By Daniel Zavala, League of Education Voters Director of Policy and Government Relations
Remember that time last year when I went over everything “You Need to Know about the McCleary School Funding Agreement?” Well, it’s time for a refresh. The 2018 legislative session was all about McCleary 2.0, or what we can call, what to do when the Supreme Court says you’re still not quite there yet.
Many of us were expecting a quiet session where little would be addressed in education due to budget constraints. Two major events occurred: The Supreme Court’s November Order saying the legislature was still out of compliance and a Revenue Forecast that far exceeded most predictions regarding unanticipated future revenue collections. The end result: Another year of legislators in the 11th hour hanging ornaments (i.e. piecemeal policies) on an omnibus policy tree (i.e. Senate Bill 6362) that likely created more questions than answers. My prediction: we will be back next year sweeping up the broken ornaments. And while we may fixate on the 11th hour scrambling, it is important to reflect on the successes we saw this year in expanded eligibility with early learning and college financial aid, increased funds for special education and the State Need Grant, and raised awareness of social emotional and mental health needs.
By Daniel Zavala, LEV Director of Policy and Government Relations
In what was quite literally years in the making, the Legislature has at long last presented and passed a K-12 funding solution. And, perhaps surprisingly in today’s political climate, it was passed with strong bipartisan support. Before I get into the details of the solution, let me spend some time talking about how we got to where we are… and it starts with a 2007 lawsuit called McCleary. The lawsuit was largely based on the inequities across districts resulting from disproportionate use and allocation of local levy money. Basically, the plaintiffs argued the state was not amply paying for basic education, something that is a paramount duty of the state. Fast forward to 2012… and the Washington Supreme Court agreed. Forward another few years, a couple of court orders, imposed sanctions on the legislature, and we arrive at the 2017 Legislative Session – the last regular session to address the court order to address the McCleary decision. What was left after the last 5 years was the need to continue progress on funding K-3 class size reduction and teacher compensation.
On March 27th, the Washington state House Democrats released their operating budget proposal for the 2017-19 biennium, SHB1067. Generally it was received favorably by the higher education community as supporting our priorities, and as a necessary improvement upon the Senate’s postsecondary funding approach. Additionally, many representing postsecondary in the education advocacy space emphasize the need to support the entire education continuum, from the formative preschool years to post-high school additional credential or degree. The House budget demonstrated an understanding of moving beyond the McCleary mandate to provide genuine learning opportunities for Washington’s youth.
The House budget expands higher ed pathway opportunities, with a focus on preparing Washington students for today’s labor market. Affordability and pathways are key components, although there is still room for enhancements. The approach to addressing the cost barrier for students pursuing postsecondary study is a combination of a tuition freeze (with backfill for the public institutions of higher education so that the loss of funds is not detrimental), with need-based financial aid in the form of bolstering the State Need Grant. Investing in the State Need Grant to give more low-income students access to postsecondary education is a critical component to increasing access for Washington students. Unlike the Senate budget, the House proposal opens the door for 6,000 more of our students to receive a State Need Grant. The goal should be for all 24,000 deserving but unserved students to not have to struggle to find a way to afford college, but this step moves us closer to the goal post.
The budget also displayed an understanding that obstacles exist beyond financial need. Many students need assistance in the transition to, and persistence within, their postsecondary experience. Low-income, first generation students often need extra navigational assistance in this foreign environment. Many students from diverse and economically-challenged populations attend community and technical colleges, and benefit greatly from student advising and supports. Therefore, it is gratifying to see the proposed increase for community and technical colleges (CTCs) to use Guided Pathways, or a similar model designed to improve student success, to better serve students in this system.
Breaking down barriers to postsecondary opportunities is for naught if the basic needs of a low-income individual prevents him from pursuing further education. The Senate budget proposal diverts Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Work First dollars to support the State Need Grant program, which is counterproductive. The House budget writers are wise to include increased funding to address homelessness and augment the TANF, State Family Assistance, and Refugee Cash Assistance Program grant amounts. These programs help stabilize the families of the very students we seek to provide a greater opportunity for focused learning.
Budgets reflect priorities, and although there is more work to be done, we applaud the House for targeting many of the essential priorities that will help move our state forward, advance our economy and close opportunity gaps. In this spirit, let us all support greater investment in our education system from early learning through higher education so that increased attainment will reap greater prosperity for all Washingtonians.
House Democrats and the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) have released bills to address the McCleary education funding lawsuit.
The House plan, HB 1843, would set a minimum salary of $45,500 for new teachers, and would slow the decrease of maximum local school tax levies from 28 percent of total state and federal funding, to 24 percent by 2021, instead of by next year as under current law. The basis for the calculations is changed, as well; and HB 1843 seeks to lower teacher-student ratios.
The Senate plan, SB 5607, sets a similar minimum starting teacher salary of $45,000, and the state would collect local property tax levies for schools, adding $1.4 billion per biennium to supplement education funding. Local districts could still raise additional money with voter approval, but the amount would be capped and could only pay for extras, not basic education.
See our side-by-side comparing fiscal elements of the House Democratic plan and the Senate MCC plan with the current funding system and Governor Inslee’s budget plan here.
Like most professions, the education landscape is full of acronyms and jargon. As we gear up for the 2017 state legislative session which will focus on education funding, the LEV Policy Team has created this glossary of key terms you will likely hear:
Allocation: an amount of money determined by the state and given out to districts.
Basic Education: goals established by the Legislature for Washington’s education system, as well as a program to achieve those goals. See details here
Biennium: a period of two years usually used for budgets.
Bond: a method used by a public school district to finance the purchase of land or buildings or pay for school construction costs (like getting a loan for a project). Bond measures are placed on the ballot by district school boards to be approved or defeated by the voting public and must be paid back by the local taxpayers. Bonds require a supermajority (2/3) of the vote to pass.
ELL (English language learner): a student whose primary language is a language other than English and who have English language skills that are sufficiently lacking or absent resulting in a delay of learning.
FRL (free and reduced lunch): a term used to describe students who qualify for participation in the federal school nutrition program that provides free or reduced price school lunches for students from low-income households.
Full-day kindergarten: state funded kindergarten that requires a total of 1000 instructional hours and 180 days of instruction.
HB: House Bill
Initiative: a law proposed by citizens and placed on the ballot in an election. This process bypasses the state legislature and allows citizens to pass laws.
Instructional hours: the number of hours districts are required to provide students. Instructional hours include all 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.
LAP (learning assistance program): a program to serve eligible students who need academic support for reading, writing, and math, or who need readiness skills to learn these core subjects. Money for the LAP program is provided by the state based on a district’s low-income students.
Levy cliff: a reduction, in current law, in the amount of money school districts can collect through local property tax levies that takes effect in January 2018.
Levy: a request by a school district of voters to raise or continue local property taxes for a limited number of years for operations costs or capital improvements such as computers or other equipment.
McCleary: The Washington State Supreme Court case which ruled that the State of Washington is violating the constitutional rights of students by failing to amply fund basic education. The Court ordered the Legislature to make “steady, real, and measurable” progress each year to fully fund K-12 public education by 2018.
MSOC (materials, supplies, and operating cost): the cost to a school district or education entity for materials and supplies used in the classroom (e.g.: white boards, pencils, and printer paper) and operating costs like building maintenance and utility bills.
National Board Certification: a voluntary, advanced teaching credential that goes beyond state licensure. National Board Certification has national standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do.
Professional Certification: an advanced level teaching certificate, issued to holders of a Residency Certification who complete a ProTeach Portfolio.
Prototypical school: a school design used in the state funding formula to determine the number of teachers, principals, and other school staff that are needed to provide a basic education. The size and staffing levels in a prototypical school differ for elementary, middle, and high schools. Districts are not required to staff their schools in the same way as the prototypical schools.
QEC (quality education council): created by the legislature in ESHB 2261. The purpose of the QEC was to develop strategic recommendations for implementation of a new definition of Basic Education and the financing necessary to support it. During the 2016 legislative session, HB 2360 eliminated the QEC.
Residency Certification: the initial license issued by the state for a teacher to be allowed to teach in a school. Teachers in Washington must attempt to earn the Professional Certificate after teaching for three years.
SB: Senate Bill
SPED (special education): specifically designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.
Staff mix: a part of the state funding formula for schools used to capture the average teaching experience and education level of teachers in a district. Teachers’ salaries go up with each year of experience and level of education. Staff mix (a number between 1 and 1.9) is multiplied by a district’s base teacher salary to determine the salary amount the state provides for teachers.
TBIP (transitional bilingual instructional program): a state supported program that funds districts to provide a two-language system of instruction. Students learn language concepts and knowledge in their primary language at the same time they receive instruction in English.
During the 2016 session, the Washington legislature passed Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541, which includes significant changes to student discipline laws.
These changes also affect the rules for student discipline (Chapter 392-400 WAC) and student enrollment reporting for state funding (WAC 392-121-108) during the period of suspension and expulsion. The Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) will align the rules with this new law before the upcoming school year. OSPI will provide further clarification through additional rulemaking during the 2016–17 school year.
Below is summary of changes effective June 9 that impact the 2016–17 school year. For more information, see OSPI Bulletin No. 024-16.
Limitations on Long-Term Suspensions and Expulsions
A long-term suspension or expulsion must not exceed the length of an academic term, as defined by the school board, from the time of the disciplinary action. This shortens the maximum length of a suspension or expulsion from the prior limitation of one calendar year.
School districts must not use long-term suspension or expulsion as a form of discretionary discipline. “Discretionary discipline” is a disciplinary action taken by a district for student behavior that violates the rules of student conduct, except for actions taken in response to:
A violation of the prohibition against firearms on school premises, transportation, or facilities;
Certain violent offenses, sex offenses, offenses related to liquor, controlled substances, and toxic inhalants, and certain crimes related to firearms, assault, kidnapping, harassment, and arson;
Two or more violations within a three-year period of criminal gang intimidation or other gang activity on school grounds, possessing dangerous weapons on school facilities, willfully disobeying school administrators or refusing to leave public property, or defacing or injuring school property; or
Behavior that adversely impacts the health or safety of other students or educational staff.
Except for in response to the above, school districts may no longer use long-term suspension or expulsion. Even for any of the violations above, districts should consider alternative actions before using long-term suspension or expulsion, except for violation of the prohibition against firearms on school premises.
Possession of a telecommunication device and violation of dress and grooming codes are removed from the list of discretionary violations that, if performed two or more times within a three-year period, may result in long-term suspension or expulsion.
Requirement to Provide Educational Services
School districts may not suspend the provision of educational services as a disciplinary action, whether discretionary or nondiscretionary.
While students may be excluded from classrooms and other instructional or activity areas for the period of suspension or expulsion, districts must provide students with an opportunity to receive educational services during that time.
If educational services are provided in an alternative setting, the alternative setting should be comparable, equitable, and appropriate to the regular education services a student would have received without the exclusionary discipline.
Reengagement Plan and Meeting
School districts must convene a reengagement meeting with the student and family when a long-term suspension or expulsion is imposed.
Families must have access to, provide meaningful input on, and have the opportunity to participate in a culturally sensitive and culturally responsive reengagement plan.
Policies and Procedures
School districts must:
Annually disseminate school discipline policies and procedures to students, families, and the community;
Monitor the impact of discipline policies and procedures using disaggregated data; and
Periodically review and update discipline rules, policies, and procedures in consultation with staff, students, families, and the community.
For questions about student discipline, alternatives to suspension, and reengagement meetings:
Joshua Lynch, Program Supervisor | Student Discipline and Behavior
Great things happened in Olympia for kids this year. Monumental things. And I’m going to celebrate here. So if you want to fill up your emotional bucket with some extra happy today, read on.
After unprecedented funding investments in schools last session, and new money pre-spent before legislators arrived this session in Olympia on necessary emergencies such as wildfires and unexpected prescription drug costs for WA residents, “manage your expectations” was the refrain to all advocates.
We didn’t. And our kids were prioritized. I’ll provide proof. In case this is as much extra ‘happy’ as you need today and you don’t need details before moving on, I am going to say thank you first. Thank you to the hard working legislators who balance the weight of so many issues – present & future. Thank you to the community members who told stories of their kids and talked about their dreams in Olympia. Thank you for listening, acting, and collaborating. Tim McGraw sings “always stay humble and kind.” I witnessed a lot of humanity this year in the halls and offices of the Capitol. This is the result:
For our littlest learners, additional money was invested in family child care providers so that the teachers can improve the quality of facilities and curriculum offered our precious preschoolers, thus assuring they are ready to thrive in kindergarten.
For our K-12 kids, we now have money to make sure we will no longer be suspending or expelling students for discretionary offenses, and will have better statewide data on demographics of kids to make sure the system is working to keep all students on-track and in school. This will happen in part through new discipline frameworks and trainings which are being developed sensitive to culture and positively supporting all students’ growth. Social Emotional Learning is a proactive way to reduce stress and behaviors associated with it, leaving teachers more time to teach, and students more time to learn. Pilots are being tracked statewide.
In addition, policy was passed aimed at providing in-school support for foster youth, including better information sharing with schools and more adult support to help students navigate frequent changes in school buildings. Our homeless student population is getting increased identification for schools, which will help with in-school support for learning and community partnerships for family housing stability. The early data from Tacoma housing/school partnerships shows fantastic academic gains for these students as well as an increased percentage of family member employment. Grants for 15 school districts are now available.
In the individualizing learning and choice bucket, we also re-approved (3rd time) charter schools. Charters are one piece of the puzzle of allowing innovation and flexibility to schools so that kids’ needs and academic growth stay at the center of the conversation. These non-profit public WA charter schools are operating under the top 5 most rigorous state accountability laws in the US.
Finally, and for the first time, near vision screenings will be offered when distance vision is tested in elementary and middle schools statewide. Seeing the numbers and letters on a page correctly dramatically increases academic potential. Duh. This was 17 years in the making, and the victory for kids happened this year.
In higher education, a new college savings plan for families passed as an alternative and addition to the GET program. Another law now assures that higher education students who have learning accommodations will no longer have to wait up to 6 months for those accommodations to start, which provides every student what they need to be successful right away. Yes!
Additionally, more money was allocated to get the students in teacher prep programs scholarships for high-need teaching positions. Test fees for teacher candidates can now be waived, and a central data system is being set up so that districts can see what teachers are out there applying for jobs in Washington. When beginning teachers get to schools, there is now money for peer mentor programs to support teacher quality and retention. Retired teachers are also now allowed to be re-hired as substitutes, which will help the shortage and assure students continue to learn even if their teacher is not in the building that day. And new money is available to train the classified staff who also work with groups of students, so that they have the tools to be a part of the core teaching team.
I have more good news. Next session amazing things will happen for kids. The work has already begun to provide ample opportunities for every student to have a meaningful and personalized learning experience. More options. More choice. More student understanding of how what is learned leads to a successful, prosperous future while raising up WA communities and finding new ways to make WA businesses thrive. That’s my North Star. We will get all kids the tools they need to discover their passions and proudly take leadership in growing WA. That vision keeps my bucket full. Tim, I’ll add one word: “always stay strong, humble, and kind.”
On March 9th, 2016, the House of Representatives amended and passed ESSB 6194, a new charter school law. On March 10th, 2016, the Senate concurred with the House’s changes and passed the bill. The bill now awaits Governor Inslee’s signature. The bill reenacts provisions of Initiative 1240 and makes changes to the charter school system to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling on charter schools in September of 2015. This bill will allow the current schools to stay open and new schools to be established in the future, providing more options for Washington’s students and families.
Last night, the House voted 58-39 to pass Senate Bill 6194, a long-term solution to keep public charter schools open. The bill is off to the Senate for concurrence and then to Governor Inslee’s desk. Here are the legislators who voted yes, in case you would like to thank them: