TAKS Test Taking a Bite Out of Budget?

The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills has been a long debated test.

"We're putting way too much emphasis on these standardized tests," said Congressman Blake Farenthold in an interview with Action 4 news earlier this week.

Farenthold doesn't believe it's necessary in Texas classrooms especially when state legislators have had such a hard time finding ways to fund school districts, forcing many valley teachers to put in their early retirement rather than risk losing their job.

"It's costing us money, " said Farenthold.

Region One in Edinburg funds districts when it comes to professional development of teachers who will be administering the test, but when it comes down to paying for the supplies and overall resources for TAKS testing each year, the bill falls on each individual district.

"There needs to be an investment in ensuring students learn to a very high degree, whether on an accountability system or not, it's still going to require resources," said Dr. Eduardo Cansino of the Region One Education Center.

Dr. Cansino says the state mandated tests have been around for roughly 25 years and every time the name of the test changes, it seems, so does the price tag.

First TAAS, then TAKS, and soon STAAR.

According to the Texas Education Agency which outsources to certain companies to develop the tests, in 2003, it cost $9 million a year. In 2009, the state paid out approximately $88 million that year alone, and will continue doing so until 2012.

That's not including nearly $20 million a year on testing related materials and almost $10 million every year for retakes over the summer.

When added up, taxpayers will be paying roughly $93 million dollars in Texas this year alone for students to be tested.

"The investment has gone up 10 fold," said Dr. Cancino.

School districts across the state are in for another increase, more tests when TAKS becomes STAAR, State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, in 2012.

"With the new accountability system STAAR, 4 assessments in high school increase to 12 assessments. That's why you're seeing the big increase in contracts for test development," said Dr. Cancino.

A source with a 4A district in the valley told Action 4 News they pay $550,000 a year for TAKS testing.

That same district was forced to make layoffs because of budget cuts this year.