Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Update on Budget Cuts – and Outlook for out Top Priorities

Dear advocates,

The first two weeks of legislative session were hectic. In addition to the hearings, there were key meetings of the Quality Education Council and the State Board of Education, as well as ongoing meetings of the steering committee for the Teacher/Principal Evaluation Pilot. Budget hearings and money (or lack of) is coloring everything. PTA/PTSA members need to understand there are 2 budget issues.

  1. The supplemental budgets: Note the plural. The legislature still must cut hundreds of millions from CURRENT YEAR spending (money the state can spend from now until July). A bill (HB 1096) for a third round of cuts is working its way through the legislature, it includes retroactive cuts to school districts. Highlights:

    Funding for all-day K at high-poverty schools is in

    Funding for highly capable programs is in

    Funding for K-4 class size enhancements is OUT – Districts are on the hook for any class size reductions they did this year, AND they would have to pay back any K-4 money they  received

    Levy equalization money was put back in – the governor had proposed reducing it, based on a scale (wealthier districts would have gotten less)

    This latest supplemental budget doesn't finish the job. About another $130 million still needs to be cut.
    The Senate has not weighed in with its preferences. They could come up with something entirely different. They held one public hearing and are now in work sessions. The committee to follow is Senate Ways and Means. The chair is Sen. Murray of Seattle.
  2. Once the cuts to the current budget are made, the legislature must work on a budget for the next 2-year biennium. Many of the cuts in the supplemental budgets are expected to carry over to the 2-year budget. Of particular concern to members should be the long-term impact of short-term budget cuts. PLEASE engage with your legislators. Tell them the cuts your district and your school are looking at. Our concern (and testimony) is that the retroactive cuts will leave schools extremely vulnerable going into a tough next two years. You need to explain to them what is happening in your school, with your programs and your children.  TO FIND YOUR LEGISLATOR:


OUTLOOK FOR OUR TOP ISSUES: Following is an outline of where WSPTA’s top priority issues stand so far. Math and science testing is hot this week. I met today with Sup. Dorn, members of his staff  and other education advocates. We’re trying to work out a transition for the kids. Instead of  comprehensive math and science tests in high school, the state is moving to end-of-course exams. The problem is that the way the law reads, kids will have to take multiple exams on math classes they took in  the past. We’re trying to work out a compromise that makes more sense for students and families.


Priority 1 - Implement the new program of basic education as well as reforms around accountability, evaluations and family engagement (2009's HB 2261, 2010's HB 2776 and SB 6696)... PROGRESS (if bill goes through). DEEP CONCERNS about funding.


HB 1443 - school reform. Referred to House Education
This bill continues to phase in the new program for basic education (2261, 2776), as well as the reforms of last year's 6696 - primarily accountability and evaluations. Family engagement is not provided for.

  • Continues development and implementation of revised teacher and principal evaluation systems.
  • Requires school districts to define a high school credit for purposes of meeting state and local graduation requirements.
  • Requires the office of the superintendent of public instruction to provide technical assistance to schools and districts specifically targeted to reduce school dropouts and improve on-time and extended high school graduation rates.
  • Authorizes the office of the superintendent of public instruction to require elementary schools receiving federal school improvement grants to use the state kindergarten readiness assessment (this inlcudes the phonological awareness screening that WSPTA prioritizes)
  • Directs the institute for public policy to work with the office of the superintendent of public instruction to design and implement a research study to measure the impact on student achievement of remediation strategies funded by the learning assistance program
  • Includes langauge for Common Core adoptions, after review of community representatives


Updates on work so far:

  • Prototypical schools formula in use. Helps show how the state allocates for class sizes, 
  • staffing. How the money will be spent is up to local districts. They may want to shift funds to address local need
  • Meaningful diploma/24-credits on hold (not given funding priority in rollout) 
  • Rollout of all-day K frozen at current level (grants to accommodate poorest 20 percent)
  • Average K-3 class sizes funded at 25.23 students (goal is 17. To be phased in starting with high-poverty schools)
  • Teacher/principal evaluation pilots are proceeding. Governor's propsoed budget includes incentives for early adoption
  • Work with turnaround/transformation schools is proceeding -- BUT only a handful of schools are getting grants to help implement plans


Priority 2 - Strengthen math and science education ... DELAY
(Bills all deal with testing, not on instructional practices and strategies, or recruitment or professional development of educators. A transition period needs to be worked out for end-of-course math and science tests, but proposed solutions could set us back on statewide quality assurances. One bill would kill assessments as graduation requirements entirely.). Here are eight bills introduced so far that address the assessments.


HB 1251 / SB 5093, companion bills. Primarily budget bills. HB 1251 heard in House Ways and Means; SB 5093 heard in Senate Early Learning and K12.

  • STANDARDS and TESTING: Among other matters, the bills would change math end-of-course testing requirement. Just 1 math exam (algebra I/integrated 1, or geometry/integrated II) would be required for class of 2013; both math exams (algebra I/integrated 1 and geometry/integrated II) required for class of 2014. ... DOES NOT address problem of students who will have to take the test a year or more after they took the course. The exams are supposed to be done immediately following the completion of a course.
  • STEM COORDINATION: Support for statewide STEM program coordination limited to "funds available."


HB 1330 - Adjusting high school assessments. Referred to House Education

  • DELAYS HIGH SCHOOL MATH ASSESSMENTS to 2016: Since coursework and tests may not align, end-of-course exams in math would not be required for graduation until 2015; end-of-course exams in science would not be required for graduation until 2016. Cites public emergency as rationale. (Districts too stressed to ensure content aligns with tests.) 
  • DOES NOT address problem of ALL students who will have to take the test a year or more after they took the course, but would accommodate MOST. The exams are supposed to be done immediately following the completion of a course. This bill would accommodate this year's 8th-graders taking algebra I/integrated I. Would not accommodate 8th-graders already in geometry/integrated II. 


HB 1410 / SB 5226, companion bills. This is "OSPI's science bill." HB 1410 Referred to House Education. SB 5226 heard in Senate Early Learning and K12 on MONDAY, Jan. 24.

  •  PUSHES BACK SCIENCE ASSESSMENT: Biology requirement, 2017. Biology or physical science, 2018. Biology, physical science or integrated science, 2019. Most students take biology, and most do so as freshmen or sophomores. This would require everyone in the class of 2017 to take biology; would not force any student to take the exam a year or more after completing the course.
  • Biology test would be administered this year; just would not count for graduation until 2017.
  • AP EXAM ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATIVE: Must get 3 or higher. Biology, chemistry, environmental science or physics.
  • Includes language for COMMON CORE and test development with Common Core states.


HB 1412 / SB 5227, companion bills. This is "OSPI's math bill." HB 1410 referred to House Education. SB 5227 to be heard in Senate Early Learning and K12 on MONDAY, Jan. 24.

  • PHASES IN math requirement. Class of 2013 would have to pass just one math assessment (algebra 1/integrated math 1, or geometry/integrated math II). Class of 2014 would have to pass both.
  • DOES NOT address problem of students who will have to take the test a year or more after they took the course. The exams are supposed to be done immediately following the completion of a course. This would not accommodate current 10th-graders who took geometry in 8th or 9th grade. HOWEVER, those 10th-graders have to take some sort standardized test anyway, for federal annual yearly progress requirements.


HB 1463 - Eliminates use of statewide assessments as high school graduation requirements. Cites burden on school districts and costs of assessments. Referred to House Education.


Priority 3 - Literacy ... SMALL STEPS
Funding kept in third supplemental budget that marginally helps early literacy - handbook for dyslexia and training to implement findings of dyslexia pilot; also grants for reading corps (open to schools that use the research-based programs we are advocating for.)

Phonological awareness screening is included in kindergarten readiness assessment that is part of WA Kids and that would be required of schools receiving intervention grants.

The biggest challenge here is that even though model programs have been developed, piloted and proven (dating back more than a decade), schools are not universally using the materials and techniques, and teachers and principals still lack basic understanding of early literacy learning.

Bright hope: The Department of Early Learning and its focus on kindergarten readiness and assessments, as well as its work on a pre-K to grade 3 continuum. Their work includes the specific steps we want, AND gives structured whole child support. Our K-3 system must provide the instruction struggling learners need, or the work of DEL will be negated.


Priority 4 - Reduction in Force (layoffs) ... Partner bills introduced this week: HB 1609, SB 5399
Our position is simply that districts should consider traits other than JUST seniority when districts have to make the difficult choice of deciding who to keep in the classroom and who to let go.

These companion bills require that teachers with the lowest evaluation ratings be laid off first, or technically that their contracts would be the first not to be renewed. It also has a clause for mutual consent – both principal and teacher would have to agree to a placement. This could come into play if a school was closed, or if it went through a transformation process that forced displacement of staff. If districts opted to negotiate it, they could give non-placed  teachers  a 6-month assignment as a substitute or in central district support. If they were not permanently placed by the end of 6 months, they would be let go.


Priority 5 - Fund Education First ... BILL INTRODUCED. HB 1415
This bill would require the legislature to budget for education (both the basic program and any state-funded enhancements) before anything else. Would begin in the 2013-15 biennium. Requires amendment to state constitution. Referred to H Ways and Means.


Priority 6 - New model for teacher compensation. COMING ALONG.
Work here is dependent on the new evaluation systems that are being piloted. That work, in turn, is a detailed process. It is advancing, however, and HB 1443 provides for continuing the work. FYI: WSPTA is part of the steering committee for the evaluation pilot.


Other bills that may interest advocates:

Bullying - HB 1163, modifies 43.06B RCW 
Requires the offices of the education ombudsman and the superintendent of public instruction to convene an ongoing work group on school bullying and harassment prevention. Requires the state board for community and technical colleges and the higher education coordinating board to compile and analyze policies and procedures adopted by community and technical colleges or four-year institutions of higher education, as appropriate, regarding harassment, intimidation, and bullying prevention.

HB 1414 - School districts can opt out of state rules. Referred to H education
Local school districts can waive state requirements under 28A RCW for up to 2 years, then would need to go through public process again.

  • Can't waive rules regarding employee's legal rights (including contractual)
  • Can't waive rules regarding civil rights, special education, privacy and nondiscrimination laws
  • Can't waive rules regarding basic education or state assessments
  • Rules that can be waived will be published annually, by Aug. 1

HB 1447 - Encouraging innovation in public schools. Referred to H Education

  • Creates the school innovation program to foster change in the public school system.
  • Requires the office of the superintendent of public instruction to: (1) Develop a process for schools and school districts to apply to participate in the school innovation program; and (2) Select no more than ten school innovation pilot projects.
  • Authorizes the state board of education and the superintendent of public instruction to grant waivers of certain statutes and rules for pilot projects in the school innovation program.
  • Requires the quality education council to: (1) Assist the office of the superintendent of public instruction in the development of the application process and the review and selection of pilot projects for the school innovation program; and (2) Assist the office of the superintendent of public instruction and the state board of education in the development of criteria for waivers of statutes or rules for the pilot projects.
  • Creates the school innovation program account. 
  • Provides a June 30, 2020, expiration for the act.
  • Would let districts waive program requirements for special ed, LAP and bilingual. 


Thank you so much for your involvement. PLEASE stay engaged with your legislators and remind them continually of our priorities, and more importantly of student needs. Being able to connect legislators to the homefront is one of our association’s advocacy strengths.

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