March 24, 2005
Senate President Ken Bennett will not allow lawmakers to vote on a bipartisan bill to ban the use of the AIMS test as a graduation requirement.
Bennett, R-Prescott, said Wednesday he will use his power as the chamber’s leader to prevent the measure from even being debated. He said it is irrelevant that the legislation was approved last month by the Senate Committee on K-12 Education.
The move angered Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert.
He noted the law, unless changed, will prevent students who now are juniors from graduating next year unless they pass the reading, writing and math sections of Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards.
Verschoor said a high percentage of students who have taken those tests so far have failed at least one section.
Verschoor said the state is facing a "train wreck’’ when a large percentage of the class of 2006 doesn’t get a diploma.
His legislation would make it illegal to use a competency test as a graduation requirement.
But Verschoor said he would be willing to live with a watered-down version that would entitle students who failed AIMS to get a diploma if they got a C in all their required courses, went to class 90 percent of the time and took remedial courses designed to help them pass.
Bennett, who at one time was president of the state Board of Education, found neither option acceptable.
"I will work with a bill that deals with some of the problems in a constructive manner,’’ he said. "But I will not support a bill that just comes in and wipes the test away and abandons (a determination of) competency for ‘seat time.’ ‘’
He said one option might be having alternatives to AIMS. For example, he said, a student who passed an advanced placement math test might be excused from having to take the math section of AIMS.
Bennett said one of the prerogatives of being the Senate president is deciding what is — and is not — brought to the floor for debate.
But Bennett said he isn’t the only one with the power to kill bills. He noted that Verschoor has similar power over measures assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee, of which he is chairman.
Verschoor refused to discuss what he might do to get around Bennett.
A "discharge petition’’ could force a bill to the floor. That, however, requires the signatures of 18 of 30 senators.
Verschoor also could try to tack his proposal onto another bill which makes necessary changes in the state education code.