A multifaceted approach yields a strong step forward in closing the opportunity and achievement gaps

By Beth Richer, League of Education Voters Government Relations

Governor Jay Inslee signs the Dream Act (Real Hope Act). Photo by the Seattle PI. Governor Jay Inslee signs the Dream Act (Real Hope Act). Photo by the Seattle PI.
Governor Jay Inslee signs the Dream Act (Real Hope Act). Photo by the Seattle PI.

Within any given legislative session there are victories, defeats, and measures left in a state of limbo. The 2014 session was no different. But amidst those victories, defeats, and states of limbo, there was an underlying theme for much of the education legislation related to the opportunity gap. Legislators, advocacy organizations, teachers, parents, students, and business leaders alike all said loud and clear: “We must take action to close the gaps and address our most underserved students.” Read More

The 2013 legislative session: It’s a wrap

In what has become unfortunately common in Washington, the 2013 legislative session went into overtime. An agreement on a two-year budget was reached with less than 24 hours to spare to avoid a shutdown of state government. While significant hurdles remain as we strive to ensure our public education system is amply, equitably and sustainably funded, measurable progress was made during the extended 2013 session.

The legislature and the Governor were faced with competing requirements and political trends. Our state’s constitution required increased investment in K-12 education. And while I-1053 was ultimately ruled unconstitutional, the voters of Washington state have consistently sent a strong message that any tax increases must have 2/3 majority support in the legislature. The legislators were charged with increasing investment in K12, without broad based revenue increases, and avoiding cuts to other areas of education or essential social services.

On that score you have to say the session was a mild success. As a state, we expanded investment in early learning, brought a modicum of stability to the Working Connections Child Care program, increased investment in K-12 with an intense focus on the opportunity gap, and stopped the crippling cuts to higher education. We did all of this without cannibalizing essential social services. While it took longer than was needed, the outcome reflected the values of the voters who sent the legislators to Olympia to represent them.

In addition to the budget items, significant bipartisan efforts on education policy were passed (See LEV 2013 legislative accomplishments). Legislation related to addressing customer service issues in child care, supports for persistently failing schools, literacy, STEM education, gathering and reporting of discipline data, and assessment reforms all passed with significant bipartisan support.

As we move forward, LEV will continue to work with parents, members of both parties, and members of the education community to address the continuing challenge of providing ample, equitable and stable funding and ensuring those dollars are invested effectively to ensure that every student in Washington state receives an excellent public education that provides the opportunity for success.

Governor Inslee signs two early learning bills

Great news for Washington’s littlest learners; Governor Inslee has signed HB 1723 and SB 5595 into law! Here are some of the changes you can expect:

Under HB 1723

Under SB 5595

  • DEL/The Department of Social and Health Services will provide improved consumer service, meaning they will return all phone calls within 2 business days, develop a process to submit forms online, notify parents and child care providers 10 days before loss of WCCC benefits, and provide consumers with a document that is easy to understand regarding what services they are eligibile for, etc.
  • Creates a task force comprised of legislators, representatives from various early learning stakeholder groups, and child care providers. The task force will develop recommendations for creating a tiered-reimbursement model for WCCC and a mixed delivery system for ECEAP.
  • DEL/DSHS must work to design a more flexible subsidy system that accounts for small fluctuations in family circumstances, ensure that minor changes in parent’s work schedule(s) don’t interfere with their WCCC authorization, enable parents who participate in 110 hours of work or related activities to be eligible for full-time child care services, and simplify the requirement to count child support as income.

* This is void if not funded by 6/1/13.

Governor Inslee signs House Bill No. 1723 Relating to expanding and streamlining early learning services and programs.
Governor Inslee signs House Bill No. 1723
Relating to expanding and streamlining early learning services and programs.
Governor Inslee signs Senate Bill No. 5595 Relating to child care reform.
Governor Inslee signs Senate Bill No. 5595 Relating to child care reform.

Governor signs bill to help turnaround schools

“Our kids can’t wait for schools to improve. They need high-quality schools now.”

This is a favorite mantra of LEV’s CEO Chris Korsmo, who is known for her impatient optimism.

Community leaders and legislators agreed that it was time for our state to do something about persistently low-achieving schools. The time for hoping the problem would get better was over.

Today Governor Inslee signed SB 5329, which gives the state a larger role in school accountability and turnaround efforts. The legislation calls on the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to design, a statewide system of support, assistance, and intervention for persistently low-achieving schools.

The legislation implements the second level of an accountability system created in 2010 to assist the ten most persistently lowest-achieving schools in Washington to become more accountable. School performance is based on the Achievement Index, a State Board of Education-developed accountability framework.

Thanks to SB 5329, persistently low achieving schools will receive additional support from OSPI to implement a three-year required action plan. OSPI will develop the action plan criteria and the corresponding system of supports for each level of challenged schools. If schools do not improve in three years, OSPI, working with local districts, will require additional actions to increase student achievement.

LEV worked with our partners Stand for Children and Partnership for Learning and a bi-partisan team of legislators in both chambers to develop the legislation.

Sine Die 2013

On Sunday, April 28th around 6:00 p.m. the gavel fell and the 105 day regular session was brought to a close. Almost as swiftly as the 2013 regular session ended, Gov. Inslee called for a special session to begin on Monday, May 13th in order to focus on three main issues:
1. An operating budget that makes a substantial down payment on education, but not on the backs of seniors or the poor;
2. A transportation plan that preserves funding for existing infrastructure projects and funds new projects; and
3. Important education policy measures to ensure that new education funding will achieve results.

LEV walked into the 2013 session with three priorities:

Work with the legislature to ensure the McCleary decision to fund basic education is upheld and utilized well.

LEV has advocated before and during the 2013 session that it is time to amply fund education and look towards new avenues for revenue in this state. As the operating budget continues to be crafted and debated we will be steadfast in our support of a system that fully pays for education, but not by cannibalizing vulnerable populations.

Prioritize the investments and funding in education that have been made to Washington’s students and have been proven effective.

LEV, along with our coalition partners, brought to the table vital legislation addressing accountability and access from early learning through higher education. So far we have had significant progress in:

  •         Early learning through SB 5595 and HB 1723
  •         Assisting persistently low achieving schools to be more accountable through SB 5329
  •         Alternative assessments for teacher certification HB1178
  •         Support for programs that close the opportunity gap, such as academic acceleration through HB 1642

Minimize the negative impact of discipline policies on students.

As a brand new issue, brought forward from the community, discussions around the discipline policies in our schools have come leaps and bounds. From an issue that was barely spoken of last session to now a rallying point for many legislators eager to end racial disparities and close the opportunity gap, there is still much work to be done this year and in future years. The bills tied to this issue have been labeled NTIB (necessary to implement the budget) and will be negotiated out during the special session.

The mini-interim between now and May 13th will send legislators back to their home districts for a few weeks. As LEV continues to advocate for the policy bills and budgets still in the works, this is your opportunity to connect with your individual legislators to remind them the impacts their choices make on you, your children, and your community. Look for more updates on budget progress and key policy bills, as well as how you can stay involved as the 30-day special session kicks off.

How a bill becomes a law

The clouds have grayed, there’s a chill in the air, and you’ve started layering like nobody’s business. This can only mean one thing: The 2013 Legislative Session is underway! It’s that special time of year when bills are introduced, caucuses are formed, and laws are made (or not). It is true democracy in action!

But how does a bill become a law, anyway?

  • First, a legislator from the House or the Senate offers a bill. Legislators begin working on the idea and language for bills before the session begins. Bills can start being dropped into the hopper (submitted) as soon as the legislative session begins in January and have until Cutoff Day to be dropped. Similar bills can be introduced in both the House and the Senate.
  • After a bill is introduced, it is decided which committee should hear the bill. Once in committee, it has its first reading. The chair of the committee decides if and when a bill will be allowed a public hearing. The public hearing is where members of the public can express their support for or opposition to a bill to committee members. The committee chair also decides if the bill will be read in Executive Session and put to a vote in the committee. If the votes are in the bill’s favor, it goes to the Rules Committee, where leadership decides if a bill meets the legal criteria to move on in the process.
  • If all goes well in the Rules Committee, the bill goes to the floor for a roll call vote.
  • Depending on which chamber the bill originated from (the House or the Senate) it is then sent to the other chamber and must go through the process again. If the House or the Senate want to tweak the bill, it is first sent to a conference committee and then back to the House or Senate to have amendments approved.
  • If the majority of legislators vote in favor of the bill, it is sent to the governor’s office to be signed. The governor may decide to sign the bill, veto sections of it, or veto the bill all together.
  • Once the governor signs the bill, it becomes a law.

It is important to note that although this is the ideal procedure for a bill to become a law, there are many exceptions and paths a bill can take along the way. Some alternate routes include rewriting the bill and attaching to a separate bill as an amendment or “carryover” which allows the issue to be taken up again in a subsequent session.

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.