Special Education

Gov. Schwarzenegger Vetoes Changes to State Exam Policy

By Mary Ann Zehr — October 18, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Groups that advocate on behalf of English-language learners and students with disabilities in California are disappointed that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed several bills that they believe would have helped those students.

The Republican governor vetoed a bill that would have required California to provide English-language learners who receive some instruction in Spanish or have just arrived in the United States from a Spanish-speaking country a version of the state’s standardized academic tests in Spanish.

The bill, which was backed by numerous local school district administrators, also would have required the state to provide a version of the tests in modified English for English-language learners.

“As an immigrant whose second language is English, I know the importance of mastering English as quickly and as comprehensively as possible, in order to be successful in the United States,” wrote Mr. Schwarzenegger in his veto message. “The bill runs counter to that goal by eliminating testing in English for limited-English-proficient (LEP) students until they have been in school in the United States for three consecutive years.”

Maria S. Quezada, the executive director of the California Association for Bilingual Education, said the governor’s explanation shows he doesn’t understand that if he had signed the bill, English-language learners still would have been tested annually on their English proficiency.

For years, school districts have been giving such students the California English Language Development Test for that purpose. The bill would have required the state to provide Spanish and modified-English versions of other tests that instead would have assessed the academic knowledge of English-language learners, Ms. Quezada said.

“Schools and parents deserve to know what their children are learning in school as they are learning English,” she said. “By vetoing this bill, he’s giving them no information of what they are learning in school.”

Because of the veto, Ms. Quezada added, the governor missed the opportunity to resolve a lawsuit filed on June 1 in state superior court in San Francisco.

Eleven school districts are participating in the lawsuit, which argues that the state is violating the federal No Child Left Behind Act’s requirements to test English-language learners in a “valid and reliable manner” because California doesn’t provide a test in Spanish or modified English. Thus, Ms. Quezada said, the suit will continue.

Back to the Drawing Board

Similarly, advocates for students with disabilities are disappointed that Mr. Schwarzenegger rejected a bill that would have waived, for two graduating classes, the requirement that all students with disabilities pass California’s high school exit exam to get a diploma.

“We wanted students with disabilities not to be penalized for not being prepared for the exam,” said Roger Heller, a staff attorney for Disability Rights Advocates, an Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit group, which supported the bill.

Mr. Schwarzenegger wrote in vetoing the bill that enacting it would have sent “the wrong message to the over 650,000 special education students in our state, the majority of which have the ability to pass the [California High School Exit Examination].”

The legislation had incorporated terms of a settlement agreement for a class action known as Chapman v. California Department of Education, which Disability Rights Advocates had filed in federal district court in San Francisco in 2001. (“Calif. Special Education Students Could Get Exam Break,” Sept. 7, 2005.)

Mr. Heller and the governor pointed out that the bill approved by the legislature went further than the settlement terms. The settlement required that the state waive the exit-exam requirement for some students with disabilities only for one year, while the bill required a waiver for two years.

Because the bill was vetoed, said Mr. Heller, “we need to go back to the [California] Department of Education to see if they will agree to the one year that they agreed to in the past. If they won’t do that, we’ll have to go to court and seek a preliminary injunction.”

The governor also rejected a bill that would have allowed all students to satisfy the English-language-arts or mathematics sections of the high school exit exam by passing an alternative performance assessment.

“Allowing school districts to offer alternative assessments at this time sends the wrong message to students, parents, teachers, and administrators that we do not expect students to achieve at the highest levels,” he wrote.

A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2005 edition of Education Week as Gov. Schwarzenegger Vetoes Changes to State Exam Policy


Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education Q&A This Teacher Helps Students With Disabilities Find Agency Through Communication
An award-winning special education teacher shares insights on pandemic recovery and building agency for students with disabilities.
5 min read
Blue silhouettes of two faces look  toward each other with a speech bubble and a thought bubble between them to represent communication.
DigitalVision Vectors
Special Education Supreme Court Seems in Favor of Deaf Student's Right to Sue School District Under the ADA
Miguel Luna Perez was there as the justices weighed issues in his case over his district allegedly failing to provide trained interpreters.
7 min read
Miguel Perez stands outside the Supreme Court after arguments in the case of Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools on Jan. 18, 2023 in Washington, D.C.
Miguel Perez, right, along with lawyer Roman Martinez, stands outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Wednesday after arguments in his case against his former school district in Sturgis, Mich.
Mark Walsh/Education Week
Special Education A Deaf Student Says His School District Failed Him. The Supreme Court Will Decide
Miguel Luna Perez received inadequate assistance for 12 years, his suit says. The high court will decide if he can pursue money damages.
10 min read
Miguel Perez
Miguel Luna Perez in a 2016 yearbook photo as a senior at Sturgis High School in Michigan. Luna Perez, who is deaf, went on to the Michigan School for the Deaf in a settlement with his district but is seeking to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 for the district's alleged failures to provide him adequate assistance to communicate.
Photo courtesy of Luna Perez family
Special Education 'Better Defined by Their Strengths': 5 Ways to Support Students With Learning Differences
What are effective ways schools can support students with learning differences? Educators on social media weighed in.
3 min read
A diverse group of students wearing book bags and climbing ladders and books to assemble a large puzzle
iStock/Getty Images Plus