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The tug of war between advocates of the Smarter Balanced Assessment test and members of the Opt Out movement has been a source of constant debate in the General Assembly.
What happened this year
In July Gov. Jack Markell vetoed House Bill 50, which would have made it easier for parents to opt out of the statewide assessment test.
The decision fueled an already burning debate of whether the test, which students took for the first time last year, is beneficial.
Supporters, including Markell’s office and the Department of Education, see it as a way to measure college and career readiness.
According to Kelly Bachman, spokeswoman for Markell, an override would be detrimental.
“As the Governor explained when he vetoed the bill, overriding the veto of HB50 would undermine a tool for understanding whether our children are learning and our schools are improving without adequately addressing the issues that motivated many to support the legislation,” she said.
With the General Assembly about to reconvene on Jan. 12, supporters of Opt Out are preparing to counter Markell’s veto.
The Delaware PTA will host an “Override House Bill 50 Veto Rally,” Jan. 14 at 1 p.m. in front of Legislative Hall in Dover. PTA President Terri Hodges said the rally is a starting point in convincing the community and legislators to support the override.
“Basically, [Markell] has stated he or those in other positions of power in the state know better than the parent what is best for our own children,” she said. “It was supported overwhelmingly in the House and passed the Senate so it really was a slap in the face when the governor vetoed it.”
HB50 passed 35-5 in the House and 15-6 in the Senate. It takes a three-fifths majority vote in both the House and Senate to override the governor’s veto. The last time a governor’s veto was overridden was a budget bill in 1977 under Pierre S. du Pont IV.
HB50 would make it easier for parents to opt their children out of testing. It was introduced after parents accused certain districts of putting pressure on families who chose to opt out.
“We’re not encouraging anyone to opt out of this test,” Hodges said. “We just want to make sure they have the right to do so.”
Rep. John D. Kowalko and Sen. Dave Lawson are both sponsors, and they have laid out a plan to move it forward. Kowalko, who has been a strong proponent of opting out, said he hopes his colleagues in the assembly will continue to support HB50.
Lawson said that he’s confident the override vote will pass in both the House and the Senate, but is concerned the bill could be bogged down in committees before reaching the floor.
“I would expect it to pass if it gets out [of the committees],” he said. “The problem is it might not get out if they bottle it up in the committees and never has a chance to hit the floor.