SARAH BLAINE | MARCH 20, 2017
The NJ Board of Education’s choice of PARCC as a HS graduation requirement is an overreach by the executive branch that the Legislature must correct
On March 16, the New Jersey Assembly overwhelmingly passed ACR-215, which is a resolution declaring that the state Board of Education’s new regulations requiring students to pass the PARCC Algebra 1 and the 10th grade PARCC English Language Arts tests to graduate from high school are “inconsistent with legislative intent.”
The existing law requires a comprehensive 11th grade test (which these two PARCC tests, neither of which is generally administered in 11th grade, are not). The resolution will not stop New Jersey’s schools from having to offer PARCC each year, but if adopted by the state Senate as well, it is a step toward ensuring that students will not have to pass PARCC to graduate from high school.
With this resolution, the Assembly took the first step in one process by which our New Jersey legislators can check the authority of our governor and his appointees (in this case, the state Board of Education): invalidating regulations that our Legislature determines are “inconsistent with legislative intent.” In English, that means that if the Legislature passes a law, and the executive branch decides to ignore the law and do something different, the Legislature can tell the executive branch: “No, you’re wrong, please go back to the drawing board.” Because this is a check on the executive branch’s authority, the governor’s signature is not required.
As at least 180,000 New Jersey students demonstrated by refusing to take PARCC tests in 2015 and 2016, opposition to PARCC testing is widespread. But leaving the substantive issues surrounding the PARCC test aside, important as they are, ACR-215 and its senate companion resolution, SCR-132, are about governance. That is, in considering these resolutions, the key question our legislators must decide is whether they are willing to allow Gov. Chris Christie and the Christie-appointed Board of Education to openly ignore New Jersey law.