Four California school districts and one county office of education (collectively, the “Districts”) have filed a claim alleging that the state legislature’s new testing scheme tied to the Common Core constitutes a mandate and that the state must reimburse districts for all expenses related to the testing mandate. Their claim is based on Article XIII, Section 6 of the California Constitution, which provides:
Whenever the Legislature or any state agency mandates a new program or higher level of service on any local government, the state shall provide a subvention of funds to reimburse such local government for the costs of such programs or increased level of service.
Several other states, including Massachusetts, Missouri, and New Jersey, have similar constitutional or statutory provisions.
The districts filed their claim with the Commission on State Mandates (the “Commission”) which has the statutory authority to determine if the legislature has imposed a so-called “reimbursable mandate” on the school districts and, if so, the amount the districts should be reimbursed.
The basis for their claim is that the state’s new testing scheme, which requires that the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress be administered yearly, involves a $15 million increase in educational costs. These costs include, according to the Districts, those necessary to train and certify personnel, to acquire testing materials, to maintain and report records, to purchase electronic devices (including “Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium compliant tablets, laptops, carts, PCs, iPads, MacBooks, Chromebooks, software,” etc.), and to determine the proper testing or exemption procedures for students with IEPs. In addition, the new testing scheme will increase certain educational costs that school districts currently incur. Despite these new and increased costs, however, the Districts allege that the state has not provided any additional funds to the localities to cover these increased costs. The statewide costs estimated to implement the new testing scheme given by the Districts totals $1 billion.
The Commission is tentatively scheduled to conduct a hearing on this claim on May 29, 2015.