State may pay for testing materials

February 26, 2011 • Local News

The Roswell school district spends $250,000 on testing materials each year for state-mandated assessments, but a bill pending in the Legislature would require the state to pick up the budget-busting tab.

Senate Bill 425, introduced by Sen. Vernon Asbill, R-Carlsbad, would require the state public education department to pay for the costs of developing, administering, scoring and evaluating standards- based assessments.

The bill cleared its first committee last week by a 6- 1 vote and is presently pending in the Senate Finance Committee. A Roswell school authority said such a measure would likely help alleviate pressure on an already strained budget. The district is currently operating well below its [auth] fiscal 2009 and 2008 budget levels, and the state General Fund for public education has decreased by about $200 million in recent years.

“Half a million dollars for those materials in one year is a huge expense,” Chad Cole, Roswell school district’s assistant superintendent for financial operations, said in a phone interview, although he declined to throw his support behind SB425, nor any other bill that is not yet law.

Cole included the extra $250,000 in his figure for the obligation funds for the next year’s testing materials, which must be set aside in the same year’s budget.

“We’ve got to obligate typically another $250,000, which won’t become an expenditure until next year,” he said at a recent school budget meeting. “So you’re looking at $500,000 right out of your budget just on testing materials.”

The public education department estimates it would cost its department approximately $8.9 million to implement SB425 if enacted, according to a Legislative Finance Committee analysis. The PED also states that the bill “would significantly reduce the statewide administrative burden on local districts to budget funding for assessments and to process invoices.”

Another bill analysis conducted by the Legislative Education Study Committee indicates that the legislation is in line with Gov. Susana Martinez’s repeated promises to cut administrative costs to protect classroom spending in education. “Reducing assessment costs is one area where districts seek to save funds without affecting students in the classroom,” the LESC analysis read.

The PED estimates that from fiscal years 2000 through 2011, the Legislature appropriated approximately $85 million for state-mandated tests. Of that, about $24 million went to the PED for noncurring costs, such as initial test developmen and periodic updating of assessments.

The other $61 million went to the State Equalization Guarantee Fund for local districts to cover the aforementioned recurring costs. School districts were allowed to use that money for other expenses since SEG funds are noncategorical.

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