DENVER (CBS4) – As the debate over standardized testing in Colorado schools continues, state lawmakers got a warning from the federal government about Colorado students opting out of the tests.

Because many parents have been having their children opt out of standardized tests in Colorado, lawmakers asked the federal government for a waiver this year so they could decide what to do. But a letter from the U.S. Department of Education declined a waiver and warned that if more than 5 percent of students in each school opt out the state could lose nearly $400 million in education funding. But the federal government didn’t say they would deny the funding this year.

The bill being debated in Colorado would keep parents, teachers and schools from being penalized for opting children out of standardized testing. Now some lawmakers working on the bill are worried about losing the federal funding in the future.

As for the standardized testing bill, opponents say the bill undermines the state’s assessment system. Other critics worry it will lead to teachers encouraging high-performers to take the test, and low-performers to sit it out, skewing the results.

The bill says schools aren’t allowed to encourage or discourage students from taking the tests, but there’s no penalty for doing so.

Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, calls it a “get out of accountability” free card.

“So technically they could, down the road, have a situation where only the 10 or 20 percent of the smart kids show up for the tests. And it basically makes the accountability measures worthless in that no one is really going to believe any data that just has the 10 or 20 percent of the kids that enjoy taking tests, because do well at them, take the test,” Priola said. “So it completely erases any accountability measures for the taxpayers and the parents in the state of Colorado.”

“This bill does not encourage opting out,” Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, said. “It recognizes that there are parents all over state choosing, and it’s their right, to opt out their child from an assessment. And if that parent does their right as a parent and chooses to opt out their child, then we’re just not going to punish the school district or the teacher.”

On Monday the committee delayed a vote on the bill.

Even if the bill passes out of the Legislature — it has already overwhelmingly passed the Senate — Gov. John Hickenlooper has hinted to CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd that he will veto it.

There have been more than a dozen bills this session dealing with student testing, and most have failed.

The bill that maybe stands the best chance of passing in the final days of session is a bill to reduce high school testing and streamline early literacy assessments. But it doesn’t address Common Core or PARCC testing.

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