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.”

HB 2261 – Why is it important and what are the details?

This informational sheet was compiled by Ramona Hattendorf of the Seattle Council PTSA. It is intended as an overview only. Detailed information on HB 2261 and other education funding bills can be found on the Washington State Legislature’s web site at www.leg.wa.gov.

Why 2261? The financial reason
School districts are going bankrupt. They were racing toward collapse last year BEFORE the economy took a dive.

Why the crisis?
Partly because state funding for schools wasn’t keeping up with inflation and things like fuel and energy costs. Mainly, though, it didn’t align with what kids need and wasn’t covering enough instructional hours. About 80 percent of school funding pays for staff.

• Example 1: Districts are paying for 22 percent more teachers than the state funds
• Example 2: Textbooks are funded on an 18-year cycle
• Example 3: In 2006-07, districts spent $500 million more on overhead costs than the state allotted for. That figure doesn’t include transportation. For utilities alone, districts spent $259 million. The state only paid $118 million.
• Example 4: The state only pays for five periods. Kids need six to get the credits they need for college.

Districts have been using their local levy dollars to pay for what the community would regard as basic expenses. Those levy dollars are legally intended for enhancement only and are capped. In other words: Districts can’t ask local tax payers to just pick up the bill, and they are limited financially in how they can address things like remediation, tutoring, enrichment and training. Levies are also unstable; if they fail, essential school funding is lost.

Districts are also limited in how much they can pay teachers. The state sets the salaries, and there is no adjustment for regional cost of living. Districts have a little leeway to supplement pay, but that money comes from the “enhancement dollars.” Paying teachers a decent salary competes with programs to get and keep students on track.

By law, the state (as opposed to local government) has to fund “basic education” for K-12 and needs to ensure “equitable” schools. The constitution also says it is the state’s “paramount duty” to make “ample provision for the education of all children residing in its borders.”

Why 2261? The student success reason
Statewide, we have a 30 percent drop out rate. This is actually par for the course nationally. In Seattle, the drop out rate is 37 percent. In Yakima, it’s 36 percent. In Spokane, it’s 42 percent.

Of the 63 percent in Seattle that do graduate on time:
• Only 17 percent (1 out 6) can meet the requirements for a four-year college.
• The rest either don’t have enough credits or haven’t taken the right courses.

Statewide, only 19 percent of ninth-graders will go on to earn a post-secondary degree.

In our increasingly competitive economy, we are graduating a majority of kids without the math, science and language skills they need to get good-paying jobs or pursue higher education or advanced training.

What would 2261 do?
• Redefine “basic education” as “the opportunity for students to graduate with a meaningful high school diploma.”
• Create a “prototypical school” funding model. In other words, identify everything an average school needs – including librarians, books, nurses, counselors, overhead costs, etc. – and use that to determine how much money the state sends to districts.
o How the money is actually spent would be up to the districts so they can best address local need.

The House version of 2261 includes:
• Preschool for high-risk kids, so they start school ready to learn
• Continued roll out of all-day kindergarten
• Reduced class sizes K-3rd grade to make sure kids are prepared for more rigorous courses later
• Enhanced allocations for low income, bilingual kids
• Allocation for highly capable
• Core 24 – This aligns high school requirements with college and employer requirements. It’s a basic college-prep curriculum that gives students some flexibility to tailor to their needs
• Six periods in middle and high school
• Establishes a board to adopt standards for effective teaching and assessment for professional certification, and to define a “master” level educator
• Directs State Board of Education to continue work on school and district accountability
• Dedicates 50% of revenue growth over 5% to fund basic education. Implementation of the expanded definition of basic education would be phased in 2011 – 2016.

Who supports 2261?
2261 follows an earlier bill, 1410. HB 1410 would have fully implemented the Basic Education Finance Task Force proposal. It died, and 2261 was introduced as a scaled-back compromise that addressed concerns of educators.

Supporters include:
• The Washington PTA and Seattle Council PTSA endorsed the task force proposal and have testified in support of 2261
• So has a group of 35 superintendents representing Puget Sound districts, including Seattle
• Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, and State Board of Education President Mary Jean Ryan
• The Seattle School Board endorsed 1410, as did school boards and PTAs from across Washington
• The League of Education Voters also supports

Who opposes 2261?
The Washington Education Association (teachers union).
In testimony, WEA said the bill is a distraction and could lead to more unfunded mandates. Individuals have testified about changes to the salary structure. There is debate about linking a “master” teaching level to National Board Certification; currently teachers are paid more for advanced degrees.

There was an earlier bill backed by the Full Funding Coalition, a group of educators that included superintendents, administrators and the WEA. That bill died. Educators have testified in favor of 2261 but have reiterated the need to specify and commit funding.

Status as of April 15:
2261 was passed by the House 71-26. The Senate changed the bill. The PTA supports the original House version.

Washington State PTA stance:
Washington schools need ESHB 2261 passed this session.

• Proposed budget cuts will drive many more districts to the brink of financial crisis. Schools will be forced
to lay off several thousand newly recruited teachers. Class sizes will rise. Every special program will be slashed or eliminated.
• As the state’s economy recovers, ESHB 2261 is the blue print we need to rebuild a stronger K-12 system.

Senate turns Collective Bargaining bill into a study

An amendment proposed by Hatfield, Hobbs, and Holmquist and adopted on the floor of the Senate turned the collective bargaining for child care center bill into a study. The amendment reads:

NEW SECTION. Sec. 2. (1) The department of early learning must
study issues relating to increasing the child care subsidy and
reimbursement rates for child care centers licensed under chapter
43.125 RCW. The study must:
1329-S AMS HATF GORR 447 Official Print – 2
(a) Include a review of the results of the collective bargaining provided to family child care providers. This must include whether this has resulted in increased economic compensation, health and welfare benefits, professional development and training, and other economic matters to these providers;
(b) Be made in consultation with child care center directors and workers as well as other interested stakeholders. Directors and workers must be consulted in several areas of the state, including centers located in eastern Washington and western Washington;
(c) Review alternative methods of raising the child care subsidy rate;
(d) Review alternative methods to provide training to child care center directors and workers;
(e) Review methods to retain child care center workers and otherwise reduce employee turnover; and
(f) Include other items the department determines necessary to study in order to increase educational opportunities for children in child care centers.
(2) The study required under this subsection must be completed by August 1, 2010, and delivered to the joint legislative task force on child care center subsidy and reimbursement rates established in section 3 of this act.
(3) This section expires December 31, 2010.

Another amendment proposed by Rockefeller and passed by a vote of 37 yea to 11 nay would allow center directors and workers to opt in and out of the bargaining agreement. Those centers that opt out would NOT receive the subsidy increase.

SHB 1329 passed in the Senate by 46 yea to 2 nay.

Yeas: 46   Nays: 2   Absent: 0   Excused: 1
Voting yea: Senators Becker, Benton, Berkey, Brandland, Brown, Carrell, Delvin, Eide, Fairley, Fraser, Hargrove, Hatfield, Haugen, Hewitt, Hobbs, Holmquist, Honeyford, Jarrett, Kastama, Kauffman, Keiser, Kilmer, King, Kohl-Welles, Marr, McAuliffe, McCaslin, McDermott, Morton, Murray, Oemig, Parlette, Pflug, Prentice, Pridemore, Ranker, Regala, Roach, Rockefeller, Schoesler, Sheldon, Shin, Stevens, Swecker, Tom, and Zarelli
Voting nay: Senators Franklin and Kline
Excused: Senator Jacobsen

The bill summary can be viewed here.

The House passed a vastly different bill – without the study and loss of parity. House and Senate leadership will now conference on the final bill that will be sent to the Governor.

Op-ed in the Sammamish Reporter

Our statewide field director and resident of Sammamish, Kelly Munn, got an op-ed published in her local newspaper.

The op-ed, Defining basic education, is about the potential impacts to children and schools from the proposed budget cuts.  And, the need to redefine basic education to include what every child needs to succeed in college, job training, work and life.

Kelly is also quoted in the paper’s top story about schools bracing for layoffs.  Here’s an excerpt:

Teacher layoffs would lower the quality of education provided by local schools, according to League of Education Voters State Field Director, and Sammamish parent, Kelly Munn.

“If we had redefined what constitutes ‘basic education’ two years ago, we wouldn’t be in this position,” she said. “We would have protected core education services, and put it in the statute to guarantee certain levels of funding.”

Munn said that they were expecting between 60 and 80 teachers would lose their jobs in Issaquah, with that number dependent on the amount of federal stimulus money that will be made available to offset the cuts.

Empowering young leaders

Yes, smaller class sizes, high-quality teachers and adequate funding are vital in our schools.

Yet I believe we often fail to acknowledge the power that student leaders have to improve and enhance the daily experiences of all kids in Washington’s public schools. Student leadership can make or break the climate of our schools. Youth attitudes and actions influence whether their peers choose to wake up to go to school the next morning and the level of safety students feel as they walk around campus.

Beyond the classroom walls and outside of Olympia, students can play a crucial role in the success of our schools. For more than 50 years, the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP) has been supporting and promoting student leadership through workshops, camps and conferences that serve more than 10,000 students, advisers and coaches each year.

It’s hard to articulate how powerful it is to be surrounded by 250+ high school student leaders from Forks to Central Valley, out in the wilderness of Randle, Washington, in a world free of cell phones and Facebook, tackling topics from parliamentary procedure to servant leadership. My camp experience (three years as a high school delegate and seven years as a counselor for middle level and high school camps) has been the greatest influence in my commitment to public education and service-learning.

When we look beyond today, we must remind ourselves that these students are the ones who will be the advocates, activists, parents, business leaders, teachers and legislators leading movements as a result of today’s unfinished business. In fact, we all know many students who are already initiating positive change in their schools and communities. Therefore, it is essential that we connect our youth with every opportunity possible to be surrounded by new people, new ideas and new thoughts; to ask tough questions and be uncomfortable; to take risks and to take on a leadership role whenever possible.

Please talk to your children, youth whom you know and students in your schools. Let them know of these opportunities, and encourage them to get involved. Please click on the links for more info, or get in touch with me via email or by posting a comment. This will be my eighth year with Mt. Rainier, one of the five AWSP high school leadership camps, and I look forward to working with new students from your communities and schools.

*Like most other exciting opportunities, this one is not cheap. Prices per delegate range from $275-285, depending on whether or not the school is an official member of the Washington Association of Student Councils. Some schools are able to afford to send their students to camp while others do not have the resources. Don’t miss out on the scholarship opportunities available to help students pay for camp. The scholarship deadline is March 17th.

High School Leadership Camp (Cispus and Chewelah Peak)
Middle Level Leadership Camp (Cispus and Chewelah Peak)
La Cima Bilingual Leadership Camp (Chewelah Peak)
Deaf Teen Leadership Camp (Cispus)
CheerLeadership Camp (Central Washington University)

Help! I published a newsletter in my school PTSA and I just learned I could be sued by the state!

It is extremely unlikely you will be sued. Your school district, Superintendent or Principal could possibly be sued though.

The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) was formed by the citizens of the state through an initiative to make sure that state facilities and money are not used for lobbying efforts. If you step back and think about this, it makes sense, you don’t want your tax dollars being used to lobby or campaign.

Typically a complaint will occur during a school district bond/levy campaign. The opposition to the ballot issues will file a complaint and the bond/levy ballot issues will fail..(even if the complaint was unfounded). If however, the complaint is found to be valid, the school district and perhaps the superintendent will be fined. This has happened a few times across the state.

What is lobbying or campaigning?
• Asking people to vote yes or no on a bill is direct lobbying.
• Asking people to attend a rally in support of a bill is direct lobbing.

What if you can’t tell if it is lobbying? Ask the communications director in your school district. It can be very, very difficult to tell if your flyer is actually lobbying or not. And, different school districts interpret this different ways. Clearly the best thing to do is to talk to your school district communications director. They will be thrilled that you were proactive, and you will build a very positive relationship with the school district.

But, here is where things get tricky. As a PTA, or an outside organization that is using or renting school facilities you can do whatever you want within the constraint of the meeting, even on school property. You can talk about bills, you can endorse bills, you can pass out flyers, buttons, signs, stickers that all say Vote YES for something. And, if the PTA is running an event like a reflections reception or a movie night, you can also lobby.

The bottom line is…you can’t use any school resources to lobby except within the confines of a PTA meeting or event.

For those of you who like to know a lot more, here is a link to the PDC website that outlines what can and can’t be done, there is a matrix in this file that can be quite useful. Guidelines for Local Government Agencies in Election Campaigns

Becoming Señora Wallace: Paying for grad school

Here’s the breakdown:

$18,000 approx. cost of UW Masters in Teaching Program (including my additional pre-requisites)
– $4,000 approx. aid received from my AmeriCorps Education Award after taxes
– $8,000 TEACH Grant
———
$ 6,000

Wait, that sounds slightly affordable… There has to be a catch, right? Right.

TEACH Grant recipients must agree to teach for four years in a “high-need field” in a designated low-income school within eight years of graduating from their master’s program. If the recipient does not fulfill this four-year service agreement, the grant will be converted into an unsubsidized loan with retroactive interest.

Fortunately for me, foreign language falls into the “high-need field” category, and I can’t ever see myself teaching anywhere but in a low-income school.

Still, accepting this grant is a big deal. The strings attached to the TEACH Grant oblige prospective teachers to a significant time commitment. Plus, what if teaching isn’t a good fit, or what if a teacher is unsuccessful in low-income schools? What if he or she chooses (or is instructed) to teach another subject that’s not considered a designated high-need field (i.e. English, history, music, art)?

Answer: It’ll cost you dearly. The TEACH Grant definitely raises concerns. In these cases, the TEACH “Grant” is no longer a grant.

Estimated monthly repayment amounts of loans from a TEACH Grant:
• $4000 TEACH Grant
o Pay $50 per month
o Repayment will take 8.75 years
o Total repayment would be $5,343.75

• $8000 TEACH Grant
o Pay $92 per month
o Repayment will take 10 years
o Total repayment would be $11,047.20 — it could cost me about $3,050 to change my mind!

This is another costly aspect that prospective teachers need to consider before accepting financial aid that sounds too good to be true. For the government, this offer produces a high return on investment. However, considering the default terms, prospective teachers may not see this grant as an incentive. There must be less binding ways to attract people to this field. Nevertheless, I need to get going on my TEACH Grant entrance counseling. I’m taking the plunge!

Why go to the trouble of collecting endorsements?

Endorsements are one of the critical tools in the bag of tools that a grassroots organizer uses. The most important tool, the hammer, is your email list of contacts, but your screwdriver, your second most important tool is endorsements.

Endorsements make people “think”, and they make people “do”. The group has to listen, decide, and vote. This engages the group in a way a simple presentation never does.

All groups, including 501c3 nonprofit organizations can endorse a ballot measure, or bill going through the legislature. Yes ALL groups can endorse a bill. This includes Kiwanis, Rotary, PTA, Soccer teams, etc. Of course, culturally they may not want to endorse, they may feel uncomfortable. But endorsing is absolutely within the legal requirements of a nonprofit organization.

Endorsements really are like a screwdriver, they keep working and working and working. Simply engaging your organization by making them think about an issue and act on the issue is incredibly powerful. But there are two other things that happen when an organization endorses. The endorsement can be used as a public tool, and it creates a snowball effect with other organizations.

An endorsement means a group of people have all agreed that this bill or issue is a good idea. The endorsement carries more weight, is more effective because more than one person has agreed to the concept. Now you take this endorsement and you inform the public. You say, my group, X has endorsed this bill. You tell your legislators, you tell your community in your local newspaper, you tell your larger organizations. If your PTA endorses, you should tell other PTA’s in your area, you should tell the state PTA, tell your legislators, send a letter to the editor to tell your community, each of those “tells” influences people to think and maybe to act themselves.

The screwdriver keeps turning. When one group endorses, it makes it easier for other groups to endorse, they point at each other and think, they did it…why can’t we? If one city council endorses, it makes it easier for another, and another and another…the screwdriver keeps turning until we have bolted the idea in.

Endorsements are very, very effective tools in your grassroots toolbag. Let’s get to work.

Want to hear how a local School Board endorsement went – watch this short You Tube Video.

Kelly Munn, LEV’s State Field Director, describes testimony from teachers and parents on a resolution to support the Basic Education Task Force legislation (HB1410/SB5444) at the Issaquah School Board meeting on Thursday, February 5th. The resolution was adopted that night.

Becoming Señora Wallace: Identity Crisis: Quack goes the…Dawg?

It’s official — I am headed for Huskydom.

How did I decide? First of all, I just couldn’t justify paying $30K for Seattle U (almost twice as much as the UW Masters in Teaching program costs).

More importantly, UW’s new and improved Secondary Teacher Education Program seems like an appropriate fit. These are the highlights and advantages that convinced me to…gulp…become a Husky:

– I can pursue a second endorsement in ESL right off the bat (once again, it’s cost effective!).

– I will take classes through the summer, and I get to work with a high school summer program!

– After four quarters, I will wrap up “traditional coursework” and have the spring (2010) free to hunt for job openings.

– I will have my own classroom by fall 2010! While I won’t earn my master’s until after my first year of teaching, I will have ongoing support during the first year. Plus, the capstone project I will complete during the second year of the program will prepare me to pursue National Board Certification.

Three years ago during my last term at the University of Oregon, if someone told me I’d be headed to UW to become a teacher, I probably would have laughed. Yet, here I am — less than two months from being a full-time student again, and I can’t imagine pursuing any other path.