State legislators want high school students to take the standardized tests ACT and WorkKeys but provided no money in the budget for them.
Legislators last year endorsed the move toward these national standardized tests as a means of measuring school quality and student readiness for college or work. Schools gave 11th-graders the ACT this spring, but the state Department of Public Instruction had to scrape together the money to pay for it.
June Atkinson, state superintendent of public instruction, told legislative leaders in a letter last week that the department probably wouldnt be able to scrounge up enough money to pay for another round.
Without ACT, we will be left with a system that only measures academic progress in Biology (grade 9 or 10), English II (grade 10), and Algebra I (grade 9). This does not give us the kind of system we need to measure career and college readiness throughout high school, she wrote.
The tests will cost $7.5 million, Atkinson wrote.
Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican involved in writing the education budget, said the ACT is important and he plans to talk to legislative leaders about funding.
These tests are really critical for determining skill levels, Tillman said. Ill be digging around a little bit to see what we can do.
Price speaks out on student loans
Rep. David Price visited N.C. State University on Monday to advocate for a proposal that would prevent an impending increase of the interest rate on federallysubsidized student loans.
The Democrat, who is seeking re-election to Congress from the 4th District, told a dozen or so students and a crowd of reporters at the Wolf Plaza that his colleagues should act before a July 1 deadline passes and the interest rate on Stafford Loans propels from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.
Price said the increase, which would only apply to new loans, would affect some 160,000 students in North Carolina and 7.9 million nationwide. That could translate to upward of an extra $1,000 per year for students relying heavily on subsidized loans. Price blasted Congressional Republicans for inaction and Mitt Romney for not pressing his colleagues to extend the current rates.
Romney has said he supports the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans. This is real money, Price said. It could be put to a lot better uses: buying textbooks, investing in a start-up, starting an IRA, especially in this economy.
Also in attendance was Lisa Fristoe, a mother of four whose daughter is an NCSU student.
Students in North Carolina are working hard in high school, theyre getting into college and theyre graduating with skills they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow, Fristoe said. They shouldnt have to sign away their financial security when they go to college. But thats whats at stake.
Debate over the student loan proposal has been raging for months. In April, President Barack Obama visited Chapel Hill as part of a three-state tour to urge Congress to prevent the interest rates from rising on July 1.
Critics of the extension, such as the Washington Post Editorial Board, point out that the interest rate was lowered to its present amount just last year and have called for focus to shift to Pell Grants to improve college access.
Zoo bill likely dead this session
The money needed to transition the N.C. Zoo to a public-private partnership did not make it into the final budget, likely ending legislation on the issue this session.
David Jones, director of the zoo, says hes not going to waste time pushing forward with the bill. Its not fair to anybody in a busy season to take this forward, knowing theres no money for it, Jones said.
The bill called for the state to retain property and ownership of zoo, but the Zoo Society would manage it and raise money from the private sector to help defray state costs.
The zoo needs $30 million in backlog maintenance and behind-the-scenes work. The state hasnt been able to keep up with all of that in the last 15 to 20 years.
Were following suit as other states have taken this new avenue of thought, said the bills sponsor, Rep. Tim Moffitt, an Asheville Republican. Well certainly pick the bill up next year.
Staff writers Lynn Bonner, Austin Baird, Rosella Age
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