DOVER, Del. - Delaware lawmakers have refused to try to override Gov. Jack Markell's veto of a bill allowing students to opt out of standardized tests. A vote to suspend House rules in order to vote on a veto override failed by a 2-to-1 margin Thursday. The end tally of the vote was 26 to 13, with one representative not voting.
The legislation would allow students to opt out of tests without repercussions. It is aimed in particular at the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is tied to Common Core standards championed by Markell.
Lawmakers from both parties have joined some parents and educators in expressing concerns about the Smarter Balanced test and the amount of time students spend on testing in general.
Before the vote, a group of parents and educators gathered outside of Legislative Hall, to voice their support for the override. Dover father Kevin Ohlandt said the bill is all about "parent rights."
"My message to Governor Markell would be that our children are not your data," he said. "And they are more than test scores."
Ohlandt said that he and his wife made the decision to opt their child out of testing because they thought it put too much stress on their child. He said he felt pressure from the school and school district in doing so.
"I feel my son suffered immensely," he said. "Just because of the whole standardized testing environment."
Markell has said allowing students to opt out of standardized tests could marginalize the highest-need students and threaten millions of dollars in federal funding. This was a thought echoed by some school administrators, including Supt. Susan Bunting from the Indian River School District, who said that testing was essential.
"We use that to ascertain how well they’re doing in classrooms," she said. "Whether they met standards at a certain grade level. And it also gives us a lot of feedback for our teachers as far as adjusting instruction, modifying what they’re doing in the classrooms. So all in all, we use testing to help students.”
After the vote, the bill sponsor, Rep. John Kowalko of Newark, expressed his disappointment.
"What is our agenda here," Kowalko asked. "Is our agenda to ignore the rights of parents? Then I guess we should start writing bills and writing laws that capture those children, put them in a compound, and we’ll raise them.”