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.