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State Commission Says Cost for School Districts to Administer CAASPP Tests Is a Reimbursable Mandate

January 25, 2016

On January 22, the Commission on State Mandates found that the technology, internet access and training required to administer California’s new student testing program known as the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (“CAASPP”) constitute a reimbursable state mandate. This new mandate, with an estimated annual statewide cost of $600 million, would require the state to reimburse school districts and county offices of education for these costs. The commission’s finding is a victory for students and schools – and the result of efforts led by the California School Board Association’s Education Legal Alliance and five local education agencies (LEAs) on behalf of LEAs across the state.

“Today’s decision recognizes the constitutional obligation of the state to ensure that the state provides school districts and county offices of education with resources necessary to implement new state programs,” said Chris Ungar, President of the California School Boards Association (CSBA) and a school board member in the San Luis Coastal Unified School District in San Luis Obispo County.

In 2013, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill No. 484, which was followed by a set of regulations approved by the State Board of Education in 2014. Together these state actions replaced the old assessment system (known as STAR, which included the paper-and-pencil California Standards Tests) with CAASPP (which includes the computer-adaptive assessment known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment or SBA). Under the California Constitution, the state is required to cover the cost of new requirements imposed on local governments under state law or regulations.

CSBA and its Education Legal Alliance supported and financed the five LEAs – Santa Ana USD, Porterville USD, Plumas USD, Plumas COE, and Vallejo City USD – in filing a test claim with the Commission in December 2014. This led to more than a year of analysis by Commission staff and additional evidence submitted by the LEAs. Commission staff published a Proposed Decision on January 7, 2016, which the Commission adopted today; it is available online at

The five LEAs, all active members of CSBA, were very pleased with the Commission’s decision:

  1. Dr. Rick Miller, Superintendent of Santa Ana Unified School District: “We applaud the state for the implementation of a progressive 21st century assessment program. But if the state is going to require the new test, then it needs to provide the resources for us to do so.”
  2. Terry Oestreich, Interim/Acting Superintendent for both Plumas Unified School District and Plumas County Office of Education: “The lack of state funding for CAASPP has impacted all levels of our district, from the network (wide area and local), to our cabling and infrastructure, our devices, as well as professional development. Without additional funding Plumas County will continue to experience challenges and frustrations as the technology requirements get more restrictive.”

Before school districts and county offices of education can submit reimbursement requests, the Commission must develop and approve Parameters and Guidelines, which establish reimbursement periods, provide a more detailed list of the reimbursable activities, and enumerate any offsetting revenue sources. Once the Commission adopts Parameters and Guidelines, the State Controller will develop and issue Claiming Instructions, which are used to file claims for reimbursement. The whole process is expected to be completed by this summer.

Source:  California School Boards Association

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