed nine consequences which it could possibly enforce. The first seven aren’t financial consequences, so let’s focus on No. 8 and No. 9:

No. 8. Withdraw all or a portion of SEA’s Title I, part A administrative funds. (ESEA 1111(g)(2))
No. 9. Suspend and then withholding all or a portion of the State Title I, Part A programmatic funds. (GEPA 455)

Interestingly, Colorado was given the same list. (The original letters are at www.IdahoansForLocalEducation.org)

  1. Withdrawing all or a portion of SEA’s Title I, part A administrative funds. (ESEA 1111(g)(2))

The Alaska and Colorado letters said, “USED has, in fact withheld Title I Part A administrative funds under ESEA section 1111 (g) from a number of states for failure to comply with the assessment requirements in ESEA section 1111(b)(3)”

So, what exactly does this mean?

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In response to the Colorado letter, Ze’ev Wurman (former USED official under George W. Bush) commented,

8 “…is the taking away (typically only a fraction of, say 10%) of the set-aside administrative state funds (1 percent of Title I state funds) — rather little money really, but the state dept. of ed. will squeal like a stuck pig because it’s ‘their free money.’”

So, we’re only talking about .1 percent of total Title I funds!

Idaho receives $58 million in Title I funding — 10 percent of the set-aside funds portion is only $58,000.  This is much smaller than the $10 million we’ve been told is at risk!

  1. Suspending and then withholding all or a portion of the State Title I, Part A programmatic funds. (GEPA 455)

Again, according to Wurman,

“The last one is taking away Title I money from students itself — it will never happen as the political backlash of taking money from the most vulnerable students to punish the state will never fly. Unless Colorado is *singularly* incompetent in PR battles and its administration and US Senators and Representatives are uniquely incompetent. In the pre ESEA-reauthorization climate we are entering now anyone half-competent should win with the feds.”

An example of the power states have to push back without repercussions is California. Over the past seven years California has, not once, but on three separate occasions refused to comply with USED’s testing requirements. All three times, the federal government threatened to take away a portion of their Title I funding, but California pushed back and hasn’t lost a penny.

Bottom line— the chances of Idaho losing over $10 million (and even $58k would be very surprising!) in federal funding is virtually nil, unless our officials are, “…*singularly* incompetent in waging effective PR battles.”

So, how beholden are our Idaho Officials to USED? Would they really sit back and allow a loss of funding without any sort of PR battle or would they fight federal mandates?

How committed are local school board members to defending children, parents, schools and teachers who refuse to take and administer the SBAC against political pressure from Boise and Washington, D.C.?

And, of even greater significance, how courageous will the parents of Idaho’s children become to refuse the SBAC testing as they realize just how weak and untenable the “forced” testing requirements really are?

This article was written by Bill and Stephanie Zimmerman. They have eight children: Dellan, Kyrie, Taige, Heaton, Calem, Rowan, Merrick  and Lavinia. Read our article about Stephanie and her activism against Idaho Core Standards.

Zimmerman family

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