Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another blow to basic education, funding


Set requirements below what most schools currently require

Dear advocates,

Yesterday afternoon a bill was heard that would redefine basic education to include only 18 credits and not the 24 in the college and career ready diploma outlined in 2009’s HB 2261.
The rolled-back definition in this new bill, HB 2411, was supported by the Washington Education Association (teachers union) and Washington State School Director Association (school board association).

It was sponsored by chair of the House Education Committee, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, and the House Appropriations Committee for K-12 and Higher Education, Rep. Kathy Haigh. Co-sponsors include representatives Hasegawa, Kenney, Upthegrove, McCoy, Hunt and Ormsby.

On behalf of our association I testified against this bill. Not only is implementing HB 2261’s redefinition of basic education our No. 1 priority, we have three WSPTA Resolutions that would be affected by this bill: HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION, COLLEGE PREPARATION AND ACCESS 18.19; THIRD CREDIT OF MATH GRADUATION REQUIREMENT 18.23; and MEANINGFUL HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA 18.24.

The expanded graduation requirements in the 2009’s landmark HB 2261 would give high school students a flexible schedule that accommodates the core curriculum they need for post-secondary study (trade, technical, apprenticeship or university) as well as electives so that students can explore their interests and find their passions. Having a schedule that allows students to include arts, music and physical education is important to our association, as is a schedule that allows a student to take both college prep courses and career and technical education courses. We don’t believe children should be tracked.

Finally, the 24-credit definition would better align state funding with local district need. If the state only pays for 18 credits, local communities will continue to turn to private fund-raising and ever-increasing local levies to pay for the additional credits our high schools already offer and require.

This bill, HB 2411, would undo years of WSPTA advocacy.

It has been an intense week in Olympia with committees doing double time to make up for cancelled hearings due to last week’s storm. At this point in the process, committees are considering various bills. By next week we will know which will move out of committee. They then go to the floor; if they pass the full House or Senate, they move to the appropriate committee of the opposite chamber and the process restarts.

In other words: Many bills have been filed and will be heard; but not many will move forward. But even if they don’t move forward, the various bills can give insight into what legislators are thinking and where various groups are focusing their efforts.

This effort to reject the redefinition of basic education and move away from the college and career ready diploma is troubling. Not only would it limit the experiences students would be offered, it perpetuates a K-12 system just found unconstitutional. Not only must this system be ample, it must be general and uniform.

Our vision is an equitable, well-funded K-12 system that gives all children a high quality, well-rounded education that both prepares them for life and gives them room to explore their passions.

My written testimony follows. As always, we encourage members to advocate for any or all of our positions.

To: House Education Committee
Re: HB 2411 - Regarding high school graduation requirements.

Dear Rep. Santos and committee members,

Fundamentally, Washington State PTA believes every child should have the opportunity to go to college. The 24-credit graduation requirement gets them there while also giving them space to explore through electives. And by “college,” we mean trade and technical schools as well as universities.

The focus of Washington State PTA for several years has been to align state policies and state funding to support a vision of a well-rounded basic education that can accommodate college prep AND the arts, PE and perhaps some CTE courses. We want youth to have the opportunity to take the classes that make them want to go to school while also ensuring they graduate with the skills and knowledge they need to both get into and excel in any post-secondary study or apprenticeship. 

And if they don’t choose to go to college, that’s fine. It’s all about opportunities.

Options to accommodate all learners
Testimony from one panel of speakers on Tuesday suggested limiting courses would help focus students who might otherwise stray. A way to accommodate students who might fit this profile is to encourage districts to be flexible in how they define a credit. For instance, if districts allow a single course to satisfy multiple requirements, then schools could accommodate a four-class day. Or, districts could adopt the college model and allow electives to be taken as pass/no pass. That way students could focus their afterschool study on the core courses, keep their GPAs up, and still explore electives to find their passion.

If allowed to be creative and flexible, there are many ways school districts could accommodate our diverse range of learners. But limiting options and cutting back on class offerings isn’t the way forward. Moving to 18 credits would mean districts would get even less money to cover basic education. Those who wanted to fund their existing 19-, 20- or 24-credit requirements would have to continue relying on private fund-raising and levies. This is the system we have now – the one the state supreme court just ruled was unconstitutional.

The state is required to not only amply fund children’s education, but to provide a general and uniform system of public schools. We believe that system should give all children an enriching course of study that enables them to graduate ready for college or career. Please continue to support the framework adopted in 2009’s HB 2261. Please do NOT redefine basic education to give kids less.


Ramona Hattendorf
Government relations coordinator
Washington State PTA
As always, members are encouraged to advocate for any or all the issues on our legislative platform; staff will devote the most time and resources to the higher ranked issues.  2012 legislative platform.

House Education Committee'

No comments:

Post a Comment