Archive for Education

Senate hears from public on plan that sets 2018 deadline for funding education

By | February 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Senate Ways and Means Committee heard public testimony this week on the Senate’s education funding plan, which has a later deadline than a House funding plan to fix the state’s problem with an overreliance on school levies.

Nearly all those who testified were opposed to Senate Bill 6195, which requires legislative action to be taken by 2018 to “reform” school district levies. That’s in contrast to the House education funding plan, which calls for eliminating reliance on levies by 2017.

Watch TVW video of the hearing here.

Ben Rarick of the State Board of Education testified in opposition to the bill, saying it doesn’t strengthen an education funding plan that was already “pretty weak to begin with.” He said at this point, it may not matter if the bill is passed or not.

“When the court imposed $100,000-per-day fines and found the Legislature in contempt, we thought that that would generate a sense of urgency coming into the short session,” he said.  “At this point, we would urge you to not pass the bill, or to go back and pass something that truly is a robust response to what we know are the needs of our system.”

Care Maree Harper testifying in opposition to Senate bill.

Care Maree Harper testifying in opposition to Senate bill.

Care Maree Harper, president of Endeavour Elementary School Parent Teacher Student Association in Issaquah, commended lawmakers for “working toward a solution.”

But she still spoke in opposition to the bill, saying schools need the funding now. She said her son’s school relies on outside funding for basic items.

“This year alone, our PTSA has given over $35,000 to our school for items that should be part of basic education funding,” she said. “And that includes over $17,000 for an early reading and intervention program.”

She said those items should be part of the state’s basic education funding, but instead they came out of the “pockets of the parents.”

Charlie Brown with the Puget Sound Schools Alliance testified as “other” at the hearing. He told members if they adopt this bill, they should also adopt a another bill that delays a decrease in the levy lid by another year.

“We would ask you to move the levy cliff by that one year so it’s consistent with the work that you all will be doing as you move forward on trying to resolve the McCleary decision,” he said.

He said failure to act on the so-called “levy cliff” will impact districts across Washington to the “tune of about $92 million.”

Categories: Education, TVW, WA Senate

Students press for access to more open ed resources to keep down cost of textbooks

By | February 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

On a day deemed “textbook day,” lawmakers considered four new bills that aim to keep down the cost of college textbooks at a hearing of the House Committee on Higher Education last week.

Some changes would be minor — changing course descriptions to include the cost of materials — while others use grants or tax incentives to encourage the use of more open educational resources on college campuses. Open educational resources are those that can downloaded by anyone and used for free — a PDF of a textbook or assignment, for example.

Supporters of the effort say the bills are necessary because students are paying around $825 a year for textbooks, according to the Washington Financial Aid Association. Some studies put that number even higher, at $1,200 a year.

Here’s a look at the bills and the testimony they received:

House Bill 2686 sponsored by Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington:

  • Encourages community and technical colleges to develop degrees or certificates that only use open educational materials. This effort would be funded by grants through the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
  • Expands and promote the Open Course Library at community colleges through grants from the State Board. Materials at the library are free or can be paired with low-cost textbooks under $30.
  • Requires community and technical colleges to revise their catalogs by fall of 2016 to show which courses use open educational materials.
  • Promotes access to open educational resources at four-year institutions through grants from the Student Achievement Council.

Melissa Gombosky with the Association of American Publishers said she was concerned about the focus of this bill as well as the others dealing with open educational resources. She said the effort would “shortchange” students by focusing on cost, not quality.

“We know that just because something is free it might not necessarily be better, and in some cases it certainly could be worse,” she said. “Our companies work hard to address the issue of quality and affordability. They compete against one and other in a very robust marketplace.”

She said textbook publishers already offer cheaper alternatives to traditional books – including digital and online options and student discount programs.

That point was later refuted by Anna Nepomuceno, the legislative liaison for Associated Students at UW Tacoma. She said that studies show a majority of professors either saw no difference in quality of the open resources or, in fact, preferred them.

House Bill 2680 sponsored by  Rep. Melanie Stambaugh, R-Puyallup:

  • Awards up to 100 grants per year to faculty members to create or adopt free educational tools for students at four-year universities. The grants fund the creation of Open Educational Resources so students won’t have to pay for their textbooks or other class materials.
Students wait to testify at the hearing.

Students wait to testify at the hearing.

Tacoma Community College student My’kyeke Cheatham testified in favor of the bill. He said he pays for his own tuition and materials, but dropped a course recently where cost of materials would have reached $400 to $500.

Nepomuceno said this was the bill her peers were most passionate about. She said community colleges already have open educational resources programs, and it’s time for four-year colleges to have one as well.

“We pay three times the tuition rates and right now there are more low-income students going to four-year institutions,” she said. (more…)

House passes Breakfast After the Bell program, 69-28

By | January 28, 2016 | 0 Comments

The House passed a bill off the floor Wednesday that requires certain schools to provide students with breakfast after the beginning of the school day.

Rep. Mark Hargrove, R-Covington, said the bill is unnecessary and thinks there are better ways to spend the $2.6 million needed to implement the program. He said he has visited schools in Kent and Auburn that are running their own breakfast programs without a cost to the state. In Auburn, students are “eating away and doing their assignments” he said.

“Everyone knows that our kids need to be fed,” Hargrove said. “The question is, is this the bill to do it?”

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 1.13.02 PMRep. Sharon Santos, D-Seattle, voted yes on the bill and addressed concerns about the cost.

She said the bill is paying for grants for “cash-strapped” schools that wish to implement the Breakfast After the Bell program, but cannot afford it otherwise.

“This is one small way the state can say we can help you fulfill the promise we have collectively made to our students,” she said.

The bill passed 69 to 28. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Watch TVW video of the floor debate here.

Categories: Education

Community college would be free under ‘Washington Promise’ proposal

By | January 21, 2016 | 0 Comments

Democratic lawmakers announced a proposal this week that would provide students with free tuition at any two-year institution in Washington.

The program, called “Washington Promise,” aims to increase community and technical college enrollment by offering free tuition to those who may not qualify for existing financial aid. It was introduced by three Democratic Senators from Seattle, including Sen. Pramila Jayapal.

“The Washington Promise is different in that it provides certainty for anybody, regardless of their age, to go to community college,” she said. “And it also ensures that we are capturing those folks in the middle class who may not qualify for our really excellent programs.”

Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, speaks at the announcement for the Washington Promise.

Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, speaks at the announcement for the Washington Promise.

At a press conference on Tuesday, lawmakers said they hoped the program would increase enrollment by up to nine percent at two-year colleges.

Any full or part-time student who does not have a degree already would be eligible for the program. Students could also receive a stipend to cover the cost of books and fees depending on their family income.

Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, noted that people would likely still have to work, even with the stipend. The program would cover students for up to four years, or until the completion of 120 credits.

“We view this as a new middle class compact. We want people who are just on the edge to be moving into the middle class — and the way to do that is to give them as much opportunity for as much education attainment as we can give them,” he said. “There are a lot of people who are not rich and not poor who are going to be helped by this.”

The cost for this program was estimated at $100 to $125 million to implement. The unanswered question at this point is how they plan to pay for it. Jayapal said they were waiting to discuss funding.

“We haven’t identified a funding source yet. I think what we need to do is talk about how important this is and then find the money for it,” she said. “When the tuition reduction program was rolled out we didn’t talk right away where the money was coming from.”

No official legislation has been filed as of Jan. 20, but the legislators said Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner had agreed to co-sponsor the bill, and that they’re working to gain more bipartisan support.

Watch video of the press conference here.

Senate passes charter school bill, 27-20

By | January 20, 2016 | 0 Comments

A bill to keep charter schools open in Washington passed off the Senate floor Wednesday over objections from several lawmakers who say the state should be focusing on its McCleary obligation to fully fund public schools.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled last year that charter schools do not qualify for public money from the general fund because they are not “common schools” governed by an elected school board.

“This bill agrees with that ruling,” said Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, the prime sponsor of tvwminidocs2Senate Bill 6194.

The bill changes the definition and funding source of charter schools to comply with the court. Charter schools would no longer be defined as “common,” and they would be paid for by the Lottery-funded Washington Opportunity Pathways Account.

We have to make sure that those kids in charter schools have the opportunity to get the education that everybody does,” Litzow said. “This is one step there.”

Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, also urged passage of the bill, saying it will give certainty to charter school students who want to stay in their schools. “These are real students with real families,” he said. 

Opponents of the bill say the state should not be prioritizing charter schools at a time it is facing an education funding crisis in its public schools.

“We can’t substitute a solution for 1,200 kids in charter schools when we haven’t had a real discussion about how we address the one million kids around the state,” said Sen. Pramila Jayapal, D- Seattle.

Democratic Sen. Bob Hasegawa of Seattle said the bill “sends the wrong message” on the first day of floor action in the Senate. He said charter schools are draining public money to provide a “private benefit to a select few.”

The bill passed with a vote of 27-20 and now heads to the House for consideration.

Watch TVW video of the floor debate here.

Categories: Education, WA Senate

On ‘The Impact:’ More on the early prisoner release, House higher ed priorities

By | January 19, 2016 | 0 Comments
Host Anita Kissée speaks with Senate Law and Justice Chair Mike Padden and Vice Chair Steve O’Ban.

Host Anita Kissée speaks with Senate Law and Justice Chair Mike Padden and Vice Chair Steve O’Ban.

This week on “The Impact,” a follow-up on the Department of Corrections error that released over 3,000 Washington prisoners early. Plus, a closer look at House Higher Education Committee’s goals for the short session.

Host Anita Kissée interviews Republican Senators Mike Padden and Steve O’Ban about their disappointment with how the governor has handled the investigation of the error and their decision to seek subpoena power to investigate on their own.

The Department of Corrections released a video earlier this week detailing how the additional time was calculated under the error — watch it here.

The show also details the governor’s response to their complaints — and his reasoning behind hiring two third-party investigators to look into the mistake.

More information about the prisoners under investigation and the 107 prisoners identified for return to custody is available here.

Also on the show: House Higher Education Committee Chair Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, and Ranking Minority Member Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, will discuss their legislative priorities for the session and how the state is handling tuition cuts.

“The Impact” airs Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 7 & 10 p.m.

Senate committee holds public hearing on education funding bill

By | January 19, 2016 | 0 Comments

The public weighed in on Monday on an education funding plan drafted by a bipartisan work group that aims to fix the state’s problem with local school levies by 2017.  Lawmakers also heard public testimony on two bills that would make adjustments to school levy lids during Monday’s hearing of the Senate Early Learning and K–12 Education Committee.

Watch TVW video of the hearing here.

The education funding plan, Senate Bill 6195, spends $500,000 on consultants to collect data on school staff compensation and local levies across the state. It creates a formal task group to continue work on the education funding plan, and commits to ending local levy reliance by 2017.

Sen. Christine Rolfes, D­–Bainbridge Island, said Democrats and Republicans came together to “craft each sentence” of the bill. The end result is a “pretty big set of compromises among all four caucuses,” she said.

“It’s been referred to as a ‘plan for a plan,’ we like to call it a plan for coming to a solution,” Rolfes said. “But even among eight of us there were tremendous differences and ideas for moving forward, and the bill represents a foundation for what we could agree on.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.48.21 PMAmong the critics of the plan was Asher Ravona, a third grader from Seattle. He urged lawmakers not to procrastinate on their “homework,” likening the bill to his own procrastination of his school work.

“While you put your homework off, I and a million other kids have to face the consequences,” he said. “My lunch is too short. I only have 15 minutes to eat because the building is over crowed and has five lunch periods. I have recess on a parking lot because the school does not have a real playground.”

Michael Muto, the parent of two public school children, told the committee he wasn’t convinced more research was needed.  He said the the plan needed to be more specific about where lawmakers will get the revenue to pay for basic education.

“I’m grateful you are all still at the table,” he said.  “But the conversation needs to elevate to where the revenue is going to be coming from.”

Dan Grimm, testifying on behalf of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, said that the Superintendent opposes the bill because it “creates the appearance of action,” while not actually funding basic education. He said funding should have been addressed years before now.

“The problem is not a lack of data, but a lack of leadership,” Grimm said.

Alan Burke of the Washington State School Directors says he supports the bill, but that lawmakers are making the problem worse by spending a year collecting data. “The bite you take next year is going to be bigger than if you had done it a year ago,” he said.

The Washington Supreme Court is holding the state in contempt with a $100,000-a-day fine for failing to come up with a plan to fully fund education.

The committee also heard public testimony Monday on two bills that deal with school levy lids. Under Senate Bill 6183, school district levy lids would remain at 28 percent until 2020. Starting 2021, those lids would be reduced by one percent per year until 2024.

A second measure, Senate Bill 6353­, extends the 28 percent levy lid for one year. It would immediately decrease to 24 percent in year starting in 2019.

Sen. Ann Rivers, R­–La Center, is the prime sponsor of the second bill. She said the reason she introduced the measure “was not because I don’t believe that we aren’t going to get there. I absolutely do think we will get done, but I do think there are school districts that need the certainty to know that they will taken care of.” (more…)

Categories: Education

Republican response to Gov. Inslee’s State of the State

By | January 13, 2016 | 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 10.38.36 AMRepublican Sen. Jan Angel of Port Orchard responded to Gov. Jay Inslee’s State for the State on Tuesday, saying she agrees with steps made toward education, transportation investment, “unlocking family wage jobs,” and progress on the mental health system. Watch the TVW video of her response here.

“These huge strides came hand-in-hand with a recovering economy,” she said. “That’s why we resisted the governor’s efforts to create new taxes which would only strangle a reviving economy.”

Angel criticized the governor’s supplemental budget plan, which calls for spending additional money hiring and retaining teachers.

“Every year, the governor seems to ignore state laws that require our budgets to balance over four years,” she said. “Sending a wish list of spending ideas to the Legislature without a sustainable way to pay for them fails to accept the reality of governing.”

She concluded with saying the Republicans will focus this year on restoring charter schools, maintaining a long-term budget and refusing new taxes.

Republican leaders also commented on the governor’s speech at a press conference.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said this is the first time he’s seen a governor politicize the State Investment Board. Inslee asked the board to exercise its voting authority to reduce the widening pay gap between CEOs and workers.

“I hope that the independent members of the State Investment Board dismiss this as election year politics,” Schoesler said. “We need to stick to investing and stay out of politics.”

Schoesler also took aim at the governor’s plan to hire as many as 7,000 new teachers, saying Washington schools are only producing about a 1,000 teaching graduates each year. “Even if we did have the money, they may not be readily available,” he said.

House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen addressed the mistakes that lead to the early release of over 3,00 prisoners, saying that there needs to be accountability. He claimed that information provided by the governor’s office shows that two governor’s administrations knew about the DOC computer error starting in 2002 and 2012.

“The information that we received was that it was made known to administration in 2002,” he said.

The governor’s spokeswoman Jaime Smith responded to the claim,  saying “The King decision in 2002 was when DOC made the original changes in their system. I’m not sure if/what prior Administrations knew about the sequencing error resulting in the miscalculation, but our understanding is that 2012 is when the victim’s family brought it to DOC’s attention. We were aware of it last month.”

Watch Republican press conference here.

 

Legislators lay out plan for education funding

By | January 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

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Lawmakers released an education funding plan on Friday that they say will act as a framework as they attempt to fix the state’s overreliance on local levies.

House Bill 2366 and Senate Bill 6195 were signed by all but two members of the bipartisan work group convened to address the Washington Supreme Court’s contempt order against the state.

Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said the plan is a compromise. “We are an absolutely split legislative body right now,” Rolfes said at a legislative preview hosted by the Associated Press on Thursday. “So what we put forward has to necessarily reflect conservative values as well as progressive values.”

The plan directs lawmakers to:

-Gather school district data on how districts use levy funds.

-Commit to eliminating school district dependency on local levies by the end of 2017.

-Collect and analyze K-12 public school staff compensation data, including the source of funding.

-Establish a new task force to continue the work of the governor’s informal work group.

“I anticipate much of the legislative session will be spent discussing education funding,” said Sen. Ann Rivers, R–La Center. “This bill provides the framework that will allow the dialogue to begin in earnest. We are absolutely committed to addressing education issues in our state.”

Gov. Jay Inslee is optimistic about the plan, saying that the priority needs to be Washington students.

“I am pleased to see that the bipartisan group I convened was able to find common ground and develop a good foundation for answering the very difficult questions related to our next steps for financing K-12 education,” Inslee said.

Reps. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington said that the goal wasn’t necessarily to satisfy the courts but to figure out a “pathway forward to figure out the problem.”

“Our highest priory is to trying to find a way so that local levy dollars are not being used for basic ed purposes,” he said.

Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, said the goal is to “really tease out what portions of what districts are spending.”

The bill does not include a dollar amount of how much money is needed to fully fund education. Democrats say the number could be anywhere from $3 to $4 billion. The deadline to fully fund public schools 2018.

Categories: Education

Prefiled bills: Charter schools, ‘Redskins’ mascot, abortion funding and fireworks ban

By | January 6, 2016 | 0 Comments

With the legislative session beginning Monday, more than 70 bills have been prefiled in the House and Senate on topics ranging from public health to mascots. Here are some highlights so far.

Keeping charter schools open
Two state Senators from Spokane, Democrat Andy Billig and Republican Michael Baumgartner, are co-sponsoring a bill that would keep charter schools open following a September ruling by the Washington Supreme Court that deemed charter schools unconstitutional. The bill, SB 6163, addresses the court’s concern that charter schools are not under the control of a locally elected school board. The bill creates charter school districts within existing local school districts, making the charter schools accountable to an elected board and eligible for state funding for basic education. However, charter schools would still have some independent authority in managing their budget, staff and curriculum. Currently there are eight charter schools in Washington.

Banning “redskins” as a public school mascot
Democratic Rep. David Sawyer of Tacoma is the primary sponsor for HB 2306, a bill that would prevent Washington public schools from using the term “redskin” in the names of any organizations or clubs, or as the school or athletic mascot. The bill says the word is a “disparaging racial reference to Native American” that has no place in public schools. Currently, the only school using the word is Wellpinit High School in Wellpinit, Wash., a small town in the center of the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Restricting public funding for abortions
On Dec. 7, Republicans filed House Bill 2294, an act restricting the use of public funds for elective abortions. Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, is the primary sponsor, along with 19 Republican co-sponsors. The bill prevents the state from providing “benefits or services” for abortions, unless medically necessary. It also bans the state from distributing grants or funds to “any organization that provides elective abortions or is affiliated … with any organization that provides elective abortions.”

Summer fireworks ban
If HB 2310 is passed, Washington residents will have to forget the fireworks for Fourth of July. In an effort to prevent fires this summer, the bill prohibits “the sale, purchase, use, and discharge of consumer fireworks” from June 1 to Sept. 30 this year, with the bill expiring on Oct. 1, 2016. The bill would also ban unnecessary burning outdoors without a permit from June 1 to Sept. 30. Democrat Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, a firefighter from Sequim, is the primary sponsor of the bill.

Accommodating pregnant women in the workplace
If passed, Senate Bill 6149 would require employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” to pregnant employees. For example, the employer must provide more frequent bathroom breaks, provide places for the employee to sit, allow time off to recover from childbirth and temporarily modify work schedules or job duties. The bill’s primary sponsor is Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent.

Increasing the smoking age
At the request of Attorney General Bob Ferguson, SB 6157 would increase the legal age from 18 to 21 for purchasing tobacco and vapor products, including e-pipes and e-cigarettes. Democrat Rep. Tina Orwall and 16 co-sponsors have signed on to the companion bill in the House. Ferguson attempted to raise the smoking age last year, but the bills failed to pass. Some cities, including New York City have increased their smoking age to 21, and recently Hawaii became the first state to raise the age to 21.