You ever play those meeting “icebreaker” games where you have to indicate which tree you’d be, or what animal you were in a past life? If the legislature were a condiment, what would it be? My vote this week is ghost pepper sauce. Discuss.
Money, Money, Money, Money. Money! When last we met we shared the news that the legislature had averted multiple local education funding crises by passing an extension of the levy cliff. This was welcome news for many, even as attention quickly turned to the bigger issue, McCleary. The good news? The economic forecast is sunny. The bad news? Well, for now, there really isn’t any. Yes, the two sides might bicker from time to time and we don’t yet have a final plan to fund, but we will. Our aim is to make sure more of the resources intended for kids who need something more or different – see gaps diatribe below – actually get those resources. Even while we build a compensation system that our education professionals find both fair and energizing.
Next week we’ll get our first look at how the Senate will address education funding when they release their budget. Expect the House version the week after. Here’s how things stack up so far.
Testing Testing: The state’s long love affair with the testing debate will air in all its glory next week when Senate Education takes up HB 1046, the House bill that “delinks” passing the state’s math, English language arts and science exams from high school graduation. Superintendent Reykdal was asked about it recently and spoke in support of removing the requirements. We’ve long taken a different position, that delinking the exams makes it difficult to know whether they’re taken seriously. As the only consistent statewide measures of proficiency, we need good – comparable – data that tells us how our students are doing and importantly, how students fare by groups. We’ve long said we can’t close gaps we can’t see. Between the national moves to reduce federal oversight – or even expectations – and the state wanting to no longer (accurately) capture this information, our kids caught in the opportunity and achievement gaps will be invisible. And, sadly, kids who think they’re college material because they can pass the high school courses that meet the graduation requirements will often find out that they are in fact, NOT ready for prime time. For a state with the kind of student academic performance we have – only 31% of our kids get a degree or certificate from a two- or four-year college – this is a major step backward. Proponents will say that kids are the only ones being held accountable for proficiency – the graduation requirements are high stakes exit exams. It’s true our system is not a bastion of accountability. But eliminating the little bit that we have will only hide the gaps, mislead our kids, and drive our degree completion rates in the wrong direction. (How do I really feel?)
While we’re talking about money, the President’s budget was released this week and it is not a good time to be poor, or a first-generation college student, or a kid in after school programs. The good news here is that a President’s budget is typically just a conversation starter. And, by the looks of it, everybody’s talking.
If the legislative session were the Super Bowl, Lady Gaga would be pretending to drop through a hole in the Capitol roof – it’s halftime! Sort of. Whatever time it is, you can always catch up on the action with our bill tracker. You might also check out our podcast series, including the newest one with Senator Hans Zeiger, Chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. Let’s take a look at how things are going.
Progress: That wind storm that rocked the western half of Washington may have been caused by the collective exhale of school district officials upon the news that the legislature passed an extension of the so-called Levy Cliff. With expanded levy capacity set to expire at the end of the year and levies to drop, districts were scrambling to figure out how to avoid sending out pink slips to staff. Now the legislature can settle in to resolve the rest of the K-12 funding situation – including a reprisal of sorts of the McCleary task force, an 8-member group tasked with drawing up a final plan. While much of the discussion so far has focused on the State’s obligation under the McCleary ruling, there’s been good movement in thinking about how to get more resources to kids who need more – how to ensure that money allocated to close gaps and accelerate results for struggling students. We aren’t the only state trying to unleash the potential that this moment holds. However we go about it, we’d like to see more of this. And this.
Regress: Even as the Legislature buckles down on the funding issues, we can feel the slow shifting of the ground – ground we thought we’d already covered – underneath us. Bills to reduce graduation requirements and undo the State Board of Education continue to be debated. In case you missed it, the Washington Round Table issued a report showing both the heightened expectations for our workforce of tomorrow and the underwhelming way in which we prepare our kids for those opportunities. Backward is how you get out of a driveway. Not how progress is made.
Purple goes the way of analog. Legislative and Congressional districts aren’t the only places where politics are undivided.
There’s an algorithm for that.
That’s all for now, kids! I’ve got to get my hands mani on before the PTA auction tonight. Can’t raise a paddle with claws like this, now can we? As always, thank you for all you do on behalf of our kids! And keep it up! Halfway isn’t all the way, but it’s a good start.
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When is a game more than just a game? I mean other than every time I ever play my brother in something. Did I mention baby brother? Well, he’s almost fifty, but still. Losing to your baby brother in anything is when games stop being games. Makes me feel like Venus Williams. But I digress. And right from the start, too…
Ok, here’s what Sunday’s festivities reinforced for us. Americans see things differently. First the Super Bowl that either was or wasn’t like the election. Halftime was all Gaga who either was or wasn’t political. Tom Brady either did or didn’t have his jersey stolen. The ads were great and the ads sucked.
Enough controversy. Let’s talk about Betsy DeVos. Hopefully your heart rate dropped enough after the Super Bowl that by the time DeVos’ confirmationvote came along you didn’t flat line and fall down like Lady Gaga on a tether. While DeVos is settling in, work on education policy goes on all around her. The House wasted no time in repealing key elements of the Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA. And President Trump’s Counselor, Kellyanne Conway is saying Trump will repeal Common Core. (Even though he can’t.) How will a DeVos Department of Ed affect us here? TBD
Speaking of here, legislators are hard at work trying to sort through the many machinations of the current education finance system to create a new one. As was mentioned last week, the Senate, House and Governor’s office have all put forward proposals. You can check them out on our bill tracker, or compare and contrast. Here’s another thing we’d like to see: a pair of bills have dropped that would expand career and technical education and dual-credit programs in the state, as well as implement much needed interventions for struggling Washington students.
A big hello dedicated readers, it’s that time again. On Sunday two teams will line up and go at it for a championship. Yes! It’s Puppy Bowl XIII!!! The annual festival of cuteness featuring puppies “playing football.” And as if your heart couldn’t take any more, not one single little drop, they’re all – ALL! – up for adoption. OMG Becky look at that pup! This year’s event will feature special needs puppies – quick, someone tell Betsy DeVos! – including the ironically named “Lucky,” who has three legs. So if you grow tired of Super Bowl ads, or looking at the Patriots Coach who shall not be named, you have alternatives.
And now, the news:
The aforementioned Secretary of Ed nominee, Betsy DeVos, lost two key republican votes this week when Senators Murkowski (AK) and Collins (ME) both announced they would vote against her confirmation – despite voting to pass the confirmation out of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). Her support for vouchers and her lack of experience with public schools were of critical concern to both senators. She also displayed a surprising lack of knowledge about federal laws on special education. With Murkowski and Collins in the “no” column, the vote count currently stands at a tie – one that will undoubtedly be broken by Vice President Pence in what would be an unprecedented tie breaker for a cabinet position. It looks like the vote may take place on Monday.
Closer to home, both the House and Senate now have education proposals, as does Governor Inslee. You can find a comparison of the plans here. After a hearing on Monday, the Senate’s already voted theirs over to the House (albeit along party lines). The Senate’s plan that was made public just as we went to hit “send” last week includes changes to the way we budget money, based on students rather than staff, makes big changes to the levy system and tweaks the state’s accountability system.
The House proposal invests more resources in programs that provide supports and interventions for kids including the Learning Assistance Program (LAP), the Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program (TBIP), and Career and Technical Education (CTE). The House also picks up the cost for compensation – a requirement of the Supreme Court ruling – and invests money in professional development for our educational workforce. The funds would flow in a manner similar to how they flow now, without the same guidelines that Senate Republicans put forward in their bill.
Superintendent Reykdal did double duty, issuing a statement and making an appearance at the Senate hearing. You can find him at the 50-minute mark of the hearing. You can also find Superintendent Reykdal here, in Podcast form. And just because I know everybody loves a treasure hunt, you can find all the education bill news here, on our bill tracker.
It’s not if, but what, the TOTUS will tweet about this Super Bowl ad.
Rejoice brain science nerds. Not one, but two pieces to nourish your soul. Er. Brain.
Well, kids, that’s it for this week. And heck, it should be more than enough to see you through. Next week we will see further action on the education plans introduced in both chambers, we’ll hear about the importance of fully funding the State Need Grant, and someone famous will undoubtedly show us their baby bump. Good times.
Have a great weekend! And as always, thanks for all you do for Washington’s kids.
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If you like your politics the same way you like your food – not to touch under any circumstances – then this was your week. Even as we’re going to press, the Senate Democrats are pursuing a floor takeover through parliamentary procedures. The podium grab is possible because the Senate Republicans are down a few men – you may have heard that the Senator Dansel has moved on to the Department of Agriculture and Senator Erickson is advising the EPA (apparently, he won’t be publishing studies on the website, or blogging about the effects of global warming). Dansel has left office, leaving an open seat, while Erickson is holding down two jobs for the time being and racking up frequent flyer miles. Should they prevail and are actually able to take action on the floor, the Senate Dems are looking to pass the levy cliff extension bill – a measure that passed the House earlier this week. The bill was also put on the Senate Ways and Means calendar for this coming Monday – a show of good faith or a pre-emptive maneuver to blunt the necessity of the take over? Oh, cynics. Stop it. (Little known fact about how I think about the word pre-emptive: think Carrie Underwood)
Meanwhile, progress is being made. Earlier this afternoon, Senate Republicans unveiled their education plan. The proposal could be heard early next week and includes a change to the way we allocate funds – from a focus on salaries and staffing to a student-centered approach – and doubles the resources into Career and Technical Education, among other things. There’s much to appreciate in this plan, which includes a bump in pay for starting teachers. You can find our bill tracker here.
Theme of the week: there are quite a few bills that either change, eliminate or de-link our assessment requirements for high school graduation. Coupled with moves to reduce the high school graduation requirements, it raises concerns that we’re watering down our preparation and expectation of our kids at exactly the wrong time.
Ready or not: They’re baaaaacccckkk! Olympia is back in business. A lot has happened since last we were in session. There was that presidential election that you might have missed. I mean if you were in a cave. Or a coma. After a nearly two year campaign season, America has a new TOTUS! Our Tweeter of the United States has been busy building out his cabinet including Secretary of Ed pick, Betsy DeVos whose confirmation process is being delayed to allow for her to complete disclosures to the Senate. Expect a DeVos administration to support expanding school choice – including vouchers – and to turn the other cheek on most measures of accountability.
Closer to home, we have changes of our own, including new Committee Chairs and Ranking Members of Education for the House and Senate Republicans. And the loss of Andy Hill will be felt all over the place.
In addition, a new Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, was sworn in this week. What’s not new? Oh, there’s lots of old familiar to be warmed by. Resolving the McCleary decision looms like that worn old recliner: to re-cover or replace, that’s the question. There’s a new rub to the story, though, as school districts are worried the state won’t address education funding quickly enough and school budgets will go over a “levy cliff” – expanded levy caps that will expire.
You can learn more about what we think by reading our latest blog series. And you can give some of your own input by visiting the Campaign for Student Success. In fact, it would be great if you’d join in the growing coalition to support more targeted resources for our kids.
While education funding is going to take up a lot of the oxygen in the room, there are a lot of other education issues that will be introduced and considered – you can find them all here on our bill tracker.
Thankfully, one thing we can always count on is you. Thanks for all you do for Washington’s kids – and all you’re going to do this session to ensure that our funding system helps our kids get the education and experiences they need to succeed.
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The new year is upon us, and the 2017 Legislative Session is officially under way. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the future for every Washington student. To that end, LEV is proud to join the newly-launched Campaign for Student Success. Together, we can stand up for students and ensure every kid in Washington state receives a great education.
Finally, I would like to extend a big thank-you to our donors in the fourth quarter of 2016. You make our work possible. Thanks for all you do for kids. We couldn’t do it without you.
League of Education Voters 2017 Annual Breakfast
Please join us for our seventh annual LEV Breakfast on Thursday, March 30, a celebration of Washington’s teachers and an engaging conversation on how we can advocate to put great teachers in front of the kids who need them most. Featured will be 2017 Regional Teacher of the Year recipients Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus on how great teachers are the key to student success. Read more
Podcast Interview with Governor Jay Inslee
On the day he released his 2017-2018 budget, Governor Jay Inslee sat down with League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman to discuss his 2017 education priorities, how to build bridges in today’s political climate, and how to close the opportunity and achievement gaps.
LEV’s 2017 Legislative Agenda
In the upcoming legislative session, the League of Education Voters will focus on educator compensation, student supports, accountability, early learning, higher education, and local governance. Also, our 2017 Legislative Bill Tracker is now live! And if you would like to receive Chris Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup during the legislative session, you can sign up here. Read our legislative agenda here
Career Connected Learning and STEM
In our free January 24 webinar, Washington STEM Chief Policy and Strategy Officer Caroline King and Senior Program Officer Gilda Wheeler will teach us how career connected learning can benefit students, how CTE and career connected learning are connected, and how to support CTE and career connected learning through policy and program work. Register here
Student Supports, an Integral Component of Basic Education
Part of defining basic education is determining what each and every student should have access to in their school. Currently, our system does not guarantee access to student supports that are critical to many students’ academic success—including support staff like counselors or nurses, and programming like additional tutoring. There are a number of approaches we can take to making sure that students receive the supports and resources they need. Read more
LEV’s Activist of the Month
At the League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for January: Heather Wallace.Learn about Heather’s work advocating for public education, especially when it comes to early learning. Read more
Access, Equity & Excellence: LEV’s 7th Annual Parent and Community Training
LEV’s annual parent and community training happens February 11 at the Tukwila Community Center. Learn which programs are working on the state, school district, and community level to close the opportunity gap. Get the knowledge and the tools you need to speak up and start this important conversation in your own community, all among the company of likeminded education advocates. Breakfast, lunch and childcare provided. Register here
Part of defining basic education is determining what each and every student should have access to in their school. Currently, our system does not guarantee access to student supports that are critical to many students’ academic success—including support staff like counselors or nurses, and programming like additional tutoring. There are a number of approaches we can take to making sure that students receive the supports and resources they need.
The Learning Assistance Program
Currently, Washington provides additional supports to students that are struggling academically through the Learning Assistance Program (LAP). Districts receive funding for this program from the state based on their enrollment of low-income students. Districts must spend LAP funds on services from a list of state-approved, evidence-based practices, including one-on-one or group tutoring and extended learning time, as well as limited use of funds for staff professional development and parent engagement. Beginning in the 2015-16 school year, districts must prioritize spending on K-4 literacy interventions. This focus on elementary literacy combined with limited LAP funding has resulted in some districts being unable to provide services to students in middle and high school grades.
The current funding formula for LAP does not align additional student supports and actual student need. While funding is provided to districts based on low-income enrollment, services are provided to students based on academic need, as identified by the district, regardless of income. This results in two potential misalignments. First, all academically struggling students may not be funded if there are more students in the district that need support than there are low-income students. Second, the full range of academic and non-academic needs of low-income students may not be met if they are not eligible for LAP services.
The funding formula also takes into consideration the salaries of certificated teachers in the district, even though many program services are provided by paraeducators. This creates inequities between districts because funding is different based on the characteristics of the adults in the district, not the students, even if student need is the same between districts.
LAP can be used as a mechanism to target the McCleary investments towards student supports with some changes to increase effectiveness. These changes may include:
Changing the funding formula to be based on student need, not adult characteristics;
Changing the formula to align with student eligibility for services;
Altering and/or expanding the allowable uses for LAP funds and increasing funding levels to ensure the needs of all eligible students are met; and
While considering changes to LAP, we should also be examining the needs of low-income students that are non-academic and, therefore, not addressed by the Learning Assistance Program.
Access to Support Staff
Washington provides districts with minimal funding within the current funding formula for support staff, such as counselors, social workers, nurses, and family engagement coordinators. Many of the allocations for these positions are fractions of full-time employees, meaning the amount of money districts receive is inadequate to hire these staff for more than a couple of hours a week. Our current funding structure also does not require districts to spend money allocated for specific staff positions to hire those staff. This allows districts flexibility in staffing to meet the needs of their communities, but, particularly in our environment of inadequate funding, also means that students may not have access to these staff because districts are unable or choose not to hire them. Possible ways to ensure that every student has access to the services provided by support staff could include increasing funding for support staff; requiring minimum staffing levels for support staff, potentially triggered by high-need student enrollment levels; and facilitating and encouraging partnerships between community-based service providers and districts and schools.
Special Education and Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program
Washington provides districts with additional funding for students qualifying for special education services and for English Language Learners (ELL). These funds must be spent on qualifying students, however, the funds provided by the state may not be adequate to meet the needs of all students. Particularly with special education students, the state limits the amount of special education funding to 12.7% of district enrollment. As a result, districts with larger special education student populations than the state cap may not receive the necessary funding to serve all of their students.
While special education students and ELLs receive specialized services, they also interact regularly with all school staff. However, often only the specialized staff are trained in best practices for working with these student populations. This means that outside of the specialized programing students receive, they may not be adequately supported in the school setting as a whole. Students receiving special education or English language services also may have non-academic or additional academic needs outside of those programs, and require access to other school support staff and services.
As we explore ways to better support every student in Washington schools, this could include examining the adequacy of funding for special education and the Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program (ELL students), funding professional development for all school staff in working with special education and ELL students, and encouraging schools and districts to integrate the services and supports students need outside of the specialized programming, rather than providing services in a silo.
Students’ academic success is determined by a number of factors, including social emotional skills, physical and mental health, academic self-concept, family situation, and expectations of school staff. It is important that students have access to both the academic and non-academic supports they need in order to be successful. Washington has been taking steps to improve access to non-academic supports in recent years, including the development of social emotional learning (SEL) standards and the passage of HB 1541, which creates the integrated student supports protocol. The Washington Integrated Student Supports Protocol (WISSP) will be a tool districts can use to assess student need, strategically partner with families and community based organizations, and leverage district and community resources. These are important steps in our state’s efforts to address all of the factors that impact student achievement, but more can and should be done as we invest in 2017. This could include funding professional development for school staff in cultural competency, trauma-informed practices, and social emotional learning; funding family engagement coordinators for schools; and investing in continued implementation of the WISSP and SEL benchmarks and standards.
Investing in student supports, both academic and non-academic, and providing student access to services through staff, state investment, and partnerships can ensure that our McCleary investments will improve student outcomes.
Now that the election is officially in the rear window, we can focus on creating better opportunities for each of our kids to succeed. Join our free Lunchtime LEVinar December 20th to learn what we can expect in the upcoming legislative session.
Also, LEV has released our 2017 Strategic Plan, we’ve traveled to California to learn about their new system of education funding, and we are creating podcast interviews with influential legislators and thought leaders.
Read below for more about our work.
Thanks for all you do for kids. We couldn’t do it without you.
League of Education Voters 2017 Strategic Plan
Now, more than ever, we need to come together. We are all responsible for ensuring that every Washington student receives a quality public education from cradle to career that prepares them for success. It should prepare them for stable, family-wage jobs, meaningful participation in our democracy, and contributing to the well-being of their families and community. However you define success, a quality education is the key. Read more
Education Funding Takeaways from California
Two weeks ago, Daniel Zavala, LEV’s new Director of Policy and Government Relations, went with a Washington delegation to Sacramento, the birthplace of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), California’s shift from state-controlled funding to local decision-making. Learn whether LCFF can work here in Washington. Learn more
Podcast Interviews with Key Legislators
LEV has begun a series of podcast interviews with influential policymakers and thought leaders across Washington state. We recently asked Senator Christine Rolfesabout the Education Funding Task Force, and Rep. Ruth Kagi spoke about the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Children and Families.
What to Expect in the 2017 Legislative Session
The McCleary education funding lawsuit will likely take center stage in the upcoming legislative session. But this year, several of the players are different. In our free December 20 webinar, LEV Director of Policy and Government Relations Daniel Zavala will explain the legislative landscape and answer your questions on how the 2017 session will unfold. Register HERE
Learn About Education Funding in Washington
Curious about Washington’s education funding debate? See Julia Warth, Assistant Director of Policy and Government Relations, and Jake Vela, Senior Policy Analyst, present the basics of how our public education system works, thanks to TVW – Washington Public Affairs Network. Watch HERE