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What Is Basic Education?

Classroom Students

By the LEV Policy Team

In Washington state, it is the state’s “paramount duty” to fund a program of basic education for all students. It is the Legislature’s responsibility to define that program of basic education. The Legislature has established goals for the education system, as well as a program intended to achieve those goals. The program of basic education can be changed and added to. It may only be reduced for educational reasons, not financial reasons. The instructional program of basic education is provided through the K-12 system, as well as in juvenile detention facilities, residential facilities, and adult correctional facilities (RCW 28A.150.200).

The Goals of Basic Education (RCW 28A.150.210)

  1. Read with comprehension, write effectively, and communicate successfully in a variety of ways and settings and with a variety of audiences;
  2. Know and apply the core concepts and principles of mathematics; social, physical, and life sciences; civics and history, including different cultures and participation in representative government; geography; arts; and health and fitness;
  3. Think analytically, logically, and creatively, and to integrate technology literacy and fluency as well as different experiences and knowledge to form reasoned judgments and solve problems; and
  4. Understand the importance of work and finance and how performance, effort, and decisions directly affect future career and educational opportunities.

The Program of Basic Education (RCW 28A.150.220)

The program of basic education is the legislatively defined basic education that the state must fully fund. Districts must use state funding to provide all of the following components to students.

Time:

•   1,000 hours of instruction for full-day Kindergarten (being phased in)

•   1,000 hours of instruction for grades 1-8 (districtwide average)*

•   1,080 hours of instruction for grades 9-12 (districtwide average)*

•   At least 180 school days

*Can be calculated as districtwide average of 1,027 hours grades 1-12

Academics:

•    Instruction in the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (adopted by Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction)

o The Arts

o English Language Arts (Common Core)

o English Language Proficiency

o Early Learning

o Math (Common Core)

o Science

o Social Studies

o Educational Technology

o Health and Physical Education

o Integrated Environment and Sustainability

o World Languages

•    The opportunity to complete 24 credits for a high school diploma

Supports:

•   Learning Assistance Program—supplemental instruction for “underachieving” students

•   Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program—supplemental instruction for English Language Learners

•   Special Education—appropriate education and supports for students with disabilities

•   Highly Capable Program—programs for highly capable students

•   Transportation (RCW 28A.150.200)

Components provided in the prototypical school funding formula (RCW 28A.150.260), such as Materials, Supplies, and Operating Costs (MSOC) or specific staffing ratio­­s do not constitute the program of basic education. They represent the Legislature’s assumptions of what resources are required to provide the program of basic education, but districts may choose to deliver the program in a different way.

Basic Education Compliance

Each district must certify to the State Board of Education that it is providing students with the minimum requirements of the basic education act. Districts must report that they provide:

  • K-12 students with 180 days of instruction
  • Kindergarten students with either 450 or 1,000 instructional hours, depending on full-day Kindergarten phase-in
  • Grades 1-8 students with a districtwide average of 1,000 instructional hours and grades 9-12 students with a districtwide average of 1,080 instructional hours, OR a districtwide average of 1,027 hours across grades 1-12
  • The opportunity to complete a 24-credit high school diploma

Instructional Hours: the definition of instructional hour is time in the school day from the beginning of the first period class to the end of the last period class, except for time spent on meals. Passing time and recess are counted as instructional time.

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Our View on NPR’s School Money Education Funding Series, Part 3

By the LEV Policy TeamNPR School Money series part 2

The third and final installment of NPR’s School Money series asks the question, “is there a better way to pay for schools?” The piece explores some of the challenges states have faced in school funding, such as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights in Colorado, and three potential areas to change funding systems: property taxes, local control, and federal funding. The article is wide-ranging and does not offer specific proposals for reform. Ultimately readers are encouraged to engage in a dialogue, looking at the different needs of students in schools, and take a common view of students in their states and across the nation to address disparities in school funding.

The property tax section tells the story of Wyoming. In response to a court decision that ordered the legislature to “treat the wealth of the state as a whole,” the state increased and redistributed funding for schools, taking property tax revenue from districts with high property values and using it in districts with lower property values. However, while this system provides more funding for districts that cannot generate the same amount of money as wealthier districts, it does not take into consideration student need. This may be one of the reasons that the increase in funding has not resulted in an increase in student achievement. Increased investments need to be targeted to students if additional funding is to impact student outcomes, as we saw here. In Washington, we must be intentional about how we invest the new dollars for McCleary. We cannot simply put more money into a system that is not meeting the needs of so many of Washington’s students, particularly students of color and students living in poverty. Systems change and investment need to happen at the same time.

The California local control story offers an example of how resources can be targeted to the students that need them most. California provides additional resources based on student needs at the school level. The principal and the school community, including parents, then decide how to best spend those additional dollars. With this flexibility and local control also comes increased accountability—the principal is evaluated on student achievement, parent engagement, and school climate to ensure that the increased investments are being spent in ways that improve student outcomes. While it is very early in the implementation of California’s new funding model, the principles of student-focused investments, school level accountability according to multiple measures, and transparency in the budgeting process are all important considerations as we invest new resources into Washington’s schools.

While the NPR series has highlighted that money matters, and more importantly, how we use money matters, it has also illuminated that there is no single fix to the school funding issues plaguing most states. We may learn from the experiences of other states, but as we move forward to address our own inadequate and inequitable funding systems we will have to engage each other to find our own way. We need to view every student in Washington as our own student, not just the student that lives in our district. We must also understand that different students will require different levels of resources to access the same educational opportunities. Increased funding is not by definition equitable funding. We need to invest in every student with the intention of providing equal opportunity to learn, which will require viewing money as a tool, not an end in itself. If we keep the student at the center of our work, we have the potential to leverage the McCleary investments to provide equitable resources based on student needs and to begin to close opportunity gaps.

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Our View on NPR’s School Money Education Funding Series, Part 2

By the LEV Policy TeamNPR School Money series part 2

On Monday, NPR published the second installment of the “School Money” series. The series aims to illustrate the complexity of the school funding system and examines how money matters to educational outcomes.

The second installment focuses on one essential question: What difference can a dollar make in our schools? Through examples of various education reform efforts across the country, the article attempts to shed light on the ongoing debate of what matters more—the amount of money spent on education or how the money is spent.

The education funding stories of Camden, New Jersey and Revere, Massachusetts are two examples featured. The article highlights the large amount of money that has been invested in Camden’s educational system with limited improvements s in student outcomes. The district’s per pupil spending is nearly double the national average, with the majority of the additional funds going towards combating poverty and educational necessities that have been historically underfunded. In comparison, Revere, MA received additional funding and invested the funds in people—teacher recruitment, professional development, new teaching materials and a technology team. And the results? Massachusetts has moved from ranking in the middle of the pack for student achievement to the top.

The objective of these two examples and the other cases that were sprinkled throughout the piece (early learning and investments in English Learner programs), is to demonstrate that while the amount of money does matter, how that money is spent is equally as important. How effective the investment strategies are also depends greatly on the challenges, political landscapes, and needs in each state, district, and school.  It’s important to remember that whenever tracking the effectiveness of investments we must start at the beginning and not the end (outcomes). Years of systemic discrimination and oppression become more apparent when we begin to invest in schools and districts that have been underfunded for years. To that point, a couple of years or even decades of more investments, even if they are intentional and targeted, will not fix hundreds of years of inequality overnight. But money matters, especially for low income students. The investments need to be stable and sustained and reflective of community needs.

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Our View on NPR’s School Money Education Funding Series

NPR School Money series

By the LEV Policy Team

On Monday, NPR launched the first installment of a three week series on education funding. The series is highlighting disparities between states and between districts within the same state. This story shows that Washington is one of many states working towards adequately funding schools and ensuring students who need more support get more support.

This article brings attention to how the local and state share of education funding is generated and why different schools generate different levels of funding support. This point rings especially true for Washington, as it is the over-reliance on school district levies to provide basic education that was a key element of the McCleary Supreme Court ruling in 2012.

According to the article, Washington ranks behind 38 states in the level of funding support for K-12 schools at $9,383 per student. One challenge in comparing per-student spending across states is that the most recent data available is often three years old, making even new ranking lists not reflective of recent changes in education funding. The data used in this analysis is from the 2012-13 school year. For Washington, this means that it does not include any of the $3.2 billion of new investments dedicated to basic education over the last two budget cycles. Including the recent enhancements will boost per-pupil funding amounts in Washington by more than 10% over the per-student amount included in this article.

Washington still has substantial progress to make in fully funding basic education, but it has made significant strides in recent years that are not reflected in the per-student funding ranking of states in the NPR article. It is important to both acknowledge the progress Washington has made in funding education and continue to strongly advocate for equitable and ample education funding.

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Money Matters in the Issaquah School District

The League of Education Voters invited leaders from all around Washington state to share their school district’s story on how money matters, and how they are using it to reduce the opportunity and achievement gaps. This post is the last school district perspective in our five-part blog series, “Money Matters. But so does how it’s spent.”

Alison MeryweatherBy Alison Meryweather, LEV Key Activist

Once the 2014 budget was approved, the Issaquah district moved quickly to strategically invest the additional funding. To be clear; our district has yet to be restored to pre-2008-2009 state funding levels, but with the “additional” $3 million allocation from the state, we could begin that process.

Below are some of the priorities where funding was spent:

Instructional Performance and Accountability: $1,000,000 for full implementation, district-wide, of the Teacher Principal Evaluation Pilot (TPEP) Program. These additional funds are required to ensure the program is implemented with equity and transparency. These new evaluations are much more time-consuming and therefore the district opted to increase Dean of Students staffing at both the elementary and middle schools and add another Assistant Principal at two of our comprehensive high schools who have enrollments of 2,000 students each. This staff increase will also serve to assist students who need additional support to address their challenges.

Instructional Time: $200,000 to fund a pilot 7th period at two high schools to expand core graduation and elective options for students. Due to state funding constraints, our district only provides a 6-period day. The district will pilot an on-demand academic option, as well as provide transportation.

Student Health: While $975,000 overall was allocated, the district is contracting for Mental Health Counseling at all three of our comprehensive high schools, at a cost of $275,000. To me, this is a very smart investment. Data from our annual Healthy Youth Survey indicates numerous areas of significant concern. Our teachers are on the front line with our students and both need the guidance and support to navigate the complexities of social/emotional health.

Just imagine the opportunities for our students should the state fully adhere to the court McCleary decision to restore the previous funding levels and make additional essential investments in education!

Alison Meryweather is a passionate advocate for public education and has been volunteering for over a decade so that our students can benefit from the best education possible.

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Money Matters in the Kent School District

The League of Education Voters invited leaders from all around Washington state to share their school district’s story on how money matters, and how they are using it to reduce the opportunity and achievement gaps. This post is the third school district perspective in our five-part blog series, “Money Matters. But so does how it’s spent.”

Agda BurchardBy Agda Burchard, Legislative Representative, Kent School District Board

Thanks to the state legislature, nearly $500 per student in additional funding was available at the start of the 2013–2014 school year.

In the Kent School District, a portion of the additional resources support student learning by funding:

  • Full-Day Kindergarten. Research shows that students who attend full-day kindergarten are more likely to be independent learners, more productive, and less likely to be withdrawn or aggressive. Seven additional elementary schools in Kent received state funds for full-day kindergarten. In a full day, teachers have more time to concentrate on teaching the curriculum and students are able to focus longer on a subject. Students also have time to engage in a wider range of activities including the arts and physical education.
  • Increasing Student Success. KSD added or expanded these programs:
    • Dual-language programs at Scenic Hill and Carriage Crest elementary schools. Students will focus on learning two languages and develop high linguistic and academic proficiency.
    • Preschool classes at Meridian and Park Orchard elementary schools. To prepare students for success in school.
    • Parent Academy for Student Achievement. The Parent Academy teaches parents how to engage in their children’s education and is taught in nine different languages.
    • Career Medical Pathways program at Kentlake in partnership with Renton Technical College. Students can take low-cost college courses and work with businesses such as MultiCare Health System to receive practical instruction in the medical field. This type of experience gives students new opportunities and advantages in the modern job market.

The additional state funding was a good down-payment toward fully funding public education as required by the state supreme court’s McCleary decision. When you see your state legislators, please thank them on behalf of the students in your community. And ask them to keep working to fully fund basic education so that all our students can increase their academic achievement and graduate ready for success in college, career, and community life.

Agda Burchard and her husband Tom have lived in Kent for 20 years. Agda became active in the Kent School District when their daughter Sam entered kindergarten in 2002. In addition to serving on the Kent School District Board, Agda is a Girl Scout leader and PTA leader.

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Money Matters in Spokane Public Schools

The League of Education Voters invited leaders from all around Washington state to share their school district’s story on how money matters, and how they are using it to reduce the opportunity and achievement gaps. This post is the second school district perspective in our five-part blog series, “Money Matters. But so does how it’s spent.”

Bob DouthittBy Bob Douthitt, President, Spokane Public Schools

Spokane Public Schools received approximately $18 million in net new state and federal revenue for the 2013–2014 school year to support basic and special education. This represents 5–6 percent of our operating budget, which is slightly over $300 million.

Of the $18 million, $10 million is being used to fund Basic Education obligations that had previously been backfilled by levy money. The remaining $8 million, which represents new revenue, is being used to reduce K–1 class sizes, particularly in high-poverty schools, increase reading intervention teachers to provide support in all elementary schools, and increase certificated staff in middle schools to support both at-risk and high-achieving students. Additional investments for professional development to implement the Teacher-Principal Evaluation Project (TPEP) and new curriculum for Common Core were added to the budget. Our Mentor Teacher Program was restored. Finally, investments in college and career completion initiatives are available in this year’s budget to help support the School District’s T-2-4 goal.

The “T-2-4” goal, which is part of our new five-year strategic plan introduced this fall, says that as much as 67 percent of the jobs in Washington state are expected to require some form of post-secondary training by 2018. The “finish line” for our students should not be merely obtaining a high school diploma, but rather, completing something at the post-secondary level. It could either be technical or military (the T), a 2-year degree (the 2), or a 4-year degree (the 4).

Washington’s students certainly need the additional $3+ billion delineated in HB 2261 And ESHB 2776, and required under the McCleary decision, if they are going to substantially improve their academic achievement and realistically expect to obtain the outcomes we want as a state, and need as a society.

Bob Douthitt was elected to the School Board for Spokane Public Schools in 2007, and has served as president since 2011. A former tax attorney and retail business owner, he has been active in civic affairs throughout his career.

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Money Matters in the Anacortes School District

The League of Education Voters invited leaders from all around Washington state to share their school district’s story on how money matters, and how they are using it to reduce the opportunity and achievement gaps. This post is the first school district perspective in our five-part blog series, “Money Matters. But so does how it’s spent.”

Jeannette PapadakisBy Jeannette Papadakis, President, Anacortes School Board

The increased funding from the 2014 legislative session, as the first installment for fully funding K–12 education, is directly benefiting Anacortes students. The additional resources received are being used to positively impact the Anacortes School District’s instructional goals.

Thanks to the work of the legislature, we have been able to continue to fund full-day kindergarten for every student in our district. We believe that starting “school ready” is a requirement for future academic success. Through initiatives such as our aggressive early learning efforts and the ability to continue full-day kindergarten, our student assessment data shows substantial and consistent gains in this area.

Another area we have addressed with additional funding is first and second grade literacy. By the completion of these grades, 30 percent of our students are not on target to meet the reading standards. It is critical to their future academic success that students are able to read by third grade. After analyzing data, our current practices and curriculum, and studying the latest research, we hired two primary literacy instructional coaches to address this problem. Current research shows that students have the best gains with a certified, high-quality teacher (versus our former pull-out model). These instructional coaches model, guide, collaborate, and provide feedback, with the goal of directly impacting student reading achievement.

We appreciate our legislature taking the necessary initial steps to fully fund public education. Through the use of these additional resources the Anacortes School District is addressing specific student needs and outcomes.

Jeannette Papadakis is the President of the Anacortes School Board. She has served on the board since 2007.

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Olympia’s education efforts: Mid-course correction needed

This post was written by League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo and originally posted on Crosscut on December 3, 2013.

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education VotersThe National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2013 test results were heralded recently by many in our state for the increases in fourth and eighth grade math and reading scores.

The results are promising and the progress deserves to be recognized.

Yet when the results were announced, there was little to no mention of the widening achievement gaps among some groups of Washington students.

Specifically, during the past 10 years, the gaps between black/white, Latino/white, and low-income/higher income students widened at all grades and subjects tested.

Clearly, what we are doing for these students is not working. (more…)

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