With a switch of one vote, the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education made a U-turn Wednesday evening and decided, 4-3, to reimburse the state for costs associated with this spring’s PARCC tests. Last month, by a voice vote, the board decided 4-3 not to give the New Mexico Public Education Department $1.4 million in administrative costs for the controversial tests. Now, with David Peercy changing his vote from no to yes, the district will pay the bill.
Interim Superintendent Brad Winter said he had the matter put back on the agenda so that the incoming superintendent would not have to deal with any consequences. He said he had spoken with state Education Secretary Hanna Skandera who promised to sit down and talk with board members and administrators to try to improve the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests, widely known by the acronym PARCC.
The tests were introduced in New Mexico and several other states this year. They continue to face widespread opposition from teacher unions and many individual instructors. Before the vote, Peercy said he expects a candid, fruitful conversation with Skandera and a “much better product next year.”
Analee Maestas moved to return the $1.4 million to the state, which had been appropriated to APS as part of the legislative funding formula. She said the board should listen to the superintendent, that the consequences of not paying – while unknown – could be a problem in the future, and that the meeting with Skandera should occur as soon as possible.
As for PARCC, Maestas said, there is no option to opt out; it is a federal mandate.
But Lorenzo Garcia argued that the PED has never provided satisfactory answers to a number of valid questions, among them how special education children are tested, and the fact that most of the PARCC tests are not available in Spanish.
It was only yesterday, Garcia said, that he finally heard a willingness on the part of PED to sit down, discuss, listen and perhaps seek a compromise on various issues. “I had to vote my conscience,” he said of last month’s vote – which did not change.
Barbara Petersen said she echoed Garcia’s analysis, adding that she would have to meet with Skandera before she could change her vote.
Steven Michael Quezada, the third board member to vote against the proposal, said the newfound willingness on the part of the PED to sit down and talk and perhaps compromise is a first – in two years.
Winter, however, assured the members at his final board meeting that Skandera is serious in wanting to meet with APS officials. He said he detected a clear “willingness to work together.”
Board President Don Duran and Peggy Muller-Aragon said the board should pay its bills. “We should honor our agreements,” Muller-Aragon said. “We should be honorable people.”