Sunday, January 3, 2016

USDOE Threatens Low-Income Families and America's Opt Out Parents!

By: Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director BATs and Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. Executive Director BATs


As much as corporate education reformers (and we will include the USDOE in this category) want you to believe that standardized testing is used to help children, educators know the truth.  What the USDOE issued on Dec. 22nd shows in full transparency that the testing agenda is not about helping children but more about making sure testing companies get their profits, and data mongers get their data.

On December 22nd, the USDOE sent a threatening letter to the Chief State School Officers regarding opt out. Ann Whelan wrote the letter and specifically stated, “ED may take enforcement action.”

She further threatened states with high opt-out rates, “including placing a condition on an LEA’s Title I, Part A grant or WITHHOLDING an LEA’s Title I, Part A funds (see, e.g., section 440 of the General Education Provisions Act). 

So is expensive, mandated, inappropriate testing really about helping children when you threaten to withhold money from our most neediest children?

The USDOE provides a definition of what Title 1 money is used for: “Title I, Part A (Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended (ESEA) provides financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families ….”  

To be very clear it seems that the USDOE will withhold, in a roundabout way, Title 1 funds to schools that educate low-income families for high opt-out rates.  There is no other way to read this.

What the USDOE never understood, and acting USDOE Secretary John King did not comprehend during his tenure as education commissioner in New York, is that the opt out movement is parent driven.  Does the USDOE think that states and school districts have the power to CONTROL parental opt out?

This threat to parents, who have a right to make decisions for their children, continues the onslaught of insults hurled towards parents by the USDOE.

USDOE, allow us to introduce you to a sample of opt out parents.

Meet Jeanette Deutermann.  She is a parent in New York.  She is a parent who has led the opt-out movement on Long Island, New York.  Over 87,000 students in grades three to eight, almost half of all Long Island students at that level, refused to test.  In New York State over 240,000 refused testing!  

Meet Cindy Hamilton.  She is a parent in Florida.  She is the co-founder of Opt Out Orlando and a member of the Florida Opt Out Network. Over 20,000 parents refused testing in Florida last year, and the over 25 opt out groups that led the charge in Florida, are led by parents!

Meet Julie Borst.  She is a parent in New Jersey.  She is Co-Founder of Allendale Parents of Children with Special Needs, a member of Save Our Schools NJ, New Jersey BATs, and United Opt Out.  She is a leader in the Opt Out movement in New Jersey.  New Jersey had over 110,000 parents refused testing last year.

Meet Cassie Creswell.   She is a parent in Illinois.  She is an organizer for More Than A Score. This group, More Than a Score is a group of people who are frustrated with the scale, expense, and consequences of the testing regime in Chicago Public Schools.  Last year over 40,000 students refused testing in Illinois.

Jeanette, Cindy, Julie, and Cassie - All parents advocating for children.  All parents advocating for fairness, equity, and a return of their children’s classrooms to the teachers they trust.  

Which leads us back to the threat…..

Remember – don’t take the test and the USDOE will withhold money from your neediest children.

When parents make educational decisions for their children, they should be honored.  What the USDOE continuously fails to understand is that threatening to remove money from our neediest children and schools builds the opt-out movement. 

Hanging threats over the heads of the parents of our most vulnerable children and schools will undoubtedly bring many more parents into the opt-out movement. 

Advice to USDOE – never try to control the decisions that parents make for their children and perhaps start making policies ABOUT CHILDREN AND NOT PROFIT!

 Ask David Hespe what happened when he underestimated the test refusal movement in New Jersey.


Ask John King how well threats worked for him in New York.

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