School Boards Association very concerned about Lee County’s vote to abandon standardized testing

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The Florida School Boards Association is very concerned about the Lee County School Board’s vote to abandon state mandates on standardized testing.

“There are financial repercussions should they continue to opt out. So at this time we are researching this issue very closely and encouraging Lee County to reconsider what they’ve been doing,” said Wayne Blanton, the association’s executive director.

Wednesday, the school board decided to halt all state tests. It’s an unprecedented move and puts at least $280 million in state money to Lee County at risk. Blanton is talking to Superintendent Nancy Graham about the issue.  Graham had opposed opting out of the tests.

“There is a particular statewide concern about over testing and I think that we have to address that issue but right at this moment that is an issue you have to get the Florida Legislature to deal with the next legislative session,” said Blanton.

Graham was surprised by the board’s vote and has asked the state Department of Education for guidance on how to deal with the situation.  Gov. Rick Scott told the Fort Myers News Press the move “could have serious negative consequences that I am sure they did not intend.”  Scott said his staff is researching the issue.

The Florida Constitution provides for local control of schools. It reads, the “school board shall operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district.”

“Local school board members when they are sworn in raise their right hand to uphold the laws and the Constitution of the State of Florida and we’re concerned about that and the fact that it could have repercussions somewhere down the road.”

What those repercussions are, Blanton said he wasn’t sure.

School board member Tom Armstrong said he’s not worried about any political fallout from the decision and challenged the governor to act against the board.

“Go ahead and remove me from my position,” Armstrong said, according to a News Press report. “I’m a plumber. I deal with worse things every day.”

Thursday the Florida Department of Education issues a list of possible repercussions. They include jeopardizing student graduation, supplemental instruction money and teacher merit pay.