Tuesday, February 25, 2014

E-Wire Special Morning Budget and Omnibus SB 6552 Edition

Good morning folks!

The PTA was out in force today testifying on behalf of Senate Bills being heard in the House Education Committee.  Priority bills for us include the Omnibus School Hour and Credit Reform Bill and Pathways for Special Education Students.  Several PTA members were in attendance to testify including President Gillette, Director Krainick, and Bellevue Special Needs PTA VP Sarah Butcher.  There was an uncommon amount of give and take in the hearing between the very engaged legislators and the members of the public testifying.  As a result, this was one of the better hearings in House Education and worth your time to listen in to when you get the chance.  Links will be posted here (6552).

The second big ticket item of the day was the release of the Senate Budget.  Some of the Capital Budget directive language to OSPI for school construction looks pretty well thought out – this is likely due to the fact that buried in the budget bill is $78 million that was left unspent in the School Construction Assistance Program.  The reason for this is that there were fewer projects that qualified for grant funding than anticipated.

WSDDA’s Marie Sullivan has a great analysis which we are including here.  House Budget is expected to be delivered later this week with a hearing by the end of the week.

Read more about the Senate Budget here, here, and here.

Jump below to read testimony by our PTA leaders on the Omnibus Bill...

Testimony by Heather Gillette:  Washington State PTA is here to testify in support of SB 6552 with some concerns which other members of this panel will address. 

Washington State PTA has worked alongside the legislature to implement the requirements of HB 2661 since 2009.

We are excited to support the policies outlined in this bill.  The CTE course equivalencies will provide a framework that allows more students who seek hands on learning to receive standardized course equivalencies in Science and Math.

In order to meet the CTE course equivalencies and the 24 credit diploma, the bill includes flexibility on the 1080 hour requirement.  The associated funding flexibility will allow our school districts to establish plans to make the 24 credit diploma a reality.  The policies addressed in this bill provide the framework for students to meet the requirements of a college and career ready 24 credit diploma preparing every student for the 21st century economy.
Testimony by Sarah Butcher:  My name is Sarah Butcher and I am a parent of three children with special needs and the VP of Advocacy for the Bellevue Special Needs PTA.  The Bellevue Special Needs PTA Board of Directors is in support of Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6552, but we do have some concerns.
The purpose of a high school diploma is to declare that a student is ready for success in post-secondary education, gainful employment, citizenship, and is equipped with the skills for lifelong learning.  Currently, only 57% of students in special education are graduating in four years.  According to the Seattle Center for Change in Transition Services, out of 2010-11 special education graduates, 36% were not engaged in employment of higher education one year after leaving high school.

There are barriers that exist in our education system that students in special education already face.  We absolutely support the need to ensure that students are working towards a meaningful diploma that prepares them for next steps after high school, whether it is college or career.  But, we know it will take intentional work to ensure that students with special needs have access to the important reforms being made.
It is time to begin to understand and resolve some of these issues.  We make some amazing promises to kids in this state and yet we know that many children do not have access to those promises.  Students with special needs are in all areas of our education system.  Disability does not discriminate between giftedness, ethnicity, or life circumstances.  If we can start to understand the barriers students with special needs face in our education system, we will positively impact all students.
Testimony by Director Krainick:  Thank you Madam Chair, members of the committee.  For the record, my name is Sherry Krainick.  I am the Legislative Director with Washington State PTA where we advocate to make every child’s potential a reality.   I am testifying in support of E2SSB 6552 with concerns regarding impacts on disadvantaged learners. 

Our concerns are twofold.  First, we are concerned that there is inadequate funding to provide the supports necessary for all students to meet the 24 credit framework by 2019, specifically students in Special Education, ELL, LAP, poverty and other students who fall into the Opportunity or Achievement Gaps.  We understand that the bill includes flexibility for districts to use the $97 million originally put toward the implementation of the 1080 hours for grades 9-12 and that districts may use those dollars to implement the 24 credit graduation requirement. However, we are concerned that this level of funding may not be adequate to support the needs of disadvantaged learners in attaining the 24 credit diploma by 2019, one year after the projected time line to reach full funding of basic education.

Secondly, Washington State PTA supports high standards and access to a 24 credit diploma for all students.  We have concerns that disadvantaged learners may also have challenges navigating the State Board of Education’s Course-Taking Requirements when required to attempt 24 credits in systems where only 24 credits are offered.  Many of our disadvantaged learners are required to take Academic Lab or other support classes that would only count as elective credits and thereby further limits their access to classes to complete the 24 credit diploma.  We would like to work with you to make sure that these students can access pathways that maintain the rigor intended in the 24 credit diploma with adequate flexibility to also access the supports that insure their school success.

Washington State PTA looks forward to working with you to enhance the language of the bill to provide adequate supports for all students to reach their potential through the 24 credit diploma.

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