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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: McCleary Edition

Over the past two biennia, the state of Washington has increased funding for K–12 education by nearly 3 billion dollars. In addition, local maintenance and operations levies provide an additional $2 billion each year. The state and local school districts have told the public that these additional dollars will be invested in increases in teacher pay; K–3 class-size reductions; full-day kindergarten; transportation; and material, supplies, and operating costs (MSOC).

With this level of investment, parents should expect significant new services.

They should expect their K–3 classes to be demonstrably smaller.

They should not be asked to provide basic supplies.

Schools should not have to shut down computer labs or libraries for testing.

And there should not be teacher strikes this fall.

Unfortunately, these reasonable expectations will not be met.

The reason for this is at the heart of the recent McCleary ruling, which is largely focused on compensation. While the ruling has issues and some legislators are not happy about it, the reality we are facing is this: well over 11 billion dollars is being invested in our public schools each year with far too little to show for it.

The current “system” for paying our K–12 employees is nonsensical, inequitable, and is not remotely reflective of the needs of our students. It creates inexcusable inequities between districts, limits educational opportunity for thousands of students, and creates annual labor strife.

Without addressing our K–12 compensation structure, investments will continue to follow adults rather than students.

Both political parties took credit for the investments in education, and they will share the blame if all the new money gets vaporized before benefiting any students. The fault is collective. It cuts across party lines and between the state and local districts.

As the new school year begins, the League of Education Voters will be vigilant in following the money that has been invested. We will help communities understand the truth behind local strikes. We hope our work will help more people understand the necessity of fixing the broken way we pay our most important state employees.

And lastly, we hope our Legislature applies the lessons learned from the last two budget cycles and works in a creative, bipartisan way to solve this problem. They have shown that they can do things of this scale that are great for the state of Washington. We hope they remember their responsibility, their duty, and their ability, to do the job.

Thanks for all you do on behalf of Washington’s students.

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Funding, Weekly Roundup

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Statement on the Supreme Court’s Order to the State

Today, the Washington State Supreme Court issued their response on the Legislature’s progress in funding basic education.

The Court recognized the Legislature’s record progress in funding an education continuum and called out their work in fully funding transportation, materials, supplies, and operating costs, as well as their progress in partially funding K–3 class-size reductions and full-day kindergarten. The Court also called out the areas where the Legislature did not make significant progress, namely in funding facilities for class-size reduction and full-day kindergarten, compensation for teachers and other school personnel, and reliance on local levies to provide basic education.

Effectively immediately, the Court is fining the state $100,000 a day until a plan to fully fund basic education is implemented, which will go into a special fund reserved for basic education. The Court also encouraged Governor Jay Inslee to call the Legislature back for a special session. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Funding, Press Releases & Statements

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Statement on the 2015-2017 Budget

After one long legislative session (followed by three special sessions), Governor Inslee signed Washington’s 2015–2017 state budget into law late in the evening on June 30, averting a government shutdown by less than an hour. An unprecedented series of events ultimately delayed sine die until today, but with the true end of our historically long 2015 legislative session at hand, we take a moment to reflect.

What we see in this budget is a more comprehensive investment in education than at any other time in the state’s history. Through their strong investments in public education across the spectrum, early learning through postsecondary, the Legislature has given all Washington’s students more hope for their future.

The 2015 Legislative SessionThe League of Education Voters has long argued that a child’s education should be a continuum with seamless transitions from early learning through higher education. We have worked with partners around the state in pursuit of that vision, including with the Cradle through College Coalition. It is gratifying to see the Legislature following through with strategies and investments that support students at all ages. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, Funding, Higher Education, Legislative session, LEV News, Press Releases & Statements

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: June 12

Well, it wasn’t exactly “Dewey Defeats Truman,” but last week’s proclamation of a budget deal was—sadly—a bit premature. Not everyone bought into the hype that a deal was imminent; some remain optimistic, while others offer admonishment. For their part, the Supreme Court is taking a wait-and-see approach. They are due a report on progress and a plan to finish the necessary work of fully funding “basic education” shortly after the Legislature finally adjourns.

At which point, I hope that the Legislature is called back into another session. Because, well, they didn’t fully comply with the Court’s orders. A girl can dream, can’t she? (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Legislative session, Weekly Roundup

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: June 5

I’m not sure you can put all the blame on Dana Carvey’sChurch Lady” for the ruination of the word “special.” I mean, anybody else remember the ABC After School Specials of the 1970s? The first “entertainment specials” aimed at teen and tween angst on television were often anything but. Which brings me to the state of our legislative session(s). Wrapping up the first week of the second “special session” makes me long for the bad-hair-’70s nightmare that was “My Dad’s Wife” starring… Kristy McNichol. Now, those were good times. Our legislative sessions… not so much.

With a (partial) government shutdown looming at the end of the month, budget negotiators have been called to the office—the Governor’s office—to resume talks after the first really super special session resulted in nada. Well, not nada, exactly. Overall budget proposals seemed to have resulted in myriad teacher walkouts to protest a variety of issues—something we can expect to see more of, even though the budget will likely result in record investments in education. More on this in a moment.

You may be asking yourself, what’s the hold up on this budget? And how did we get here? Taxes. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Legislative session, Weekly Roundup

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Finding a way forward

Finding a way forward. At the League of Education Voters, we believe a student’s education should be a continuum with seamless transitions. 2014 was a successful year as we worked to improve public education throughout Washington state. We are pleased to release our 2014 annual report, Finding a way forward, and we invite you to read highlights from the past year.

In 2014, we also released our vision, A way forward, which calls for a new definition of basic education that includes early learning, strategic investments in K–12 education, and at least two years of postsecondary education for each Washington student.

While some may suggest that this definition is more than we can afford, we believe that we can’t afford not to make this investment. Too many kids arrive at kindergarten already behind. At the other end of the education spectrum, all evidence points to the need for a postsecondary degree or certificate in preparation for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

A high-quality public education system from early learning through higher education is critical to ensuring a strong home-grown workforce and state economy.

Washington state has the people, resources, and innovative spirit to create the best public education system in the world, but it’s going to take tough decisions from each of us to make it a reality. During 2015, we are engaging policymakers, community members, parents, and educators across the state to discuss this vision and how, working together, we can make it a reality.

We invite you to join us.

Read or download our 2014 annual report.

Posted in: Development, LEV News

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Dear Legislature: The time is now

Dear Legislature,

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education Voters

Chris Korsmo

Thank you for your hard work and commitment to ensuring a high-quality public education for each Washington student, from early learning through higher education. The Legislature is poised to pass the most comprehensive education budget in the history of the state that has the potential to increase opportunities for all Washington students.

But there is important work that still needs to be done.

We must ensure expanded access to quality early learning by passing the Early Start Act. We must increase the number of people who can access the State Need Grant Program. But the biggest job left to tackle is in K–12 education. To address legal issues and profound inequity in the current system, we must design a cogent, viable, funding plan for K–12 education. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Legislative session, LEV News, Press Releases & Statements, Weekly Roundup

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Fully funding basic education

While the final days of this legislative session are nearing, yesterday leaders from both the House and Senate proposed three plans to reform the ways schools in our state are financed and end an over-reliance on local levies. These plans are in addition to a plan put forward by State Superintendent Randy Dorn earlier this week. Currently, local levy funding is used to pay for basic education costs, including teacher salaries and school supplies; costs that the State Constitution requires be covered by the State. This is major step forward on one of most vexing challenges confronting the state legislature.

We know that teachers make the biggest school-based difference in a child’s education. Effective school leadership plays a significant role in the academic results of students building-wide. Strategic investments in K–12 teacher compensation and professional learning are necessary to close gaps and improve outcomes for all kids. By ensuring the state is fulfilling its responsibility, we will ensure these critical elements are in place to benefit our children. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Funding, Legislative session, LEV News, Press Releases & Statements

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: April 15

If you’re a baseball fan, the new rules intended to speed up the game are likely a welcome relief. Unfortunately, those same rules don’t apply to the legislative session. This session, once on track for an on-time ending, is now cruising at a speed close to stop—as if stuck in a perpetual pitching change. I won’t use the “righty” or “lefty” metaphor to describe the whole thing, because we’d be looking at a third arm to save this game. And, well, that’s a tortured metaphor even I can’t do.

The current debate—if you can call it that, with both sides pretty much just ignoring the other—centers on an age old polemic: taxes. Whether to raise, what to raise, etc., etc.—Voters, much like the legislators representing them, seem split according to a new Elway poll. Though the divide could be that folks didn’t buy into the forced choice: raise taxes and fully fund education, or don’t raise taxes and cut social services. A choice that hasn’t been forced in the Legislature, and likely won’t be. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Legislative session, Weekly Roundup

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: April 3

My dad used to say “there are at least two sides to every story. But the truth is always somewhere in the middle.” As far as I could tell, he didn’t have telepathic powers, and if he did, I’m not sure he would have predicted the varied responses to the budget proposals released over this past week. The House has managed to push their proposal through the floor, while the Senate has bogged down a bit in a sea of amendments. The Senate is expected to clear their bill by early next week and then the real fun begins. Making one out of two. Like a legislative version of an arranged wedding from hell.

With only four weeks left until the curtain falls on the legislative session, and with both sides agreeing to a boatload of new cash into education, it might seem that there’s little to debate. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Legislative session, Weekly Roundup

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