A $245 million problem? Not exactly.

Updated 4:21 pm Wednesday, Feb. 11. 

The state may not risk losing as much federal funding as former state senator John Goedde first claimed.

On Tuesday, Idaho Education News reported that if the state fails to give assessment tests to 95 percent of Idaho students, it could lose $245 million in federal funding. At an IPRAC meeting, Goedde, appointed by the governor to help sort through  Idaho Education Network issues, gave the $245 million as another reason the legislature should continue funding the embattled IEN. While IEN isn’t the only broadband provider for all of Idaho’s schools, it is the only option for some.

Where’d that figure come from? According to Tim Corder, special assistant to Superintendent Sherri Ybarra, that’s all of the federal money the state receives for public education, including USDA money for school nutrition programs.

Of that, about $62 million is Title I money, which is directly tied to No Child Left Behind, Corder said. If the state doesn’t comply with the assessment requirement in the waiver agreement, it would initially lose about one percent of that $62 million — money used for administrative costs, according to Corder. One percent of $62 million is $620,000 — which is .26 percent of that $245 million total.

While the state of Idaho wouldn’t lose $245 million overnight, Corder said the state doesn’t want to test how much the federal government would withhold.

“No one’s done that yet and we don’t want to be the first to try,” Corder said.

In a Wednesday afternoon interview with Idaho Reports, Goedde said he got the $245 million figure from Corder, and didn’t know about the breakdown of Title I money. But, he added, the federal government has gone to extreme lengths to get states to comply with requirements before.

“There’s potential that every bit of federal funding could be at risk, and not just education funding,” Goedde said.

There’s more confusion surrounding the requirement. According to Idaho Education News, officials with the Idaho State Department of Education said Idaho must do the tests online, the federal government wouldn’t accept paper tests, and that it was too late to renegotiate terms of the No Child Left Behind waiver.

But Jo Ann Webb, a spokesperson for the United States Department of Education, said that’s not the case.

“The U.S. Department of Education does not require that assessments be online (that’s a state issue). So there must be some confusion,” Webb wrote in an e-mail to Idaho Reports. “Idaho should be submitting a waiver renewal request by March 31, so the state can propose any changes at that time.”

Corder had initially told Idaho Education News that the federal government wouldn’t accept paper tests. In a Wednesday interview with Idaho Reports, Corder said that’s what he had initially been told, but after checking, department staffers couldn’t find the phrase in the NCLB waiver.

Even if the federal government would accept paper tests, Corder added, the state is set up for online assessments only and doesn’t have time to compile a paper test that would meet federal standards before the testing period, which begins at the end of March. “Even if we could, we couldn’t,” he said.

Kelly Everitt, spokesperson for the Idaho State Department of Education, said online assessments are part of the state’s contract with the test provider. Though paper tests might be available, the state wants to use online assessments, Everitt said, which are adaptive to a student’s skills and are a more accurate long-term measure of what he or she knows.

Everitt added the state’s contract with the test provider goes through July, and paper assessments aren’t part of that contract.

As for the renegotiation of the NCLB waiver with the federal government, that applies to next school year, Corder said — meaning it’s too late for the assessment tests this spring.

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