By Angela Parker, League of Education Voters Policy Analyst
When an educator earns a superintendent position, they know their job description does not just put them between a rock and a hard place – they will be between a rock, a hard place, and a fire. They hold responsibility for the current education and future educational prospects of the children in their school district. Simultaneously, parents, community members, and their staff expect their leadership in translating and implementing statewide directives and policy changes. And, of course, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) holds them accountable to agency and legislative directives and outcomes goals.
This is why most superintendents develop a refined skill set – the ability to collaborate with a wide range of community and education leaders, the passion to advocate for their students and communities on the state level, deep and broad engagement with education research, an engaging and thoughtful political persona, and long term project management and planning abilities. This is also why we knew we needed to gather as much feedback as possible from superintendents across the state, particularly on their understandings of current and emergent issues in our K-12 schools.
We sent a survey request in November 2017 to 295 superintendents in Washington; 57 (19%) returned our survey, giving these results an 80% confidence level with an 8% margin of error. Our survey over-represents districts with 500 to 4,999 students, and under-represents districts of 499 students and less. Respondents hail from all areas of the state, but disproportionately represent rural districts.
Aside from demographic details, our survey was limited to three main questions:
- How urgent are issues such as achievement/opportunity gaps, student supports, teacher supply, college readiness, etc., in your district?
- Is your district experiencing new or different educational issues?
- What should we work on in the next legislative session?
This post summarizes our broad findings from the survey, and we commit to working on these issues with superintendents and educators across Washington.
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 Kelly Munn, League of Education Voters State Field Director, and Jacob Vela, League of Education Voters Senior Policy Analyst
Last month, communities across Washington state voted on local levies to continue funding for enrichment programs and capital projects at district schools. Here are the election results and my analysis.
154 out of the 295 school districts in Washington state ran an Enrichment levy, and 150 passed. 42 levies passed because of simple majority, which is a 50-59.9% yes vote. Those districts that passed in the 50-55% range were mostly in the Puget Sound area.
24 school districts ran a bond, and 11 passed. 11 of the failed bonds would have passed with simple majority for bonds. Bonds currently pass only with a yes vote of 60% or greater.
60 school districts ran capital levies, and 51 passed.
6 school districts ran transportation levies, and 5 passed.
150 school districts passed an Enrichment levy. It does not yet appear that the confusion around the new McCleary funding is effecting the overall passage rate across the state. 150 out of 154 school districts passed. Superintendent Jim Kowalkowski explains what passage of the levy means for his Davenport School District: “We are excited that many of the programs we offer for students (College in the High School, Satellite Skills Center, Knowledge Bowl, All-day Preschool, Project Lead the Way (STEM) courses, Choir and Drama Programs, etc., will continue to be a part of our educational offerings. We are so grateful to have such a supportive community!” (more…)
The Legislature made significant changes to the K-12 education funding structures in 2017—infusing more than $7 billion in state money into the system over four years through House Bill 2242. As the fiscal impacts of the changes became clearer, legislators proposed a range of changes to address the concerns that districts have voiced around HB 2242.
As the legislature made changes in 2018 to their plan to fully fund education, League of Education Voters feels it is important that the changes should be focused on:
Direct investments based on student need. Any changes to the funding system should drive resources to districts based on the needs of their student populations.
Eliminate disparities between districts. Modifications made to the structures put in place in HB 2242 should address unintended impacts that created (and recreated) inequities between high-property value/low-poverty districts and low-property value/high-poverty districts.
Attracting & retaining educators. State funding formulas should ensure that districts across the state are provided enough resources to attract and retain a diverse educator workforce.
Increase transparency in funding system. Increased access to data on spending and student outcomes is essential to ensure the effectiveness and equity of the new systems and structures put into place.
Love what we do? Support our work
Want to find out the latest in education news in Washington? Subscribe to our newsletter
Want to learn more about League of Education Voters? Find out here
By League of Education Voters Policy Team
The Washington state Legislature passed a state budget agreement (Senate Bill 6032) that adds court-ordered K-12-school funding and also gives a one-time property-tax cut. The 2017-19 supplemental operating budget plan aimed at satisfying the long-running state Supreme Court school-funding order known as the McCleary decision. Below is a summary of how the budget impacts Early Childhood Education, K-12, and Higher Education.
Early Childhood Education
Legislators prioritized increasing home visitation capacity, and Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) provision to homeless families in this budget. Funds are also provided to improve overall early childhood education (ECE) system capacity, including Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) implementation, with $700K for a degree program to produce more educators, and $403K to strategize ways to engage the Washington business community and to educate ECE providers. Additional allocations will go toward supporting nurse consultations, mental health interventions, and trauma informed service provision.
- $2.3M—Home visiting expansion +275 families & to equalize rates
- $1.6M—Working Connections Childcare 4-month grace period for homeless families
- $1M—Implementation of the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families
- $74,000—Implement House Bill 2861 (trauma-informed child care)
- $150K—Home visit Medicaid facilitator – maximize federal dollars collected for home visiting
- $700K—ECE degree program at Western on the Peninsula, will produce 75 BAs/year
- $240K—“Childcare Collaboration Task Force” created by House Bill 2367: Dept. of Commerce to convene a task force to study the impact of child care affordability and accessibility on the workforce & businesses, to report findings & recommendations by the end of 2019
The Washington state House and Senate have released their budgets, and we compare each proposal with current law. Categories include K-12, Higher Education, Early Learning, and Revenue and Spending.
It’s so good to be back with you! After a three month sabbatical, I’m renewed and refreshed, ready to hit the ground running.
Sadly it’s hard to know where to begin when so much promise, talent and opportunity came to an end – again – in a school in Florida. Another mass shooting, another school, another day of horror and grief. I have a sixth grader and a spouse who’s an elementary school principal. I know this is my worst fear. I also know this has to stop. I feel like my head will explode if one more person says we need a national conversation about gun violence. It feels like we have that conversation many times a year – after another incidence of gun violence. Thoughts and prayers? Pray for the courage it takes to do the right thing. And think when you fill out your ballot.
As for what we can do for kids, if we are serious about our kids’ mental, physical and social well-being, there are some school staffing ratios that should look dramatically different. Among other things.
Across Washington state on February 13, communities voted on local levies to continue funding for enrichment programs and capital projects at district schools. Here are frequently asked questions about those levies.
1. What is a local levy?
a. A local property tax passed by voters of a school district that generates tax revenue for local school districts. All money generated by school district levies goes directly to the school district to pay for enhancements to the state funded basic education. By voting for a local levy, voters are voting for an additional property tax in their district.
2. How many school districts have a local school levy?
a. 287 of the 295 school districts had a local levy in school year 2016-17
3. What is basic education?
a. Basic education is the educational program that the state is responsible for funding.
i. The state Legislature defines the program of basic education and is required by the constitution to amply fund it. The state defined program of basic education is the minimum that districts are required to provide students—districts may offer additional programming and services with local funds. Currently, the program of basic education includes the number of hours and days of school that districts must offer, academic standards, and specialized instruction for students qualifying for special education, English Language support, and below or above standard academically.
4. What restrictions are placed on the use of levy money? (more…)