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Gov. Wolf delays Keystone Exams, wants to add $200M to education budget

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Calling it “incomplete” and “flawed”, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill Wednesday which will stop the annual Keystone ...

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Calling it "incomplete" and "flawed", Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill Wednesday which will stop the annual Keystone Exam standardized test as a high school graduation requirement through at least the 2018-19 academic year.

Wolf is hoping the delay will allow the Department of Education and school districts across Pennsylvania to research and come up with new ways to more effectively prepare students for college and beyond.

"I, and evidently the legislators, felt that [the Keystone Exam] was not doing a service for employers or institutes of higher education," Wolf said of Senate Bill 880, which passed the House and Senate with unanimous support. "Are we preparing students to take jobs in the work place? Are we preparing students to do well when they get to college?  Those are the things we want to measure, and not just 'Do you know 2+2=4?'"

The Keystone Exams test a student's knowledge in algebra 1, literature, and biology.

Secretary Pedro Rivera of the Department of Education said the Keystone Exams delay would not mark the end of standardized tests, but would only be part of the solution moving forward. Rivera will work with school districts over the next six months to determine a list of recommendations for future standardized tests, he said.

"[The Keystone Exams] will not be the end all be all of education," Rivera said. "There are many factors to student success and we want to focus on those areas."

Governor Wolf has made education reform the primary focus of his first year in office. He says he and Republican leaders agreed to a $377 million increase in education for the 2015-16 budget, despite the fact a final budget has not been signed. Next Tuesday, he plans to ask for an additional $200 million in basic education funding during his 2016-17 state budget proposal. He hopes it will build on this year's spending plan.

"He may be the only one operating under that assumption," House Majority Leader Dave Reed said. "Fact of the matter is the frame work is dead. It's been dead for months."

Reed (R-Indiana County) is referring to a $30.8 billion state budget framework the governor has maintained was agreed upon by House and Senate Republicans in December. However, that agreement, Reed maintains, included pension reform which has since been taken off the table.

"I think if I were the governor I'd try to get education funding complete for 2015-16 first before I ask for higher spending and taxes next year. How about we finish this year?" Reed asked.

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