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The Latest Washington State Supreme Court’s McCleary Ruling

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

Temple of Justice - League of Education Voters McCleary RulingThis morning the Washington State Supreme Court issued their latest order on the McCleary case detailing whether or not the state has met its responsibility to fully fund education. In a unanimous opinion the Supreme Court ruled that the state’s plan to fully fund education will provide enough resources to meet its constitutional responsibility to fund basic education, but the Court also stated that the timeline for full-funding put forward by the state takes too long. Basically – the policy and structure are good, but the state needs to pay for it faster.

In the order, the Court details each funding stream that constitutes the Washington State Legislature’s plan to fully fund education:  Materials, Supplies, & Operating Costs (MSOC), transportation, categorical programs such as the Learning Assistance Program (LAP) and the Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program, staff salaries, K-3 class size reduction, and full-day kindergarten. The Court concludes that when fully funded according to House Bill 2242, the funding amounts will be sufficient to provide for an amply funded basic education.

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The Supreme Court’s McCleary Check In

Daniel ZavalaBy Daniel Zavala, Director of Policy and Government Relations

96 days. That is how many days have passed since sine die (the official term for when the legislative session ends) back on July 20. Since that time, here at League of Education Voters, we’ve been sifting through the language of HB 2242 (the major education bill this past session) and the state budget (SB 5883) to determine the impact of new state money in K-12. All of this revolves around the context of the McCleary court order.

Importantly, today the Washington State Supreme Court heard oral arguments about whether the state fulfilled its duty to adequately fund basic education. Previously, the court ruled that the state overly relied on local levies to fill what the state wasn’t providing around compensation and K-3 class size reduction, among other areas. While both sides (the state and plaintiff’s attorney, Thomas Ahearne) made their case about whether the legislative action this year satisfies the court’s order, the direction around McCleary, adequacy, and equity still remains murky.

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Seattle Public Schools Budget Shortfall FAQs

By Jake Vela, LEV Senior Policy Analyst

  • Rear view of class raising hands - League of Education VotersHow big is the budget shortfall for the 2017-18 school year?
    • Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has recently announced that they have an expected budget shortfall of $74 million for the 2017-18 school year. The $74 million shortfall would be about 10% of the $790 million budget recommendation adopted by Seattle Public Schools in 2016-17.
  • Why is Seattle Public Schools expecting a $74 million budget deficit in 2017-18?
    • The expiring of a temporary increase in how much the state allows Seattle to raise through local levies (levy lid) accounts for $30 million of the shortfall. The other $44 million is because the staffing levels agreed to by the district and the unions in the most recent contracts exceeded the funding levels they knew would be available in the 2017-18 school year.
  • Why is the state levy lid being reduced starting January 2018?
    • In 2010 the legislature temporarily increased the amount of money school districts could raise through local levies (levy lid). This increase was intended to be a band aid to allow districts, who were able to pass additional levies, to make-up for the reduction in state funding for education due to the economic recession. This temporary increase is set to expire at the end of calendar year 2017 as specified in the original legislation in 2010.
  • Is SPS expecting a budget deficit in 2016-17?
    • Yes, the 2016-17 budget adopted by SPS expected to spend $35 million more than they anticipated to get from the federal, state, and local sources. SPS was able to do this because they spent $35 million in reserves they had remaining from previous years.
  • Is this approach to budgeting by SPS sustainable?
    • The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction recommends that districts end each school year with reserves equaling at least 5% of their annual budget to be able to address unexpected changes in costs or funding support from local, state, or federal funding sources. To meet the 5% goal SPS would need to maintain a reserve of $39.5 million to remain in good financial health. According to the 2016-17 adopted budget Seattle is expected to end the School year with an ending fund balance of $39.9 million which would be just enough to meet the 5% reserve fund goal.
  • How has the level of state funding changed since the beginning of the recession in 2008?
    • Adjusted for inflation the state is contributing 14% more per-student for K-12 education in fiscal year 2017 than they did in fiscal year 2009.
  • When did Seattle Public School agree to the salary and staffing levels that created this budget deficit?
    • Seattle Public Schools agreed to their most recent collective bargaining agreement in September 2015 after the state had passed their most recent budget in July 2015. The district agreed to this budget following the strike at the start of the 2015-16 school year. The recent and future salary increases and staffing levels agreed to by SPS and the unions in their 2015 Collective Bargaining Agreements set district staffing levels and salary increases through the 2017-18 school year
  • How much of a school district’s budget is dedicated to staffing costs?
    • Over 80% of the average school district’s budget is from staffing costs.
  • What is a reduction in force (RIF) notice?
    • It is the notice a district sends out to existing staff that may need to be laid off if the district will not have sufficient funds in the following school year. Receiving a RIF notice does not mean an employee will be losing their job, but it does mean they will be in a pool of employees that may be laid off.
  • What determines who will receive a RIF notice?
    • The district will send out RIF notices to teachers, support staff, and other staff positions based on the district’s plan to cope with the budget shortfall.
  • What determines which employees do or do not receive a RIF notice?
    • Who does and does not receive a RIF notice is tied to the level of experience an employee has, so teachers with less experience will be more likely to receive a RIF notice than more experienced employees. New and beginning teachers are more often found in schools with higher levels of low-income students. Teachers, staff, and students in these schools will experience more uncertainty in their school building than other schools.
  • Will the budget deficit be solved before the district would need to send out RIF notices?
    • The legislature is expected to invest more money in basic education in the 2017 legislative session, but a final budget isn’t expected to be completed before the district completes their budget preparations for the 2017-18 school year.
  • How much does $74 million mean on a per-student basis?
    • $74 million translates to a budget shortfall of $1,407 per SPS student. The state would need to increase education funding by approximately $1.5 billion for the 2017-18 school year, one-year before the court mandated deadline of 2018-19, for Washington to experience a funding increase of $1,400 per-student statewide.
  • Are other districts experiencing similar budget shortfalls?
    • In the future other districts may communicate to their communities that they are expecting a budget shortfall because of the levy cliff or other budgeting challenges, but as of December 15, 2016 we are not aware of other districts publically stating they expect to have a budget shortfall in the 2017-18 school year.

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Education Funding Takeaways from California

By Daniel Zavala, Director of Policy and Government Relations

Daniel Zavala, League of Education Voters Director of Policy and Government RelationsTwo weeks ago, I went with a Washington delegation to Sacramento, the birthplace of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), California’s shift from state-controlled funding to local decision-making. Joined by fellow education advocates and stakeholders, including members of our state legislature, we met with members from California’s education community. This included staffers with government agencies, association members (e.g. California Teachers Association), and public advocates.

Our field trip was an exploration of the options available to our state in pursuing changes to our education funding system. California is just a few years into their model, and we got some great first-hand accounts of lessons learned and how they set up their system. However, the state is still grappling with exactly how they want to measure success, and districts are modifying their behavior based on their newfound spending freedom.

So what is the LCFF? The LCFF is a funding formula in California intended to provide resources more equitably to students with learning and socio-economic barriers, while providing greater flexibility to district leaders and school educators to serve and respond to their students’ needs.

California’s response to funding education fits squarely into three realms: the wild west of the 1960s and before, the Serrano* era of the 1970s where the state supreme court required equal funding of districts and wound up with over 40 restricted categorical funding areas leaving little flexibility in spending decisions, and the LCFF age that focuses on equitable funding based on student need. The shift from Serrano to the LCFF came after the Getting Down to Facts report highlighted issues and provided recommendations for a weighted funding model and shift to local control.

The LCFF operates under three funding streams: 1) a base grant that only varies based on the grade level band but is equal for all students across the state; 2) a supplemental grant of 20% more funding above the base grant for low-income, English-learners, and foster youth; and 3) a concentration grant of 50% more funding above the base grant for each student above a concentration threshold of 55% of students with high-needs (e.g. if a district has 60% economically disadvantaged students, then the 5% above that 55% threshold would generate the concentration grant increase). One important note is that special education funding is calculated and administered separately from the LCFF. Even without touching special education funding, this structure change resulted in a roughly $11B shift of resources toward students identified as high-need.

So now that districts have additional funds for students identified as high-need, what is the state doing to ensure fidelity of taxpayer money? In conjunction with the LCFF, districts compile a three-year Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) with annual updates that outlines how the allocation of funds will address state defined priority areas including: 1) basic services, 2) implementation of state standards, 3) parent involvement, 4) student achievement, 5) student engagement, 6) school climate, 7) course access, and 8) other student outcomes. These plans are then evaluated based on a rubric with indicators focused on: 1) academics, 2) college and career readiness, 3) graduation rates, 4) English-learners, 5) chronic absenteeism, and 6) suspension rates. Where districts are not implementing plans with success, a regional California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) provides technical assistance and support. Where districts fail to improve** or implement recommendations from the CCEE, schools are referred to the State Superintendent of Instruction (SPI) for intervention.

Takeaways/Lessons Learned

I know that is a lot to take in, and even this overview doesn’t get into the granular details of the program. With some background knowledge about LCFF and its origin, it is also important to note the takeaways and guidance given to our Washington delegation. First, the state must track how dollars are being spent, and specifically, where dollars are being spent with academic success. When we are talking about fulfilling our Washington state constitutional requirement for ample funding of basic education, we have a right to know where those public funds are being spent. Second, LCFF was a huge culture shift for schools and districts in how they worked with budgets and funding. That shift has to be accompanied by capacity building so that districts can build expertise on how to use data to identify needs to drive spending decisions. After all, the additional money is only helpful when the spending decisions are informed and targeted. Third, to help build capacity, some of the additional funding needs to be spent on training. If our state wants to do this well, we need to make sure we actually focus on quality implementation and give our school leaders the skills to effectively shift their spending practices. Which leads me to the final takeaway: implementation has to be phased in, so that schools and districts have time and incentives to learn how to operate under a new structure without fear of reproach during that transition.

So what does this mean for Washington? I think the California example presents a good framework for us to learn and discuss what would work in Washington. The LCFF is what a diverse group of Californians decided their schools needed. Now we have to embark on a discussion with ALL education stakeholders to learn how we can create a system that works first and foremost for the benefit of our students. One thing is certain, the current system is serving only some of our students and schools well, but it is not serving ALL our students equitably.

Our trip to Sacramento sparked three thoughts that I will leave with you:

Should we focus our efforts on continued district-level budgeting control or school-based budgeting? For instance, there are roughly 600 schools in California with majority high-need student populations within districts that do not reach the concentration grant threshold.

How does an equitable funding system take into account regional cost differences, whether that is cost of living or hard-to-staff subjects and schools requiring additional funding for compensation?

Finally, how do we ensure that there is community-level engagement, understanding, and transparency in our funding system?

 

*Serrano v. Priest lawsuits and Proposition 13 (1971-1978)

**defined as districts that “fail to improve outcomes of 3 or more student subgroups in 1 or more priorities in 3 out of 4 school years.”

Watch our LEVinar on Education Funding Takeaways from California

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Student Voice: Could McCleary be Asking for More Inspiration?

By MyKaila Young, League of Education Voters intern

MyKaila Young, League of Education Voters internWith the proposal of a new and improved system that will help to ensure that all students feel confident and equipped, one thing I, as well many educators, policymakers and parents may be wondering is: how can the new system set in place with McCleary be used to inspire students moving forward? In addition to teaching kids the fundamentals of learning, how can we teach them the fundamentals of a living an enriched and motivated life in a way that’s engaging for every student – those who have a strong network of support at home and those who do not?

To begin this week of following McCleary, resilience is best defined as the ability to work with challenges in a way that teaches and enriches, and in turn allows an individual to thrive. It’s what many might consider to be one the great and rare virtues in life. I mean rare in the sense that not all students understand how to obtain it, where it comes from, etc. The task is figuring out how all students can understand it and, in turn, embrace it in a way that it is maintained to college and beyond. How do you get students to become resilient?

It’s not very often when I’m at a loss for words. In fact, I can count on my hand the number of times that I’ve been so inspired or surprised to the point I could barely write or think. All I wanted to do was just hold on to that moment. This has only happened a few times. The first was when I read Life Without Principle for the first time. The second was when I received the Gates Millennium Scholarship. The third was when I stood in front of the Eiffel Tower last year on Thanksgiving. The fourth was when former Congressman John Lewis acknowledged my presence, and the very last experience was a bit peculiar because it consisted of crossing paths with a complete stranger and receiving a card.

A business card is a business card, but he didn’t have just an ordinary business card. He had an answer to exactly what the K-12 system is missing. Part of what McCleary understands and recognizes is based on the statistics and feedback of the current system, but this stranger who handed me his card really understood, and built an entire organization around it.

In hindsight, his organization propels the missing fragment in the K-12 system that some students find, while others, unfortunately, do not. His story was printed on the back of his card, and my entire life was completely changed. I was overtaken with inspiration, and once again unaware of what to do with myself for the fifth time in my life.

I’ve met a lot of remarkable and inspiring people over the years, but this encounter was a bit different. His story filled my heart with so much hope and possibility for the future that it inspired me to the point of silence. He is also a Gates Millennium Scholar, CEO of From Hardships to Scholarships, and goes by the name Deonte Bridges. He is someone who I’ve added to my list of Great Inspirations.

Deonte is originally from Atlanta, and he introduced me to the impact that this virtue of resiliency can have when it comes to education.

I attended the Annual Library Association Conference in Orlando, and former Congressman John Lewis was one of the keynote speakers. I was staying at the Hyatt Regency and near the reception desk when he walked by with a few of his colleagues. I waved at him and he waved back at me. As if life wasn’t great enough after that moment, I was able to casually network with my fellow GMS Scholars over the next five days. It was in that same lobby that I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to meet Deonte Bridges.

We were standing by the second elevator towers in the Hyatt and he was casually dressed in a white shirt. At the time, I didn’t know how powerful he was, or who he was for that matter, because I’m a little behind in ALL social media movements. That’s one thing I promised myself at the beginning of next year I would work on – using my social media accounts more, instead of writing in my journals all the time. I didn’t know that he took the Internet by storm when he graduated his senior year, around the same time he was welcomed into the GMS family.

Deonte was first male valedictorian of his high school in more than a decade and earned over $1,000,000 in scholarships – all while overcoming hardships such as the untimely death of his brother, his mother’s diagnosis with cancer, and being robbed at gunpoint. In a live interview he invited me to watch, he said he remembers a time during his freshman year of high school when he told everyone that he was going to get a million dollars in scholarships. Everyone thought he was crazy and didn’t believe him or in his ability to make something like that happen as an inner city youth. When he did it, despite everything else that was going on in his life, it took the world by storm. He had that same Alice in Wonderland Confidence I spoke about in my previous blog.

With over 1 million YouTube views of his powerful speech about overcoming the odds, people in Europe, Africa, and throughout the U.S were taken away by the beautiful virtue he carried throughout the K-12 educational system and Morehouse College. From there, he was featured on CNN Live, in Essence Magazine, and on a wide range of talk shows.

Deonte currently speaks to educators and students on topics such as education, character development, resilience, and values, to name a few. His full motivational series answers that burning question we all have: how we can instill this rare but vital virtue into the hearts and minds of every student in the K-12 system.

I guess you can say he’s like the Guru of Virtues when it comes to empowering young students to understand and acknowledge how much potential they have, and how they can unleash it no matter which obstacles or unexpected visits from adversity they may have.

As a young girl, when I would read literature, it was solely because I recognized that I had the potential to be great at something. I had a small hint when I was 9 that it would be writing. I just needed to figure out what I could do with it, or if I was even capable of doing anything with it. In Henry Thoreau’s Life Without Principles, I learned that although society may try to limit what I believe I can do, or make me feel that I didn’t have any potential, ultimately the decision was up to me. I related to his thoughts, words and perspectives in a way that helped me protect my potential at any costs, and in turn become resilient.

Although, Aristotle, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the great Henry Thoreau have all left behind their legacies, I will never forget the experience of finding someone to relate to. But every student is different. We can’t expect every student to pick up a copy of the books I read and expect them to become resilient, or we can’t expect every student to do what Deonte did to become resilient, because we all find resiliency in different ways. However, what we can do is give every student access to different programs and resources that will help them ultimately decide how they can become resilient in a way that is unique to them. That’s what From Hardships to Scholarships offers, and more.

When I read his card, he reminded me of the same exact hope that I carried with me over the years when I made the choice to always see the value and potential in my life, even if I was part of a system that made me feel like I did not matter. The only difference between my earlier inspiration and how it’s maintained today is that I found someone who is still living I can relate to – but my resiliency is different it is from how he found his. I share mine through writing, and he is actively working and sharing his in a way that’s helping all students and faculty think about what they want their legacies to be, and how much potential they have.

It made me wonder if McCleary is really asking whether there is enough funding geared towards programs to help kids who may not have the best sources of inspiration. Would they benefit from leadership programs offered in a more engaging way?

Is there enough money and time being invested in helping kids personally develop their passions and sense of self, in addition to learning the fundamentals? Where can we start when considering how to recruit more faculty that can relate to students and what they experience once the schools doors close? From Hardships to Scholarships answered all my burning questions after getting to know the founder himself through his organization and motivational series.

I often wonder how we can expect a child to go on to do great work and fully utilize their Education Passports beyond high school if their inspiration, sense of self, and drive isn’t fully developed. Education is something that is lifelong. It’s not just about algorithms, equations, or how Christopher Columbus had it all wrong. It’s about growing into your potential and then, in turn, sharing it with people around you in such a way that contributes to making the world a better place. It’s about preparing students for the next phase of life. And although that’s an algorithm within itself, it’s something that Pi squared can’t always solve.

McCleary and redefining what basic education means is a start to helping students figure out how to solve the more complex algorithms when the school doors close. Life is hard for us all at certain points. We should encourage all students to wear their potential as armor and allow their passion and knowledge to carry them to the success that every person, whether student or educator, desires.

 

Read MyKaila’s second post, Alice in Wonderland, Imagining McCleary

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Student Voice: Alice in Wonderland, Imagining McCleary

By MyKaila Young, League of Education Voters intern

MyKaila Young, League of Education Voters internNelson Mandela once said, “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, and the child of farm workers can become the president of a nation.”

As promised, over the next few months I’ll be following the McCleary ruling and breaking down its significance and which benefits it will bring to the current K-12 education system for students, from my perspective.

What is McCleary? It’s what Malcolm X would call the New Passport or what Nelson Mandela might call the Great Engine of Personal Development. If we look at the K-12 system as the Leadership Academy that helps cultivate and guide students in the right direction in pursuit of becoming the next generation of leaders, it may be a little easier to understand.

Our Declaration of Independence says that every person has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration of Independence is the great equalizer and, in this scenario, will act as the “The Boss.” So, The Boss says that every person who enters into this Leadership Academy will leave prepared, satisfied, confident, equipped, and ready to take on the challenge of becoming part of the next generation of leaders.

In fact, The Boss says it’s illegal to not fully invest in the Leadership Academy and prosperity of every student. In hindsight, students are not allowed to be robbed of a quality and enriching education. That’s both beautiful and cause of one of the biggest debates throughout the country. Are students really receiving the resources and guidance they need to prosper? In other words, are we teaching kids to drive but when it comes time for them to get behind the wheel, did we only really give them 2 ½ tires?

Unfortunately, not all students are leaving the Academy ready for the world and feeling confident to be great leaders, which makes The Boss sad. The appointees who have been entrusted with the funds to create and support the programs that help cultivate the leaders through the Academy, or making sure all kids leave the Academy with four tires and not 2 ½,  now have to go back to the drawing board.

Here at the League of Education Voters, we are advocating for a stronger Leadership Academy, or K-12 system for students. Under McCleary, we would like to redefine what basic education is, and which resources are really needed for student success to cultivate the strongest, confident and most prosperous leadership for every student, regardless of his or her background.

It should no longer be about who has the greater means; it should be about having an equal playing field in pursuit of helping every student make the economy and the world a better place. McCleary can give every student their own individual and valid Education Passport – one that won’t just get them through high school, but to college and beyond. One that will take them to unimaginable and prosperous places.

When I applied for the Gates Millennium Scholarship (GMS) back in 2013, it was nine essays, no word limit, full creative control to answer all questions – a little gift I felt was just for me to be able to showcase my skill and love for writing. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave me my passport to prosperity and unimaginable places, college being the first stop and then the opportunity to study in Spain, Paris, Ireland, and next to Poland in just a few months.

Currently, it is required that all students receive 1,000 hours of instruction annually. How these hours are split up throughout the years to create the greatest leaders is dependent upon well, what the teacher can do with the resources the appointees give. I found through my own personal experience that my teachers needed more support with what they wanted to do to help my classmates and I learn as much as possible in a way that works for us. Look at it like this, if students create the best art by using color instead of lead pencils, but with 21 students in a class and only enough money to buy colored pencils and paint for 15, do you see how that could be problematic and could potentially make The Boss unhappy? If a teacher has 21 students and needs 21 sets of paintbrushes and colored pencils because it is a pathway to help students understand the material to get them to the next stage of the leadership academy successfully, then that should not be up for debate.

I was a reluctant case. I was passing by through the K-12 system because I had to deal with what I was given. In hindsight, I had a few experiences being the student that “couldn’t paint” because there weren’t enough resources. However, I had a lot of outside practice thanks to my dad making my sisters and me the Jackson 5 of Education growing up. He made us work on our skills and passions for what felt like an additional 1,000 hours throughout the school year. I’m sure as a parent, he understood that there were many cracks in the K-12 system, but probably felt that there was no sense in fighting a system that was broken and probably wasn’t going to be repaired anytime soon.

Our summers were not typical summers. It was the Jackson 5 Academy of Learning, which I appreciate now but hated back then. This is why McCleary is such a big deal. It could be the start to fixing the system. I was constantly writing, reading, and writing some more to the point where I was confident enough to give birth to a dream and pursue it, because I had the perspective and knowledge that I could succeed. In fact, it became quite ridiculous how much I started writing over the years. In college, the only kind of partying I really did was in the UW’s Suzzallo Library with the Dewey Decimal System or in my Ballard studio with my laptop and Google docs.

When it came to applying to one of the most prestigious undergraduate scholarships in the country (Gates Millennium), I didn’t consider the odds that were against me. Instead, I felt confident enough in my ability to write because that’s all they were asking me and every other student in the country to do, just write. So I went to town because at this point, it wasn’t about any challenge or obstacle in front of me, but it came down to skill, experience and ability. I also knew my rights that Thomas Jefferson outlined for all individuals in the Declaration of Independence. So for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I applied to that scholarship.

I’ve always believed that someday I could be a great writer and reporter. If I wanted to be on the New York Times Best Seller list or even be skilled enough to work at CNN, it had to start with a confident and disciplined belief. That’s what my dad, Michael, taught me. As I grew older, I recognized that I couldn’t dream and hold on to doubt at the same time. One was a heavy load and the other always made me feel like Alice in Wonderland.

McCleary questions whether students have the confidence to pursue their wildest dreams. Do they feel capable? If not, how can that change? I see my mentors and colleagues at LEV really trying to figure that out.

When I received the Welcome to the GMS Family packet, I felt as if I could take on the world and nothing was out of my reach. Not only did it guarantee me a free undergraduate education but a free education through earning my doctorate. One of my best friends from Colorado is also a Gates scholar with a compelling story and an astounding amount of what I like to call Alice in Wonderland Confidence, as well. Her name is Michael and when I met her, I didn’t feel crazy that my dreams seemed to go far beyond the stars or like I was stuck in some kind of Wonderland.

On the phone one day, I asked her what she wanted to do as a career and what her dreams were. She told me that she wanted to work for NASA. I will never forget that moment. I was looking for the Caesar croutons in aisle 4 at QFC and I remember stopping in my tracks, unsure if I heard her correctly because it was such a confident response. Her dream job was to be an astronaut. This is a true story. People would always tell her that she had a better chance of becoming president of the U.S than becoming an astronaut for NASA. Nelson Mandela had a great point –education is the fuel that drives a student to believe in the possibility of the things they may see as impossible.

Does the current K-12 system allow students to believe in the possibility of a great future?  I imagine McCleary as the hope and challenge to the impossible that students may feel. I imagine it giving students the same Alice in Wonderland confidence that Michael and I had in order to go after our dreams and challenge the status quo of our backgrounds. I imagine McCleary being the engine that fuels the confidence for many other students to dream of being great writers, reporters, and astronauts.

I believe that McCleary could give birth to a new system of belief for every student. When considering McCleary, I think a lot of people involved in the issue are asking, do we need more arts and leadership programs? Better use of testing and more conversations? I’ll be reaching out and sharing their perspective and experiences, as well. The debate over how the 1,000 hours of instruction in all grade levels will be supported and spent is heating up, so stay tuned – it’s interesting business that you won’t want to miss.

 

Read MyKaila’s first post, Following McCleary

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McCleary Resources

Children standing in front of a chalkboard - League of Education VotersIn McCleary v. State of Washington, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that because the state government is not providing sufficient education funding, it is violating the state’s constitution. Further, the Court found that inadequate funding from the state is leading to inequalities and disparities between wealthy and poor school districts, because some districts are only able to raise a fraction of the money through local levies as other districts, despite having a higher local levy tax rate.

The Court has ordered the state to address this issue by increasing education funding and reducing reliance on local levies to pay for teacher salaries and other basic education essentials. Estimates say that complying with the Court’s decision will require the state to spend an additional 1.5 – 2 billion dollars more per year on public education.

2017 Legislative Scorecard

Resources that will help clarify the debate over education funding:

What You Need to Know about the 2017 McCleary School Funding Agreement (blog)

What You Need to Know about the 2017 McCleary School Funding Agreement (webinar)

McCleary Explained

Glossary of Key Education Terms

Definition of Basic Education

See how much Washington state spends per student in your district

Side-by-Side of Education Funding Proposals

Local Levy FAQ

LEV’s Perspective on the Latest Supreme Court McCleary Response

Our view on McCleary opportunities:

Rethinking Our Education System

Teachers: The Most Important Part of Our Education System

Every Student Needs an Effective Teacher

Great Teachers Need Great Preparation

Student Supports, an Integral Component of Basic Education

 

Presentations on education funding by the LEV Policy Team:

TVW: League of Education Voters McCleary Presentation (November 18, 2016)

  1. I Can See McClear-ly Now: A look at the education funding debate in Washington, gives you an in-depth look at how we got where we are today.
  2. We Can Work it Out: A long and winding road to funding basic education, covers whether our current education funding structure is fair and whether the system benefits all kids.

 

Other resources:

LEVinar on The McCleary Task Force: What to Expect Archived Recording | Presentation Slides

McCleary Education Funding Task Force Duties and Responsibilities

Senate Bill 6195, which created the Education Funding Task Force

Our view on NPR Education’s School Money series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

A summary of our November 2016 field trip to California, Education Funding Takeaways from California

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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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