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A historic–but bittersweet–day for kids

It’s a historic–but bittersweet–day for Washington’s children and schools. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2261, which marks the beginning of the movement to redefine and fully fund “basic education” so all children receive the support they need to succeed in college, job training, work and life.

A broad-based coalition of parents, business leaders, community members and education stakeholders worked closely with legislators for months to pass the landmark education reform legislation. The reforms, which begin in 2011 and will be fully implemented by 2018, will:

  • Expand the school day so high school students can take more math, science and world language courses to graduate with 24 credits;
  • Redefine basic education to include all-day kindergarten, highly capable education, transportation and other academic programs and support services students need to succeed in school;
  • Make school funding more transparent for school leaders, lawmakers and parents through the use of a “prototypical schools” model; and
  • Direct the State Board of Education to develop an accountability system and intervention measures targeted at challenged schools and districts.

Two reasons make this a bittersweet occasion.

In a surprise veto, the governor removed the section that included early learning in the revised definition of basic education. The governor disagreed with the approach to provide early learning for only at-risk children. We are deeply disappointed. Including early learning was to be the foundation of a child-focused bill. Solid research demonstrates that children who are at-risk, who receive high-quality early learning, will do better in school and life. However, the governor pledged to work with policymakers to provide early learning opportunities for all children. This issue continues to be a top priority of ours and we will count on your support moving forward.

This afternoon, the governor also signed the 2009-2011 state budget into law, which cuts more than $1.5 billion from public education. Already, children, teachers, schools and colleges are feeling the impact.

Going forward, it’s crucial that we continue to remind our policymakers that these cuts are devastating to our state’s education system and the future prospects of our children.

As for ESHB 2261, the work has just begun. It’s up to all of us to ensure these reforms are implemented so our educators and schools receive the support they need to provide the high quality education that every child deserves.

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Governor signs landmark education reform bill

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a landmark education reform bill, Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2261, today in Olympia.

A broad-based coalition of parents, business leaders, community members and education stakeholders, which includes the League of Education Voters, issued the following news release after the bill signing.

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News Release: May 19, 2009

Governor signs landmark education reform bill

Parents, school advocates applaud beginning of movement to redefine and fully fund “basic education”

OLYMPIA – More than 100 parents and education advocates joined Gov. Chris Gregoire as she signed a landmark education reform bill, Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2261, today in Olympia.

“Today is a historic day for Washington’s children in the midst of challenging times,” said Laura Bay, president of the Washington State PTA.  “Parents and school advocates are deeply concerned about the impact of state budget cuts to schools.  We’re grateful, however, that lawmakers took bold action to protect education funding from devastating cuts in the future by expanding ‘basic education’ to include the tools our children need to succeed in life.”

“The signing of this education reform bill is important to our economy,” said Terry Byington, executive director of TechAmerica Washington.  “The future of our state and nation depends on every child receiving a high-quality education that prepares them for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

“The signing of the education reform bill is, in large part, a testament to the hard work of parent and citizen advocates who worked to achieve positive changes for children and public schools,” said Jen Boutell, parent and Tacoma Stand for Children leader.

At the last minute, the governor vetoed the section on early learning.

“We’re deeply disappointed that the governor chose to veto the section that would have provided early learning for at-risk children,” said Chris Korsmo, executive director of the League of Education Voters.  “We take the governor at her word that she’ll prioritize early learning next session.  This is a top priority of ours and the children of our state.”

A broad-based coalition of parents, business leaders, community members and education stakeholders worked closely with legislators for months to pass ESHB 2261.  The reforms, which begin in 2011 and will be fully implemented by 2018, will:

  • Expand the school day so high school students can take more math, science and world language courses to graduate with 24 credits;
  • Redefine basic education to include all-day kindergarten, highly capable education, transportation and other academic programs and support services students need to succeed in school;
  • Make school funding more transparent for school leaders, lawmakers and parents through the use of a “prototypical schools” model; and
  • Direct the State Board of Education to create an accountability system and intervention measures targeted at challenged schools and districts.

“Our state is now committed to reforms that will prepare every child for college, work and life,” said Cheryl Jones of the Black Education Strategy Roundtable.  “But, the work has just begun.  It’s up to all of us—parents, educators and students—to work closely with our lawmakers to implement these reforms.  Our education system depends on it, and all of our children deserve nothing less.”

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Clarifying misconceptions about the education reform legislation

We received a copy of an e-mail that Sen. Rodney Tom sent that clarifies some misconceptions about ESHB 2261.  Here’s the part that addresses the misconceptions:

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The legislation suggests that “teachers are the problem” and is an insult to teachers. It blames teachers and does not focus on the real problems. 

  • This bill is in no way suggesting that teachers are the problem. This bill is a recognition that our teachers deserve better. It is a recognition that our state’s current definition of basic education has failed to keep pace with the evolving expectations of society and has failed our teachers. The last time we’ve taken this step was more than 30 years ago – when people were using computers that today’s most basic cell phone can outperform. Think of what that means for our schools.
  • The Legislature understands that teachers need additional time to continue to do their job well, and under the new funding distribution formula, the minimum allocation for each level of prototypical school shall be based on the number of classroom teachers needed to provide instruction and provide at least one teacher planning period per school day.

The legislation includes drastic changes to the certification, evaluation and compensation systems that do not help teachers.

  • There is no intent to do any harm to teachers with drastic new changes to certification, evaluation and compensation. In fact, it is just the opposite. We have heard from teachers for years that that the certification process is broken, that salaries are inadequate and that the salary system does not align with or support what the certification process is requiring. Teachers that spend the time and energy gaining their professional certification should be compensated accordingly, but currently that does not happen.
  • This legislation is a continuation of the direction the Legislature began in 2007 when it directed the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) to set performance standards and develop, pilot, and implement an external professional-level certification assessment based on demonstrated teaching skill. This legislation builds on the current work of the PESB by establishing target dates for the new standards and asking for additional updates on other ongoing work while also directing a new technical working group to begin the development of a new and enhanced salary schedule that will “align compensation with certification.” This legislation is the logical next step in order to ensure all the systems are coordinated and that we are compensating teachers fairly and adequately for their dedication and hard work.
  • The evaluation that is addressed in the bill is the evaluation of teacher candidates during the student-teaching experience. It is not of teachers already in a teaching position.
  • The legislation clearly states that no teacher will be required to move into a new salary schedule. No teacher will face the prospect of having past work-experiences and training become meaningless. The intent of this legislation is to simply provide a new and improved salary system that teachers may opt into. The legislation clearly states that this must be a system that is “collaboratively designed” with teachers, administrators and classified employees. The work does not even start until 2011 in order to give the PESB time to develop final proposals for the certification system. Part of the development of the enhanced salary model is a comparative labor market analysis, as requested by WEA. In this way the state can truly understand what is a fair and competitive salary for our teachers and adjust the current system accordingly. We know that Washington is in the bottom tier of states in teacher pay and we know that many teachers struggle to live on their salary. The labor market analysis required under this legislation will allow us to get the data necessary to fix this problem.

How can you pass this bill while cutting funding for education in the budget?  Adequate funding of our schools is the priority and the crisis – this bill does not address that problem in any meaningful way.  This bill is just another empty promise.

  • The true empty promise is to do nothing. We must ensure that our commitment to education is clearly defined now. Only by 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 restoring the cuts made this year and we must ensure education is at the top of the priority list for future investments.
  • Changing an educational system for almost 1 million students and over 2,000 schools takes time. It cannot happen in one legislative session. We cannot allow the inability to make immediate whole-scale change now impede us from making any progress. In order to enable the educational system to have the capacity to accommodate future investments, the planning and phase-in must start now.
  • While it is true we have made cuts to areas that are currently not considered basic education, the level of cuts has not been as severe as in any other area of the budget. We are in an economic downturn that requires deep cuts in all areas of governmental spending unfortunately. Education, health care, prisons and programs for our most vulnerable citizens are all cut. While education has received 3.5% of the cuts, others have received cuts as high as 30%. Additionally, by enhancing what is considered basic education now, more of the state’s education budget will be protected in future times of economic downturn.

Isn’t this bill just imposing new requirements without new funding?

  • The requirements in this bill are phased in over the next ten years in recognition that it will take time to identify and secure the funding that our system needs. Many of the enhancements to basic education included in this legislation are already being done entirely or partially by many of our schools. This legislation is just recognition that those enhancements should now be considered “basic” education and should be part of the state’s obligation to fund. The legislation specifically states that “no increased programmatic or instructional expectations be imposed upon schools or school districts without an accompanying increase in resources as necessary to support those increased expectations.” Many of the changes do not begin until 2011, at the earliest, and most will be phased in over 10 years. Next session the legislature will be back to monitor the progress of the development of the details of the new funding formula and create a realistic implementation schedule that ensures that no school districts face any new unfunded mandates.
  • The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is also required under this legislation to make biennial determinations of the capacity of the educational system to accommodate new resources and new mandates and to inform the legislature when there are significant capacity limitations and recommend how to address those limitations.

Does this legislation implement a new accountability system that allows state take-over of schools?

  • No. This legislation directs the State Board of Education (SBE) to continue its existing work on the development of an accountability framework and gives further clarification that the framework must be one that creates a unified system of increasing levels of support for schools, that is based on fair, transparent and consistent criteria, that identifies both schools that need additional help because of specific challenges as well as those schools that are exemplary, and that takes into account the level of state resources a school receives in support of the program of basic education.
  • The SBE is directed under this legislation to develop both a voluntary system of support and assistance as well as a more formalized comprehensive system of improvement for schools that continue to struggle even under the voluntary system. However, this more formalized comprehensive system of improvement cannot take effect until the SBE develops a proposal and an implementation timeline and gets specific approval from the legislature to implement the proposal. Additionally, the legislation specifically directs the SBE to develop a proposal for this comprehensive system that leaves the local school board as the entity responsible for developing and implementing a plan for improvement. There is no state take-over contemplated under this bill.

This bill actually could allow the legislature to cut basic education funding in 2011/13 because the current basic education staffing ratios are repealed in 2011 when the new prototypical funding formula takes effect.

  • The suggestion that the Legislature would reduce funding for basic education simply because the statutory references to staffing ratios are deleted ignores the legal and constitutional obligations that the state is under. Per the courts, the Legislature cannot cut basic education at any time. It is true that the staffing ratios would be repealed in 2011 when the new prototypical funding formula takes effect. However, under the legislation the new formula is to be implemented “to the extent the technical details of the formula have been established.” The legislation specifically requires the technical work group to report back to the Legislature on the details of the prototypical funding formula in December 2009 in order to allow the 2010 legislature to adopt those technical details, such as staffing ratios, and place them back into session prior to the 2011 repeal.
  • The courts have been very clear that once the Legislature has defined and funded basic education, the legislature may not reduce funding at will and without an educational purpose.

Does the legislation obligate the state to implement a Washington Head Start program as a part of basic education?  What about existing ECEAP programs?

  • The legislation creates a work group to begin the process of examining and developing a proposal for establishing a program of early learning for at-risk children that can be included within the overall program of basic education. As part of this process, the work group is directed to continue the preliminary work that the Department of Early Learning has already begun in developing a proposal for a statewide Washington Head Start program. Providers from both federal Head Start program and the state’s own Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) will be represented on the work group. Ultimately it is up to the Legislature to adopt and define what will be considered the program of early learning that is basic education.

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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!

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House vote on ESHB 2261 expected this afternoon or evening

Parents and education advocates are in Olympia today for the final push to send ESHB 2261 to the  governor’s desk.  The bill is on the House’s concurrence calendar awaiting a final vote.

Your personal call will make a difference in the outcome of this vote.

Please call your state representatives and urge them to vote YES to send ESHB 2261 to the governor’s desk.

  • Call the legislative hotline at 1.800.562.6000.
  • Urge your state representatives to vote YES on ESHB 2261.

Click here for a full summary of the bill passed by the Senate.

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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

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Final Push: Urge your state representatives to send the education reform bill to the governor’s desk

We’re one step closer to re-defining basic education for the first time in 30 years for Washington’s one million public school children.

The State Senate passed the education reform bill, ESHB 2261, by a vote of 26 to 23 yesterday. The bill now goes to the House for approval before reaching the governor’s desk.

Your personal call will make a difference in the outcome of this vote.

TAKE ACTION: Please call your state representatives by Monday morning and urge them to vote YES to send ESHB 2261 to the governor’s desk.

  • Call the legislative hotline at 1.800.562.6000. The hotline is open from 8 AM to 8 PM M-F and 9 AM to 1 PM on Saturday.
  • Urge your state representatives to vote YES on ESHB 2261.

View the vote count on HB 2261 to see how your state representatives previously voted.

For the first time in a generation, we’re poised to re-define our state’s definition of basic education based on today’s expectations. ESHB 2261, which incorporates improvements from the Senate, would:

  • Strengthen Washington’s high school diploma and expand the school day to prepare students for college, job training and the workforce;
  • Re-define basic education to include transportation to and from school, all-day kindergarten, highly capable funding, and early learning for children considered at-risk; and
  • Fully implement these reforms with full funding by the 2018-19 school year.

Click here for a full summary of the bill passed by the Senate.

Thank you for your support.

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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.”

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