Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Superintendent Paul Goren issued a statement Friday to explain his assertion that the district could lose up to $7 million in state Title I funds if it did not administer the PARCC test in compliance with state law.
In an Evanston Now story yesterday, there was a quote from a letter the superintendent had sent earlier this month to district families that noted that the district was at risk of losing the funds if at least 95 percent of the eligible students did not take the test.
Some readers in the Comments section had questioned the validity of that statement.
But the superintendent said today that all districts in the state had received a similar warning from the state superintendent about the financial consequences of failure to administer the test in accordance with state law.
To date, some 650 tests in the district had been refused by students, but the district was uncertain as to whether the percentage threshhold had been met, as many students had refused to take one or more of five tests offered.
Because it is a new test, no districts in the state are believed to have been denied funds, at least not yet, because of student refusals to take the tests.
But boards and administrators of districts throughout the state are a bit on edge, as they fear the state’s precarious financial situation might offer an incentive for the state to withhold funding.
It is particularly troubling to the boards of the two Evanston public school districts, as a large number of students from low-income families increase the amount of Title I funds the district normally receives from the state.
In the case of District 65, that amount is approximately $7 million annually.
Other North Shore communities are not facing a similar challenge, as they have a much lower percentage of Title I eligible students.
Following is the text of the statement received Friday from Superintendent Goren:
“In January, we received a letter that was sent to all Illinois school districts from State Superintendent Chris Koch that clearly states, ‘All districts must administer the PARCC assessment to all of their students unless the students are specifically exempt under federal law…If any district does not test, ISBE will withhold its Title I funds.’
“This currently informs our test administration policy and will continue to do so until we have official communication from the Illinois State Board of Education that says otherwise. As we have expressed to our parents and community, District 65 teachers and administrators will continue to be respectful of those families whose children refuse to take the test.”