Archive for Education

Washington Supreme Court won’t reconsider charter school ruling

By | November 20, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington Supreme Court released an order Thursday saying it will not reconsider its September ruling invalidating the state’s charter school law.

The court ruled Sept. 4 that charter schools are unconstitutional and cannot receive public money because they are not “common schools” governed by elected school boards. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and a number of other charter school advocates asked the court to reconsider.

Voters approved charter schools through a 2012 initiative. Nine charter schools are open in Washington.

Read the court order here.

Hours before the Supreme Court released its order on Thursday, dozens of charter school students, parents and administrators appeared before a state Senate committee asking for legislation that would allow the schools to continue operating in Washington.

Several students told legislators at a Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing that they are excelling in charter school.

Katie Wilton, a ninth grader at Summit Olympus in Tacoma, said she was “shocked and devastated” to learn her school could be shut down. “We must fix this mess,” she said.

Other students said they appreciate the racial and cultural diversity in charter schools, the flexible learning environment and supportive teachers. Administrators for Summit said they pay their teachers slightly above the public school rate for that district and provide annual four percent pay raises.

TVW taped the hearing. It will be posted at this link.

TVW releases new short documentary about school levies, teacher compensation

By | October 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

Over the past 30 years, school districts in Washington have become increasingly reliant on local levies to pay for costs that the Washington Supreme Court says should be covered by the state — including teacher salaries and basic education.

This 16-minute short documentary produced by TVW looks at how a school in the Highline school district is affected by an overreliance on local levies.

Categories: Education, Schools, tax, TVW

Gov. Inslee convenes McCleary workgroup, raises possibility of special session

By | September 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee is convening a legislative workgroup this month focused on McCleary in an attempt to end the state Supreme Court’s $100,000-a-day fine against the state for being in contempt of the court’s order to fully fund basic education.

If the group can reach agreement by late November — when the Legislature returns to Olympia for Assembly Days — Inslee said in a letter to lawmakers that he will call a special session. Regular session begins in January.

Inslee said the workgroup will focus solely on the McCleary decision, saying it is not the “place to debate charter schools.” The state Supreme Court recently struck down a voter-approved law allowing up to 40 charter schools to operate in the state.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Friday his office would file a motion for reconsideration with the state Supreme Court for the charter school case.

Inslee noted that charter schools will remain open for the school year with private funds, adding that he doesn’t believe a special session is needed to address the charter school law.

“I opposed the initiative that created charter schools because I did not believe that public money belongs in schools that lack public oversight and accountability,” Inslee wrote.

“My focus will remain on basic education,” he said.

The McCleary workgroup will meet Sept. 24 in SeaTac and includes members of the four caucuses, including Sen. Doug Ericksen and Sen. Ann Rivers, Sen. Christine Rolfes, Sen. Andy Billig, Rep. Pat Sullivan, Rep. Kristine Lytton, Rep. Chad Magendanz and Rep. Norma Smith.

Charter School Commission to wind down, seek legislative fix to court ruling

By | September 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

In the wake of the Washington Supreme Court decision that struck down the state’s charter school law, the state commission that oversees charter schools will begin a “wind down” process while also exploring its legal options.

The Washington State Charter School Commission called a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Sept. 4 court decision that found that charter schools are unconstitutional and cannot receive public money because they are not “common schools” governed by elected school boards.

Members of the commission unanimously agreed Wednesday to begin a “statutory wind down process.” The commission was created by Initiative 1240, the charter school law passed by voters in 2012 that paved the way for Washington to open up to 40 charter schools within five years.

It also adopted a resolution directing its staff to work with the state Attorney General’s office to explore legal options that allow charter schools to remain open for a year, giving the Legislature time to find a legislative fix.

“We have legal responsibilities we need to carry out and we need to do it thoughtfully at this time,” said commission chair Steve Sundquist, who said he was “deeply disappointed” in the ruling.

Executive director Joshua Halsey also recommended the commission adopt an official position calling on the governor and lawmakers to find a legislative fix to the court ruling, either in special session or the regular session that begins in January.

All nine of the state’s charter schools said Tuesday they would stay open for a year by relying on private funds.

‘Legislative Year in Review’ recaps the extended 2015 session

By | July 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

The state Legislature adjourned on July 10 after a record-setting 176 days. In this hour-long edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights of the significant bills that passed — and failed to pass — during the regular and overtime sessions.

Lawmakers narrowly avoided a state government shutdown by passing a two-year operating budget that was signed into law just before midnight on June 30 by Gov. Jay Inslee. But the session didn’t end there. Senate leaders were drawn into an additional week of negotiations after a debate in the chamber over Initiative 1351, a class size reduction initiative passed by voters that came with a $2 billion price tag.

Senate Democrats and Republicans eventually reached a deal to delay implementation of the class size initiative for four years, while also suspending a new high school biology graduation requirement for two years. That agreement allows nearly 2,000 high school seniors who failed the exam this year to earn a diploma.

As part of the overall budget, college students will get a tuition cut and additional money will be funneled into early education and preschool with the Early Start Act.

Lawmakers also passed a $16 billion transportation package funded by a 11.9-cent gas tax increase that pays for projects across the state — marking the first time in a decade the state has made a significant investment in transportation infrastructure.

Also on the show: We recap debate over several bills that passed this year, including an oil train safety measure, an involuntary commitment bill known as Joel’s law, medical marijuana reform, the establishment of a new Washington State University medical school and a gun notification bill known as the Sheena Henderson Act.

Plus, details about the bills that generated heated debate but failed to pass — including the creation of a new type of payday loan, a proposed $12-an-hour statewide minimum wage, restrictions on initiative signature-gathering and eliminating personal exemptions for vaccines.

“Legislative Year in Review” airs at 6 and 11 p.m. every night on TVW through July 19. Or watch the show online below:

Senate reaches deal on Initiative 1351, high school biology exams

By | July 8, 2015 | 0 Comments

Senate Democrats and the Majority Coalition Caucus have reached a deal on two key education issues that pave the way for the Legislature to adjourn the third special session.

The agreement reached Wednesday morning suspends the state’s high school biology graduation requirement for two years, according to a press release.

About 2,000 students failed the biology test in the first year it has been required to graduate high school. The Democrat-controlled House three times passed House Bill 2214 eliminating the graduation requirement, but the measure was not taken up by the Republican-majority Senate.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Democratic Rep. Chris Reykdal, said in a statement the deal is “excellent news” for the thousands of students who can now attend college or pursue careers. “I’m happy for the 2,000 seniors who will receive their diplomas, but this compromise only delays a serious problem that must be fixed,” he said.

A new bill suspending the requirement for two years must pass both chambers.

The Senate also agreed to delay Initiative 1351, a class size reduction measure passed by voters last year that is estimated to cost $2 billion in the current budget cycle. The budget signed on June 30 by Gov. Jay Inslee does not include funding for the measure. Without action by the Legislature, it would leave a $2 billion hole in the operating budget.

The House passed House Bill 2266 suspending Initiative 1351 for four years until 2019. Several Senate Democrats voted against the bill in a 5 a.m. floor debate, and it failed to garner the two-thirds majority required to alter an initiative.

The Senate will meet Thursday afternoon to vote on the biology exam bill and the measure delaying Initiative 1351, as well as “any other bills necessary to complete its work,” according to the caucuses.

TVW will carry the debate live.

Categories: Budget, Education

House again passes bill to eliminate high school biology test graduation requirement

By | June 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

The state House passed a bill Thursday to remove a biology test from the state’s high school graduation requirements in an effort to provide diplomas to nearly 2,000 students who did not pass the test this year.

The class of 2015 is the first class required to pass the biology test or an alternative to graduate.

“This is so much bigger than a biology test,” said Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater. He said the state loses out on $370,000 in lifetime earnings each time a student fails to obtain a high school diploma.

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, spoke against the bill, saying the state should not back away from its school reforms.

“I’m worried that as we retreat from some of these requirements, we’re not holding students accountable,” Orcutt said. “Accountable for learning, accountable for preparing themselves to be ready to go into the world and be successful.”

House Bill 2214 passed 83 to 6, and now heads to the Senate. The bill also passed during the first special session, but did not advance in the Senate before the Legislature adjourned for the second special session.

Republican Sen. Steve Litzow, who chairs the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, released a statement saying the bill is “not a good lesson for our children.”

“Lowering standards is a poor excuse for a decades-long failure to create an education system that works for everyone,” Litzow said.

Earlier in the day, Reykdal and Rep. David Taylor held a press conference to draw attention to the issue. High school student Jesus Celes from Franklin Pierce School District is one of the 2,000 students who did not pass the biology exam this year.

“Not only for me, but for my classmates, we all work hard and just to see this thing holding us back is heartbreaking for me,” Celes said.

Watch the press conference below:

Categories: Education

New $3.5 billion proposal aims to reduce reliance on local school levies

By | June 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

Paying competitive salaries for teachers and school employees would be the full responsibility of the state — not local school districts — under a new bill introduced by a bipartisan group of legislators on Thursday.

The proposal would cost $3.5 billion over four years starting in 2018, and would not move forward without a dedicated revenue source attached. Lawmakers at a press conference Thursday say an agreement on the price tag shows a significant step forward, but work still needs to be done to find a way to pay for it.

School districts across the state are currently using a large chunk of their local property tax levy money to pay salaries — as much as 70 percent of local levy dollars in some districts.

Senate Bill 6130 aims to reduce that reliance on local levies to address concerns raised by the Washington Supreme Court in the McCleary decision, which ruled the state was not meeting its duty to fully fund basic education.

The bill changes the definition of basic education to include competitive, market-based statewide salaries for school employees. The salaries would be reviewed periodically.

However, the salary provisions would only take effect if a revenue source is enacted by January 1, 2018 that generates enough money to pay for the increased salaries. The bill says that the state budget should not be cut to make up the additional revenue.

“The average teacher in Federal Way is paid $10,000 less than a teacher in Auburn next door,” said Sen. Bruce Dammeier. He said the bill is an attempt to make a “rational system that works across Washington,” with the goal of providing an equal education for all students.

Sen. Christine Rolfes said some teachers would receive salary increases under the bill, while other school districts would still have to use a portion of levy dollars to make up the difference. All school districts would see a “significant increase” in funding under the bill, she said.

The bill is scheduled for a public hearing Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. TVW will carry the hearing live at this link.

Legislators at the press conference Thursday acknowledged the bill was unlikely to advance during the current special session. The press conference will be posted at this link.

Categories: Education, TVW

Inslee criticizes Republican school levy swap proposal

By | April 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

With special session a certainty after the end of the 2015 regular session, Gov. Jay Inslee called on budget negotiators to compromise on revenue proposals to come to an agreement on the state’s 2015-17 biennial operating budget.

However, Inslee criticized a proposal by Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, that would increase funding for schools through a change in the school levy system.

Dammeier’s plan would increase the statewide levy for schools, and would replace local levy money being used for salaries and compensation with state money. Local school levy amounts would be reduced dollar for dollar. The concept is often called a “levy swap.”

Dammeier says the change would be revenue neutral statewide. However, critics, including Inslee and Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, say that Dammeier’s proposal would raise taxes in counties with high property values — such as King County — by up to $500.

Both Inslee and Ranker have capital gains tax proposals to increase state revenue. Ranker unveiled his proposal earlier this month for a 7 percent capital gains tax that would apply to gains higher than $250,000 for single taxpayer (or $500,000 per couple) and would not apply to primary homes.

Inslee called Ranker’s plan more equitable.

“I have a hard time seeing why Republicans want to increase taxes on 50 percent of the people when we could solve this problem by taxing less than 1 percent of the people — and the less than 1 percent of the people are doing pretty well in our new economy that we have,” Inslee said.

Earlier this week at a press conference with other Republican leaders, Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, addressed that criticism of Dammeier’s plan by saying reform of the school levy system will be an ongoing process.

“Sen. Dammeier’s done a great job looking at this at different levels — at the state level, at the school district level, at the teacher level — what does it do for teachers and at the taxpayer level,” he said. “In a state where you do tax reform, it takes that kind of careful analysis to get it done right. And poking at draft one or the original run of the numbers doesn’t help the process.”

However, Inslee said Thursday criticized the notion that people with high-value homes always make a lot of money.

“If we are going to ask people to contribute more for the schools, it’s not fair to put the burden on working people who are struggling to make their house payments,” Inslee said.

Lawmakers in both parties this month said the state needs to focus on levy reform as a way to address the state Supreme Court’s requirements to increase the reliance of basic school funding on the state in the McCleary decision. But Inslee told reporters on Thursday he believed that aim could be reached through raising revenue by other means.

Click through to watch Inslee’s press conference: (more…)

Frustrated with Legislature, Randy Dorn unveils OSPI K-12 plan

By | April 14, 2015 | 0 Comments

Randy DornFrustrated with the House, Senate and governor’s proposals to fund K-12 education, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn unveiled an OSPI funding plan for K-12 on Tuesday.

Dorn’s plan decreases class sizes not only in kindergarten through third grade, but also grades 4 through 12. However, it does not decrease class sizes as much as in voter approved Initiative 1351.

The plan also calls for statewide collective bargaining for teachers with regional adjustments and stretches out the deadline for full funding by 2018 to 2021. The 2018 deadline was court-ordered after the state lost the McCleary school funding lawsuit.

Dorn said he is suggesting the time extension partly because there may not be enough teachers available to hire to fill the staffing gap.

“It’s not just do you have teachers, but are they quality teachers?” he said. “I don’t just want a teacher in front of every kid. I want a quality teacher in front of every student,” Dorn said.

He also called for changes to the school levy system. Many school districts use local voter-approved levies to fund teacher salaries and other basic needs, as well as for other programs and activities that enhance schools.

Some districts have a harder time passing operating levies than other districts, and not all districts have equal limits on how high the levies can be.

Dorn says those differences put students in richer districts at an educational advantage over those in poorer districts.

“I believe this is a civil rights issue,” Dorn said.

Dorn’s plan increases K-12 statewide spending by $2.2 billion in the 2015-17 biennium, which is a greater increase in education spending than the budget proposals that have come out of the House, Senate or the Governor’s office.

Dorn suggested that some of the local levy money from school districts could help pay for that, if the state allows local levy money to be transferred to the state general fund, which would be used to fund schools throughout the state.

Dorn said that he hopes to prevent harming the districts that can get operating levies passed by phasing in the changes.

“One of our concepts is to do no harm. That’s what our hope would be that we would do no harm bringing other districts up the level of the richer districts,” he said.

However, Dorn demurred on unveiling his whole plan on how the state will fund his $2.2 billion spending increase, saying that State Treasurer James L. McIntire will talk about that plan on Thursday.

Dorn’s plan comes two weeks before the scheduled end of the 2015 regular legislative session.

“I just get the feeling that we’re going to be here longer than the next two weeks,” Dorn said.

Details on the plan released Tuesday are on the OSPI website.

Categories: Budget, Education, McCleary