Illinois high school juniors will be tested on writing skills for the first time in years during standardized tests next spring. But lawmakers haven't given the state board of education extra money to pay for the 30-minute essay test. Board officials say they've been given the same $27 million to spend on assessments next year. That budget includes the same testing requirements as last year, along with an additional writing test estimated to cost $2.5 million. The board may ask lawmakers to approve additional funding. Proponents of the addition say writing is more important than ever as the state prepares for tougher assessments in 2014-15. Last year, less than one-third of high schools met federal education law benchmarks. Others criticize lawmakers' spending money the state doesn't have.
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