Three hours of discussion and an inch-high stack of informational handouts didn't bring the Governor's Blue Ribbon Panel on Assessment to a decision Tuesday on a how to revamp the state's student testing process.

"It's wise to take the time and decide," said panel member Brenda Hales. She is the Utah State Office of Education associate superintendent for student achievement and school success.

One major concern with the panel's current proposal is how the $65 million plan will be funded. About $45 million alone is for technology in the schools.

Panel member Rep. Merlynn Newbold, R-South Jordan, expressed the importance between wants and needs and voiced her worries about competing for education dollars.

Panel member Cade Douglas, principal of North Sevier Middle School, agreed, saying, "There is only so much money in the education pie."

However, panel member Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, says he is fully supportive of the testing plans — and he will find the funding.

"Our schools are going kicking and screaming into the 21st century," Stephenson said. "If $45 million is what it takes, I really think we can do that."

He said the state has set aside $100 million this year in case the economic downturn is worse than predicted. Further, the state has tremendous rainy day funds for education.

"We've got to do it. We've just got to do it — one way or another," Stephenson said.

The panel includes USOE officials, legislators, parents, teachers and administrators.

The committee has been tasked with examining the current testing system and developing something new that assesses basic skills, informs teachers and parents how well the student is doing, and encourages post-secondary education.

The panel's plan to revamp state testing was presented and comments were gathered in six public input meetings statewide during the past few weeks.

The panel aims to meet again and make a final decision Sept. 23. The proposal is slated to be presented to the governor Sept. 26.


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