House Bill 50, as amended, would have allowed students to opt out of the statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment as well as any district-level assessment.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment is aligned with the contentious Common Core standards in English and mathematics.
Earlier this week the legislation’s prime sponsor, State Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark notified his House colleagues that he intends to bring the bill to the floor on Thursday, January 14 for “reconsideration in order to override the governor’s veto.”
Such a move requires a “suspension of rules” with a simple majority vote (21 of the 41 state representatives). That would be followed by the override vote, which requires at least a three-fifths majority (25 votes minimum).
The Senate would have to take similar action to successfully override the veto in that chamber.
Previous votes on the bill indicate an override could be a possibility. The measure cleared the House of Representatives twice: 36 to 3 and 31 to 5. It was approved twice by the Senate as well: 14 to 7 and 15 to 6. All four votes had majorities exceeding the three-fifths threshold.
However, some of those familiar with the legislative process note that overriding a veto involves more than just a simple weight of numbers. Other factors are likely to come into play, including partisan considerations involving the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and their party’s top state office-holder, Gov. Jack Markell. Such complications are one of the main reasons veto overrides are rarely attempted. The last one reportedly took place nearly 40 years ago.
In vetoing the bill in July, the governor said the legislation would weaken “the only objective tool we have to understand whether our children are learning and our schools are improving. It has the potential to marginalize our highest need students, threaten tens-of-millions of dollars of federal funding, and undermine our state’s economic competitiveness.”
The Delaware State Teachers Association and parents’ groups had supported the bill, citing classroom time lost to testing; increased stress on students and teachers; and questions about its usefulness in helping educators identify and address students’ needs.
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce (DSCC) was among those opposing the legislation.
The bill had strong bipartisan support. State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, who was among the bill’s co-sponsors, said immediately after the veto that the action was misguided. “Parents already have the option of removing their students from testing, but this bill would have provided protections for the schools and school districts from being held accountable for decisions that are out of their control.”
Within 10 minutes of Rep. Kowalko’s veto override e-mail to fellow House members on Wednesday afternoon, the state Department of Education (DOE) issued a press release noting it was eliminating the Smarter Assessment as the state test for high school juniors beginning this spring.
DOE officials said a redesigned SAT is being launched that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards, making the Smarter Balanced Assessment duplicative for 11th grade students. Delaware has been administering a school-day SAT to all public school juniors at no cost to students since 2011.
The state will continue to administer the Smarter Assessment in grades 3 to 8.