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Archive for April, 2009

An historic victory for children and schools

This is an historic day for one million public school kids in our state. The state Legislature passed the education reform bill, ESHB 2261. For the first time in 30 years, we’ve re-defined basic education to include the tools our educators need to prepare our kids for college, work and life.

The passage of ESHB 2261 commits the state to fully implementing and funding early learning for at-risk kids, all-day kindergarten, stronger graduation requirements, a longer school day, and other reforms to improve outcomes for children by 2018. It’s up to all of us-parents, educators, and students-to work together to hold our lawmakers accountable to fulfilling that commitment.

Congratulations! Applaud yourselves for achieving an historic milestone for children and schools. Thank you for your passion and persistence. It’s clear that your personal phone calls, messages and visits made a tremendous difference. Now we need to thank our lawmakers.

Please send a thank you note to the legislators who made this possible.

  • View the roll call vote on ESHB 2261.
  • Call the legislative hotline at 1.800.562.6000. Staff will help you leave a message for your legislators.
  • Thank your legislators for supporting ESHB 2261, and helping to build the world-class education system that our children deserve.

We know schools and educators are doing the best job possible in the midst of budget cuts. ESHB 2261 is an acknowledgement that our state is not living up to its paramount duty, and that our teachers deserve the support and resources they need to provide a high quality education for every child. The legislation provides a roadmap for the future to build a stronger and more amply funded education system that will be protected from devastating budget cuts. And, it positions our state to compete for $5 billion in federal funds dedicated to innovation in our public schools.

ESHB 2261 now goes to the governor’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law. Stay tuned for more information about the bill signing ceremony.

Again, thank you for making a difference!

Posted in: LEV News

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Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe’s open letter to the education community

We’ve posted Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe’s open letter to the education community in full below.

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April 18, 2009

This has been one of the most difficult and bittersweet weeks in my time in our Legislature. We passed House Bill 2261, to redefine Basic Education. I envisioned the day we would all do this together, but to my deep disappointment that did not happen.

Still, it is time to move forward.

The bill the Senate passed last week shines a bright light on how the state funds our schools with an outdated definition of basic education and gives us the tools to know how we must change our funding to better reflect the growing expectations and challenges our schools face. What will be our class size? Does each school have enough teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors and speech therapists to help students excel? And how many administrators does each school need? These are the questions that this legislation will help us answer.

The bill isn’t perfect, but it is our road map to the world-class educational system envisioned by Washington Learns that every one of us deeply wants. We may not be able to solve all the problems facing our educational system today but we must begin. It is time to take this step.

I have heard that this is the wrong bill and the wrong message at the wrong time. I have heard that it is an insult to our hard-working teachers and educators that come to work every day and are committed to providing every child with the opportunity to learn. I want to be clear – teachers are the single most important part of our educational system. This bill is not a commentary in any way about a failure of our teachers. It is a recognition that our teachers deserve better and a recognition that our state’s definition of basic education has failed to keep pace with the evolving expectations of society and has failed our teachers.

So why do we need this bill now, of all times? Because our class size is 46th in the nation. Because our dropout rate is between 20 and 30 percent, and our teacher compensation is 21st in the nation. That is unacceptable. Our students and our educators deserve much more than an education system that was defined 30 years ago. I know that changing an educational system for almost 1 million students and over 2,000 schools takes time. It cannot happen in one legislative session. However, we must not let an inability to make immediate whole-scale change discourage us from making any progress.

We need to fund what we value and we must ensure that our commitment to education is clearly defined. Only by clearly establishing our Constitutional duties now can we hold the state accountable in the future. There are many demands on our limited state resources – health care, family leave, hospitals and nursing homes, to name only a few. As we come out of this recession, and as the economy grows, our educational system needs to be first in line for restoration of cuts and it must remain at the top of the priority list for future investments. In order to provide the system the capacity to accommodate those investments, planning and phase-in must start now. An expanded definition of basic education obligates our state to fully fund the educational system that our teachers, schools, students and communities need today. With this expanded definition in place the state can start the process of preparing the system for future growth.

We also have a unique opportunity right now to try and access additional federal stimulus dollars to help us with initial, one-time investments. This legislation makes us more competitive to receive part of the more than $4 billion that is available for states in the “Race to the Top” grant. These funds are available to states that are making exceptional progress towards educational reform goals such as rigorous college-and-career ready standards, creation of data systems that help foster continuous improvement and a process for providing intensive support for challenged schools. The legislation passed by the Senate includes provisions and a plan for addressing each of these goals in a meaningful way and will hopefully help the state of Washington access this additional federal money.

For all of these reasons I support the important and difficult step we took this week. This legislation is not the end goal, only the beginning. It reflects months of hard work and negotiation with all education stakeholders. The bill passed by the Senate incorporates language from both the Full Funding Coalition’s proposal and recommendations from the Basic Education Task Force. It strives to plot a way forward, with a realistic implementation strategy based on shared responsibility and expectations for the state, school districts and schools. We must continue to embrace a respectful and steady process forward and I pledge that I will be here every step of the way.

We will do this together. This is about the children.

Yours,

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe
Chair, Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee

Posted in: Press Releases & Statements

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Remarks from education advocates on the passage of ESHB 2261

Education advocates celebrate the passage of the basic education finance reform legislation, ESHB 2261, by a vote of 26 to 23.  Our broad-based coalition includes Washington State PTA, League of Education Voters, State Board of Education, Washington Stand for Children, Washington Roundtable, TechAmerica, Partnership for Learning, Black Education Strategy Roundtable, numerous school boards and superintendents from across the state, and countless others.

Outlined below are quotes from the various coalition members.

Mary Jean Ryan, Chair, State Board of Education

“The State Board of Education strongly commends the Senate for taking this historic action. This is exactly the demonstration of leadership that the children of Washington State deserve. We urge the House to concur with this revised bill. This action will propel us forward. We are now committed and accountable to ensuring all students leave high school, college, or work ready. After too long a wait, Washington’s educational system is once again moving in the right direction.”

Cheryl Jones, Black Education Strategy Roundtable

“This is a great start toward reforming our education system and moving our children into a learning environment that puts their futures as a priority in our state.  As we work together to implement HB 2261, we are encouraged that all children will have access to a quality education and that we will continually work toward closing the achievement gap for minority and low income children.”

Jon Gould, Children’s Alliance and Early Learning Action Alliance

“We applaud the Senate for their historic vote today modernizing the definition of basic education. We thank Senators for including early learning in basic education and recognizing that smart investments in early learning yield positive returns for families and communities across Washington State. In these tough times, this farsighted policy puts early childhood education on a stronger footing for future growth. It’s a great day for children in Washington.”

Chris Korsmo, Executive Director, League of Education Voters

“We’re one step closer to making history for one million public school kids in our state.  These reforms take advantage of the latest evidence-based research to improve academic achievement for children.  Early learning, stronger graduation requirements and a longer school day will better prepare our kids for school and for life.

Including early learning in basic education will mean more children will start school ready to succeed and prevent the achievement gap from occurring.  This is the best investment we can make to improve outcomes for children.”

Shannon Campion, Executive Director, Washington Stand for Children

“This is an historic vote for Washington’s children.  Legislators today demonstrated that even during an economic crisis, we can stay focused on, and make marked progress toward, our vision of a world-class education system for all Washington’s children.”

Jennifer Boutell, Parent, Tacoma Public Schools

“Tacoma desperately needs these reforms.  My hope is that by the time my girls reach high school, the public school system will be able to prepare them for the 21st century economy.”

Terry Byington, Executive Director, TechAmerica

“In future years we’ll look back on this watershed moment and be thankful the Legislature took this stand to support students.”

Laura Bay, President, Washington State PTA

“Today is a great day for the children of Washington.  The Senate’s passage of HB 2261 is an important next step to set the State of Washington on the road toward fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide ample funding for the education of all children.   We are on our way to fulfilling the goal of providing the education system we need to educate our children for success in today’s world.   Many legislators along with a strong coalition of education advocates, including volunteer PTA members from across the state have worked tirelessly in support of this effort.  We applaud the efforts and the courage of those who crafted this legislation and those who have voted for it. 

Having said that, we must all recognize that the fight is not yet won, because the bill now goes back to the House of Representatives for concurrence, and then to the Governor for her approval.  We encourage both the House and the Governor to take swift action because our kids can’t wait.”

Posted in: Press Releases & Statements

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HB 2261 – Why is it important and what are the details?

This informational sheet was compiled by Ramona Hattendorf of the Seattle Council PTSA. It is intended as an overview only. Detailed information on HB 2261 and other education funding bills can be found on the Washington State Legislature’s web site at www.leg.wa.gov.

Why 2261? The financial reason
School districts are going bankrupt. They were racing toward collapse last year BEFORE the economy took a dive.

Why the crisis?
Partly because state funding for schools wasn’t keeping up with inflation and things like fuel and energy costs. Mainly, though, it didn’t align with what kids need and wasn’t covering enough instructional hours. About 80 percent of school funding pays for staff.

• Example 1: Districts are paying for 22 percent more teachers than the state funds
• Example 2: Textbooks are funded on an 18-year cycle
• Example 3: In 2006-07, districts spent $500 million more on overhead costs than the state allotted for. That figure doesn’t include transportation. For utilities alone, districts spent $259 million. The state only paid $118 million.
• Example 4: The state only pays for five periods. Kids need six to get the credits they need for college.

Districts have been using their local levy dollars to pay for what the community would regard as basic expenses. Those levy dollars are legally intended for enhancement only and are capped. In other words: Districts can’t ask local tax payers to just pick up the bill, and they are limited financially in how they can address things like remediation, tutoring, enrichment and training. Levies are also unstable; if they fail, essential school funding is lost.

Districts are also limited in how much they can pay teachers. The state sets the salaries, and there is no adjustment for regional cost of living. Districts have a little leeway to supplement pay, but that money comes from the “enhancement dollars.” Paying teachers a decent salary competes with programs to get and keep students on track.

By law, the state (as opposed to local government) has to fund “basic education” for K-12 and needs to ensure “equitable” schools. The constitution also says it is the state’s “paramount duty” to make “ample provision for the education of all children residing in its borders.”

Why 2261? The student success reason
Statewide, we have a 30 percent drop out rate. This is actually par for the course nationally. In Seattle, the drop out rate is 37 percent. In Yakima, it’s 36 percent. In Spokane, it’s 42 percent.

Of the 63 percent in Seattle that do graduate on time:
• Only 17 percent (1 out 6) can meet the requirements for a four-year college.
• The rest either don’t have enough credits or haven’t taken the right courses.

Statewide, only 19 percent of ninth-graders will go on to earn a post-secondary degree.

In our increasingly competitive economy, we are graduating a majority of kids without the math, science and language skills they need to get good-paying jobs or pursue higher education or advanced training.

What would 2261 do?
• Redefine “basic education” as “the opportunity for students to graduate with a meaningful high school diploma.”
• Create a “prototypical school” funding model. In other words, identify everything an average school needs – including librarians, books, nurses, counselors, overhead costs, etc. – and use that to determine how much money the state sends to districts.
o How the money is actually spent would be up to the districts so they can best address local need.

The House version of 2261 includes:
• Preschool for high-risk kids, so they start school ready to learn
• Continued roll out of all-day kindergarten
• Reduced class sizes K-3rd grade to make sure kids are prepared for more rigorous courses later
• Enhanced allocations for low income, bilingual kids
• Allocation for highly capable
• Core 24 – This aligns high school requirements with college and employer requirements. It’s a basic college-prep curriculum that gives students some flexibility to tailor to their needs
• Six periods in middle and high school
• Establishes a board to adopt standards for effective teaching and assessment for professional certification, and to define a “master” level educator
• Directs State Board of Education to continue work on school and district accountability
• Dedicates 50% of revenue growth over 5% to fund basic education. Implementation of the expanded definition of basic education would be phased in 2011 – 2016.

Who supports 2261?
2261 follows an earlier bill, 1410. HB 1410 would have fully implemented the Basic Education Finance Task Force proposal. It died, and 2261 was introduced as a scaled-back compromise that addressed concerns of educators.

Supporters include:
• The Washington PTA and Seattle Council PTSA endorsed the task force proposal and have testified in support of 2261
• So has a group of 35 superintendents representing Puget Sound districts, including Seattle
• Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, and State Board of Education President Mary Jean Ryan
• The Seattle School Board endorsed 1410, as did school boards and PTAs from across Washington
• The League of Education Voters also supports

Who opposes 2261?
The Washington Education Association (teachers union).
In testimony, WEA said the bill is a distraction and could lead to more unfunded mandates. Individuals have testified about changes to the salary structure. There is debate about linking a “master” teaching level to National Board Certification; currently teachers are paid more for advanced degrees.

There was an earlier bill backed by the Full Funding Coalition, a group of educators that included superintendents, administrators and the WEA. That bill died. Educators have testified in favor of 2261 but have reiterated the need to specify and commit funding.

Status as of April 15:
2261 was passed by the House 71-26. The Senate changed the bill. The PTA supports the original House version.

Washington State PTA stance:
Washington schools need ESHB 2261 passed this session.

• Proposed budget cuts will drive many more districts to the brink of financial crisis. Schools will be forced
to lay off several thousand newly recruited teachers. Class sizes will rise. Every special program will be slashed or eliminated.
• As the state’s economy recovers, ESHB 2261 is the blue print we need to rebuild a stronger K-12 system.

Posted in: Legislative session

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Senate turns Collective Bargaining bill into a study

An amendment proposed by Hatfield, Hobbs, and Holmquist and adopted on the floor of the Senate turned the collective bargaining for child care center bill into a study. The amendment reads:

NEW SECTION. Sec. 2. (1) The department of early learning must
study issues relating to increasing the child care subsidy and
reimbursement rates for child care centers licensed under chapter
43.125 RCW. The study must:
1329-S AMS HATF GORR 447 Official Print – 2
(a) Include a review of the results of the collective bargaining provided to family child care providers. This must include whether this has resulted in increased economic compensation, health and welfare benefits, professional development and training, and other economic matters to these providers;
(b) Be made in consultation with child care center directors and workers as well as other interested stakeholders. Directors and workers must be consulted in several areas of the state, including centers located in eastern Washington and western Washington;
(c) Review alternative methods of raising the child care subsidy rate;
(d) Review alternative methods to provide training to child care center directors and workers;
(e) Review methods to retain child care center workers and otherwise reduce employee turnover; and
(f) Include other items the department determines necessary to study in order to increase educational opportunities for children in child care centers.
(2) The study required under this subsection must be completed by August 1, 2010, and delivered to the joint legislative task force on child care center subsidy and reimbursement rates established in section 3 of this act.
(3) This section expires December 31, 2010.

Another amendment proposed by Rockefeller and passed by a vote of 37 yea to 11 nay would allow center directors and workers to opt in and out of the bargaining agreement. Those centers that opt out would NOT receive the subsidy increase.

SHB 1329 passed in the Senate by 46 yea to 2 nay.

Yeas: 46   Nays: 2   Absent: 0   Excused: 1
Voting yea: Senators Becker, Benton, Berkey, Brandland, Brown, Carrell, Delvin, Eide, Fairley, Fraser, Hargrove, Hatfield, Haugen, Hewitt, Hobbs, Holmquist, Honeyford, Jarrett, Kastama, Kauffman, Keiser, Kilmer, King, Kohl-Welles, Marr, McAuliffe, McCaslin, McDermott, Morton, Murray, Oemig, Parlette, Pflug, Prentice, Pridemore, Ranker, Regala, Roach, Rockefeller, Schoesler, Sheldon, Shin, Stevens, Swecker, Tom, and Zarelli
Voting nay: Senators Franklin and Kline
Excused: Senator Jacobsen

The bill summary can be viewed here.

The House passed a vastly different bill – without the study and loss of parity. House and Senate leadership will now conference on the final bill that will be sent to the Governor.

Posted in: Legislative session

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Op-ed in the Sammamish Reporter

Our statewide field director and resident of Sammamish, Kelly Munn, got an op-ed published in her local newspaper.

The op-ed, Defining basic education, is about the potential impacts to children and schools from the proposed budget cuts.  And, the need to redefine basic education to include what every child needs to succeed in college, job training, work and life.

Kelly is also quoted in the paper’s top story about schools bracing for layoffs.  Here’s an excerpt:

Teacher layoffs would lower the quality of education provided by local schools, according to League of Education Voters State Field Director, and Sammamish parent, Kelly Munn.

“If we had redefined what constitutes ‘basic education’ two years ago, we wouldn’t be in this position,” she said. “We would have protected core education services, and put it in the statute to guarantee certain levels of funding.”

Munn said that they were expecting between 60 and 80 teachers would lose their jobs in Issaquah, with that number dependent on the amount of federal stimulus money that will be made available to offset the cuts.

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism

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