Bush education plan could cost $7 billion

The Associated Press
Saturday April 28, 2001

WASHINGTON — Fulfilling President Bush’s proposal to test every student in grades three through eight could cost states as much as $7 billion over the next seven years, the National Association of State Boards of Education says. 

Spokesman David Griffith said education officials believe Bush’s plan asks states to test students more than necessary and, they fear, without adequate funding. 

“They’re just really concerned that ... this whole rush in testing is coming so quickly,” he said. 

In his budget, Bush requested $320 million for test development – a figure that wouldn’t even cover testing in California, let alone all 50 states, according to an association survey. 

Only 15 states currently test students in reading and math in grades three through eight, Griffith said. Most rely at least partially on off-the-shelf tests that aren’t geared to the curriculum, as Bush’s plan proposes. 

According to the survey, states would need to spend as much as $7 billion in the seven-year period following passage of major federal education spending legislation now before Congress. Bush’s education plan requires states to develop the tests by 2004 and give them each year through 2008. 

The survey puts even a conservative cost estimate at $2.7 billion if states opt for rudimentary tests. 

“The costs are staggering, but not surprising to states who have put in place comprehensive assessment systems over the past 10 years,” said Brenda Welburn, NASBE’s executive director. 

The Senate is scheduled next week to debate reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides most of the funding for K-12 education. The Senate version would give states $400 million – slightly more than Bush – while the House version matches Bush’s $320 million request. 

Senate Democrats have proposed giving states more money for the tests, saying the federal government should pick up half the cost. Even a Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, is considering an amendment that would help states pay more testing costs. 

The survey gathered the figures based on per-pupil costs, ranging from $25-$125 per student, to develop tests, and $25-$50 to administer and score them. 

Griffith said the low figures represent “as basic an aligned assessment as you can get.” 

Education Department spokeswoman Lindsey Kozberg said the survey overestimates the cost of administering tests, saying the Houston Independent School District, for instance, spent less than $10 per pupil for off-the-shelf tests. 

“Their low end is more than two-and-a-half times what we know Houston’s costs were,” she said. Education Secretary Rod Paige is a former Houston schools superintendent. 

Griffith said NASBE based the costs on those provided by testing contractors for tests similar to those proposed by Bush. 

“The president’s plan requires so much detail,” he said. “Those demands are actually going to increase administration costs.” 

Kozberg said several states have already developed adequate tests, which could lower their development costs. 

The survey projected the number of students for the 2004-05 school year based on 1999-2000 enrollment data. The estimates do not include the costs of science tests, which would be required in 2007-08. 

In several states, the survey shows, developing and giving even the most basic tests would run well past $100 million. For example, Pennsylvania and Ohio would each need about $106 million. Illinois would have to spend $116 million, while New York would require $159 million. Texas would require $229 million. 

California would need nearly $346 million, more than Bush’s proposed $320 million test development budget for all 50 states. 

According to the survey, about 21.6 million students will be enrolled in grades three through eight in 2004. Bush’s plan would link billions of dollars in federal funds to annual student performance on tests. 


National Association of State Boards of Education: http://www.nasbe.org 

Bush education budget: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/Budget02