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California Governor Rejects High School Exam Agreement
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 12, 2005

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA--Last Friday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed Senate Bill 586, a measure that would have allowed seniors with disabilities in California to graduate during the next two years without having to pass the state's high school exit exam.

The governor's decision virtually ends an agreement that had been worked out in August between the non-profit legal firm Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) and the California Department of Education. The agreement, which was approved by the legislature, would have settled a 2001 class action lawsuit that claimed that the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) unfairly discriminates against students with disabilities.

Under the settlement, the Education Department had agreed to exempt about 25,000 seniors scheduled to graduate in the spring of 2006 from taking the exam. Special education students would have had to attempt the exit exam at least three times and had taken remediation classes if offered by their school district.

The agreement only needed the approval of the governor and the state legislature.

But last month, some lawmakers added a provision that would have extended the exemption to include the graduates of 2007 to give school districts more time to adjust and students more time to prepare for the exam. Another addition would not have required students to take remediation classes as had been agreed to under the settlement.

State education officials and some lawmakers encouraged the governor to veto the measure because it went far beyond the settlement agreement.

According to the San Bernardino County Sun, Schwarzenegger's veto message said the governor rejected SB 586, saying the extension and the lack of a requirement that students seek extra help to pass the English & math test 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 CAHSEE."

"The small minority of special education students that may need the state to review how the exam impacts them, in the short run, deserve quick action, and not a two-year delay."

Stephen Tollafield, a DRA staff attorney involved in negotiating the agreement, said in a press release that he was disappointed in Schwarzenegger's decision.

"The Governor's veto of a reasonable interim solution means more litigation, more expense, more delay and more uncertainty for vulnerable high school students. Everyone loses."

"Veto spurs special-ed backers Exit exam remains grad requirement" (San Bernardino County Sun)
Press release: "Governor Vetoes Exit Exam Bill" (Disability Rights Advocates)

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