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Archive for March, 2009

House unveils budget

This morning, House budget writers unveiled their 2009-2011 operating budget proposal at a press conference.  To provide a sense of how much the economy has worsened since December, House members said they had to cut $1.60 for every dollar the governor cut.

Like the Senate, the House relied on $3 billion in federal stimulus dollars to provide a “cushion” to prevent deeper cuts to critical state programs and services.

In the education budget, the House, like the Senate, took basic education off the table immediately and looked for cuts elsewhere.  The House chose to make deeper cuts in higher education than the Senate.  This would allow the House budget to keep levy equalization (LEA) funding largely intact and fund 50 percent of I-728  (the Senate cut LEA by 75 percent and I-728 by 93 percent).

Unfortunately, the deeper cuts in higher education mean the House budget assumes a 10 percent tuition increase at the 4-year universities and a 7 percent increase at the community and technical colleges.  The House budget would increase financial aid to offset the rise in tuition for eligible students at or below 70 percent of the state median family income.  However, they would freeze state need grant and work study awards for students attending private colleges at 2009 levels.

The House also built more flexibility into their budget by giving local schools and colleges the ability to decide how to make the cuts.

Click here to view the House budget documents.

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Senate Budget: The hard numbers

The overall proposed state spending in K-12 for the 2009-2011 biennium is $13.5 billion.  The Senate proposed $1.7 billion in cuts to the overall K-12 budget, about an 11% decrease. These cuts are offset by $830 million of federal stimulus funds, which reduce the cuts to $827 million, a 5.5% decrease.

Most of the cuts ($1.4 billion) come out of I-732, I-728 and levy equalization. The Senate spared or minimized cuts in programs related to basic education, differentiated course offerings and dropout prevention. 

Reductions

The Senate proposed significant reductions in I-728 and levy equalization spending.

  • I-728: A proposed $827 million cut (91%), roughly 5,700 teachers. Reduces I-728 funding to $31 per student.
  • Levy Equalization: A proposed $285 million cut, a reduction of 58% for FY 2010 and 2011, including $106 million of federal stimulus funds.
  • Learning Improvement Day: A proposed $30 million cut, a reduction of one learning improvement day.

Suspended/Eliminated

The Senate proposed other savings in the suspension or elimination of funds and programs.

  • I-732: $358 million suspended.
  • The Senate proposed the suspension or elimination of some lower-priority programs, including multi-year pilot, specialized and grant programs. These proposed reductions include:
    • Math and science professional development: $53.2 million, eliminated
    • Library Allocation: $8 million, eliminated
    • K-4 staffing ratio enhancement: $297 million, eliminated
    • Building Bridges (drop-out prevention): $5 million, eliminated

Maintained

The Senate maintained funding for certain grant and technical assistance programs in line with differentiated course offerings and dropout prevention.

  • All-day K for lowest income schools: $81 million
  • Navigation 101: $6.4 million
  • Career and technical education in middle and high schools: $7.8 million

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Senate releases budget proposal

The Senate Democratic Caucus operating budget writers just wrapped up their press conference in Olympia.  The senators were not shy about the many painful decisions that were made in writing their budget.

Here’s a rundown of what they talked about relating to public education in their proposed budget:

  • K-12 education would be cut by $877 million.
  • I-728 and I-732 would largely be suspended.  I-728 would be reduced by 93 percent.
  • The Federal stimulus provided $410 million in critical funding to backfill cuts in the K-12 budget.
  • Budget writers tried to clean up some of the uneven funding that has occurred between school districts.
  • Higher education received substantial cuts on the order of $513 million.  Tuition would rise by 7 percent at the 4-year universities and 5 percent at the community and technical colleges.
  • The state need grant would receive an additional $45 million to offset the tuition increases.
  • Education was the last place budget writers looked for cuts.  However, each school district would still receive between a 2.5 and 3 percent cut in their budget.

This budget, if enacted, would have a very real negative impact to children and schools.  We will detail some of these impacts in a blog post later today.

To view a summary of the budget and the full document, click here.

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Help us present 10,000 signatures to the governor

More than 5,400 parents, educators and students have signed the Washington Kids Can’t Wait petition. We need your help to present the petition to Gov. Chris Gregoire with 10,000 signatures.

Please ask two people to sign the Washington Kids Can’t Wait Petition to help us pass 10,000 signatures by Friday, April 3rd.

And, tell them to take a moment to ADD A COMMENT when they sign about why this is important-our voice matters!

Reaching our goal will send a loud and clear message that:

  • We want our lawmakers to protect funding for Washington’s children and schools; and
  • We want our lawmakers to redefine basic education to pay for what our children need to succeed in college, job training, work and life.

Next week, state lawmakers will release a budget proposal that will make cuts in our public education system in order to close a historic budget shortfall. Kids in our public schools will feel the real impacts of these cuts.

Our lawmakers need to know that we are paying attention and will hold them responsible for investing in our children’s future.

Please ask two of your family, friends and colleagues to sign the Washington Kids Can’t Wait Petition so we can reach our goal of 10,000 signatures by Friday, April 3rd.

Thank you for supporting children and schools!

Lisa Layera Brunkan and Susan McBurney, Fund Our Future Washington
Kelly Munn, League of Education Voters
Shannon Campion, Stand for Children
Laura Bay, Washington State PTA

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Senate budget release set for Monday

It’s official!  The Washington State Senate Democrats will release their proposed operating budget for 2009-2011 at a news briefing Monday at 10:30 AM in Senate Hearing Room 1.  The public will be given an opportunity to voice their support or opposition to the budget proposal at 3:30 PM in Senate Hearing Rm 4 that afternoon.

However, the public hearing for the early learning, K-12 and higher education portion of the budget will be held on Tuesday at 1:30 PM in Senate Hearing Room 4.

The House is expected to release their budget proposal on Tuesday.

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Response to Gov. Gregoire’s letter on the education reform bills

Response to Gov. Gregoire’s letter on the education reform bills, HB 2261 and SB 6048.

We applaud Gov. Gregoire for supporting changes that will make school budgets more transparent and for strengthening the high school diploma by requiring 24 credits to graduate.

We are disappointed that the governor did not include a timeline for reform and accountability measures that would position Washington State to receive federal stimulus dollars and other funds tied to President Obama’s call for innovation in our public schools.

We believe the governor is missing the opportunity to make systemic reforms that will help every child succeed in school, such as including early learning in basic education–the single best investment we can make to reduce the achievement gap and improve overall student achievement.

We support a comprehensive re-definition of basic education, otherwise we risk continuing this endless cycle of cutting school budgets during downturns and filling in the holes when our economy improves.  Our best hope to protect our children’s future is to hold our state lawmakers accountable to providing what our children need to pursue their dreams after high school.

Lisa Macfarlane
League of Education Voters

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Washington gets a D+ in use of technology

Embarrassing. That’s all I can say.

techcounts2

The 2009 Technology Counts grades are in and nothing changed since 2008. Washington State, the home of Microsoft, Boeing, Real Networks etc. gets a D+(69%) in the use of technology. Nationwide the average is a B (83%). Why is our grade so low?

Washington Survey Data from 2008-09
State standards for students include technology:Yes
State tests students on technology:No
State has established a virtual school:No
State offers computer-based assessments:No

Our grade is higher for capacity to use technology- where we received a B- (79.5), compared to the national average C+ (77%).

Washington Survey Data from 2008-09
State standards include technology:
Teachers: Yes Administrators: YesRequirements for an initial license include technology coursework or a test:
Teachers: No Administrators: No
State requires technology training or a technology test for recertification, or requires participation in technology-related professional development for:
Teachers: Yes Administrators: No

Read the full report here.

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