Opt-out bill advances in Arizona Senate

Senate Bill 1455 passed in the Education Committee with a margin of 6-1 Thursday, but it still needs to come before the full Senate.

It would allow parents to opt their kids out of the state standardized test and choose a different assessment.

Currently, the AzMERIT is the test being used in Arizona schools, but opting out is difficult.

“Last spring when I opted my 5th grade son out of the AzMERIT test, I was told by my child’s principal that he would have to sit and stare for hours in front of computer until the majority of students were done taking the test,” parent Sophia Cogan testified.

The U.S. Department of Education is threatening to cut funding if enough students opt out.

Senator Steve Smith (R-11) says he supports this bill anyway.

“I hope and pray one day we can actually take back our dollars that we send Washington and allocate them in our state, for our children, the way we want to,” Smith said.

Up to this point, the federal government has never withheld money from schools that didn’t measure enough students.

Though no one spoke against the bill, there was concern that some of the language in the bill is too restrictive and it may be difficult to implement.

Senator David Bradley (D-10th) was the only one to vote against the bill. He says parents ultimately already have the right to opt their kids out, though it may be difficult.

“I think this bill just gets in the way right now of where we are trying to go in terms of the menu of tests, getting those things in place,” said Senator Bradley.

That refers to a different bill, SB-1321. It would allow schools to choose from a menu of tests approved by the state rather than having one state test.