Archive for Education

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.
(more…)

Categories: Budget, Education, McCleary

Early Start Act passes Senate, both sides yet to agree on funding level

By | April 10, 2015 | 0 Comments

More childcare providers in Washington could have training under a bill passed Thursday in the state Senate.

Kindergarten class. Photo by the U.S. Department of Education.

Kindergarten class. Photo by the U.S. Department of Education.

Under House Bill 1491, the so-called Early Start Act, childcare and preschool providers who accept state subsidies for low-income families would be required to participate in the state’s Early Achiever program.

Right now, the program is voluntary. It aims to help kids get ready for kindergarten by providing childcare and preschool providers with training to improve the quality of care they provide to children.

“This bill is about providing high-quality early learning for kids who need it most,” Sen. Andy Billig, a sponsor of the Senate version, said Thursday. “Another way to say that is that this bill is about opportunity. It’s an opportunity for children to arrive at school ready to learn. It’s about opportunity for kids are from low-income situations to break the cycle of poverty. It’s about the opportunity for the state to reap the rewards the return on investment we know come from high-quality early learning.”

In addition to childcare facilities, it also applies to state- and federally-funded preschool programs, such as Head Start, ECEAP and Working Connections Child Care.

The program includes a 1-to-5 rating system. The ratings increase with more training. Childcare providers with higher ratings are eligible for larger subsidies.

Fewer than half of the state’s childcare providers are enrolled now.

Statewide, about 30,000 children are part of Working Connections program and 8,500 are part of ECEAP.

The bill passed 31-11 in the Senate. It was passed last month in the House, and moves back to the chamber for approval.

The two chambers still don’t agree on funding. The House budget includes more than $116 million to fund the bill. The Senate includes $55 million.

Sen. Steve Litzow, Mercer Island Republican and prime sponsor of the Senate version, said Thursday that both chambers will negotiate on the funding piece of the legislation.

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Democrats say sending class size initiative back to voters risks unbalanced budget

By | April 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

Legislative Democratic leaders told reporters Thursday that lawmakers in Olympia should take the lead and limit the smaller classroom sizes that voters approved in November when Initiative 1351 passed.

Both chambers’ proposed budgets override the voter-approved classroom size reductions, reducing class sizes only in grades kindergarten through three instead of K-12. But the mechanisms to make that change differ.

Kindergarten class. Photo by the U.S. Department of Education.

Kindergarten class. Photo by the U.S. Department of Education.

Senate Republicans plan to send a referendum to the voters in November to amend the initiative.

Democrats plan to change the initiative by gathering the constitutionally required two-thirds support of the both chambers of the legislature.

House Majority Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said that taking action in Olympia is the prudent route for budget writing.

“Sending it to voters is irresponsible, and puts us in a position that, we may be back in December in special session having to address,” he said.

“Their budget actually assumes that the voters will reject I-1351 when it goes back out to the ballot,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think any of us can assume that will be the case, given that the voters just approved it less than a year ago.”

The state is on the hook for lowering class sizes across all grades, unless changes are made to Initiative 1351. The measure comes with a $4.7 billion price tag over the next four years, though local districts would have greater authority to raise local taxes. Voters approved the measure 51 to 49 in November.

The two proposals also have differing requirements to pass.

The House proposal would require two-thirds approval in each legislative chamber, and a signature from the governor.

The Senate proposal would require a simple majority in both chambers for the referendum to reach the ballot, and would not need the governor’s signature. Then, the referendum would require voter approval before being enacted. If the Senate plan is approved, a referendum could appear on the ballot in November.

Citing the close vote on I-1351, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, earlier this week said voters would change their minds when faced with the information about how much the initiative will cost.

But Senate Minority Leader Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, said, “that puts [the Senate Republicans’] budget essentially out of balance immediately.”

“This whole budget is built on an assumption of what the voters will do,” she said. “If not they have a major hole in their budget.”

Sullivan told reporters lawmakers are aware that all sides need to reach an agreement on how to amend 1351 for any of the budget proposals.

“Inaction won’t get us a result where we get a final deal and go home,” Sullivan said. (more…)

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State Senate passes budget, modifies class size initiative

By | April 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

The state Senate passed a two-year operating budget off the floor Monday, along with a bill that sends a class size reduction initiative back to the voters in an effort to save the state money.

Republican lead budget writer Sen. Andy Hill introduced the $38 billion budget Monday, saying it focuses on education and mental health without raising taxes.

“This budget balances without job-killing manufacturing tax increases,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

Several Democrats spoke against the budget, saying it falls short on state worker pay raises and other issues. The Senate budget gives state workers up to a $2,000 pay raise over two years, instead of the salary increases negotiated in a collective bargaining agreement with the governor’s office.

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said that amounts to a “hidden tax” on state workers.

“We’ve hidden the tax on state employees and community college employees and state patrol,” said Keiser. “They all had the assurance that when the economy improved we would make things right for them. But that promise is now broken as well.”

The budget passed along caucus lines, 26 to 23, with the mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus in support and Democrats opposed.

The Senate also passed a bill that modifies Initiative 1351 and sends it backs to voters to ask whether they agree with the change. The initiative adopted by voters last year required smaller class sizes in all grades at a cost estimated around $4 billion through 2019. It did not come with a source of funding.

“It’s pretty clear at this point that it’s not affordable,” said Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, speaking in support of changing the initiative.

The bill only pays for smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade.

Opponents of the bill argued that voters knew what they were doing when they passed the original initiative.

“Washington state has the 47th worst class sizes in the nation. And that’s why the people rightfully sent us to Olympia with a mission to correct that challenge,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo.

The bill passed 27-22.

The House previously passed its budget. Both sides must negotiate a final budget plan.

Watch the highlights from both Senate floor debates, as well as discussion over a controversial payday lending bill, on Monday’s 15-minute edition of “Legislative Review” below.

Toddlers race around Capitol for early learning investments

By | March 26, 2015 | 0 Comments

Inslee1

Dozens of preschool students raced through the Capitol Thursday as part of a push to ask lawmakers to invest more in early learning.

“We’re here to remind legislators to start and finish strong for our littlest learners,” organizer Lauren Hipp said. “Early learning really set our kids up for success, not only in school, but in life in general.”

Before the toddlers took off running in their sweatbands and race bibs — all No. 1 — they listened while Gov. Jay Inslee, budget writers Sen. Andy Hill and Rep. Ross Hunter and other lawmakers talked about ways to boost spending.

“I don’t think they were that interested in what they had to say, but hopefully they’ll be interested in what the lawmakers do for these kids,” executive director of the state’s Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance (ECEAP) programs Joel Ryan said.

Mostly, they focused on  House Bill 1491, the so-called Early Start Act. Childcare and preschool providers who accept state subsidies for low-income families would be required to participate in the Early Achievers Program.

Right now, the program is free, but voluntary. It provides training to childcare facilities and state- and federally-funded preschool program, such as Head Start, ECEAP and Working Connections Child Care.

By requiring participation, lawmakers hope to improve kindergarten readiness for low-income students. “If we get our way,” Inslee told the runners. “We’re going to have more kids who are ready for kindergarten, more kids who do well in first grade, more kids who go into STEM fields, more kids who graduate.”

The measure passed 67-31 in the state House and is under consideration in the Senate. It was voted out of a committee in the chamber Wednesday. Prime sponsor Rep. Ruth Kagi said during the event she expects a hearing in Senate Ways and Means on Friday.

Thursday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | March 20, 2015 | 0 Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Thursday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” We cover a bill that aims to help more foster care students graduate from high school, a bill that would allow low-income families to get state assistance for health-related improvements to their homes, and several bills related to military veterans and their families.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m.

Categories: Education, Military, TVW
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Wednesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | March 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Wednesday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” It includes debate over a bill that would provide low-income students with breakfast after the bell, as well as a measure that would expand dual language programs in Washington schools. Plus, the Senate passes a bill to make changes to the state’s Presidential primary elections.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11.

Categories: Education, TVW
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House passes bill that limits use of restraints, isolation in Washington schools

By | March 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

Washington schools would no longer have the option to restrain or isolate special needs or autistic children except in limited circumstances, under a bill passed by the state House on Monday.

Special needs children, under federal law, must have an individual learning plan. In Washington, that plan can include isolating the student, binding his or her limbs together or tying the student to an object to correct bad behavior.

The plans could no longer include restraint or isolation as planned interventions under House Bill 1240. School districts could only use the interventions if the student poses an imminent risk of harm.

Rep. Gerry Pollet, Seattle Democrat and prime sponsor of the bill, said teachers have better tools to deal with a student’s behavior. “We should not be planning to use handcuffs, to use physical restraints, to lie on top of a child,” he said.

But some worry the bill removes necessary measures for teachers to protect themselves and other students. Rep. Brad Klippert introduced amendments to give teachers more discretion, but both failed.

“Some of these children are very large and very strong,” the Kennewick Republican said. “We’re asking teachers who are not as large and as strong to teach every child and they need to be able to take some action to protect all children, all staff members and all property of the school.”

The measure moves over to the state Senate after a vote of 68-29.

Lawmakers in that chamber are also considering a bill that focuses on positive interventions. Senate Bill 5688 would require the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to set social and emotional learning standards. It passed out of committee, but so far has not received a floor vote.

Categories: Education

Lawmakers address questions of teacher COLA

By | February 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

Voter-approved teacher cost-of-living-adjustments, or COLAs, have been tabled for the past six years. So, midway through the 2015 session, Republican and Democratic lawmakers addressed questions about whether this is the year the teacher COLA would come back.

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that she was happy to see the 3 percent cost-of-living-adjustment for teachers built into the state’s balanced four-year budget outlook.

She said teachers in her district have been seeing take-home pay shrink in recent years.

“Their paychecks are declining because they are actually paying more for their health care, and they are bringing home significantly less money, and I’m not just talking a little bit,” she said. “So I was really thrilled to hear Sen. (Andy) Hill say that he built in the 3 percent COLA into the four-year balanced budget.”

Rivers was one of several Republican panelists at a weekly media availability.

The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, which produces the Budget Outlook, projects expenditures and revenue for the next four years based on current law. Hill not only chairs the council, he is the Senate’s chief budget writer as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

While Initiative 732, an annual cost of living adjustment for teachers, was approved by voters in 2000 and is written into law, it has been suspended by the state during economic downturns. However, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council did include the initiative in the most recent iteration of the Budget Outlook, which shows a positive balance over the next four years.

For the Democrats, Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Seattle, at a press availability on Thursday, said there was strong support for a teacher raise in their caucus, but declined to fix on a percentage.

“They’ve gone six years without a COLA,” he said. “I think there will be strong support on our budget team and in our caucus for a COLA.”

The House proposed budget is expected to be released in March, followed by the Senate’s proposal.

Gov. Jay Inslee‘s 2015-17 budget included a 3 percent cost of living adjustment the first year and 1.8 percent the following year, which will cost $386 million over the two years.

The press conferences followed the week after the release of the state revenue forecast for 2015-2017, which showed a moderate increase of $140 million over previous predictions. 

Categories: Education, Uncategorized

Vaccines debated as lawmakers consider eliminating personal belief exemption

By | February 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

A House committee held a public hearing Tuesday on a bill that would end a parent’s ability to exempt a child from vaccines for personal or philosophical reasons.

Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, said she introduced House Bill 2009 in response to the recent measles outbreak. “These are diseases that were eradicated and are now coming back largely due to the fact that people are choosing to not immunize their children,” she said.

Children in Washington must be vaccinated for school unless they are exempted for medical, religious or personal reasons. Last year, 3.6 percent of school-age children were exempted from vaccinations for non-medical reasons.

Some Washington schools have exemption rates as high 40 percent, said Kathy Lofy of the state Dept. of Health. She worries those schools will serve as “tinderboxes” for diseases that are easily spread through crowds.

Kathy Hennessy of Bellingham said her child caught pertussis from an unvaccinated classmate in preschool. “I’m frustrated that so many people are choosing not vaccinate their children based on misinformation and pseudoscience,” she told legislators.

More than a dozen opponents testified Tuesday, asking lawmakers to keep the personal exemption in place.

Grant Keller said the people who oppose vaccinations are “not conspiracy theorists,” but often well-educated parents with high incomes. “They are capable of reading and digesting scientific information, and they are making informed decisions regarding the health of their children,” he said.

Other parents who testified say they are not immunizing their children because they worry about a negative reaction to the vaccine.

Josh Swenson said drug allergies and sensitivies run in his family, and he worries how vaccines could affect his children. “I’m not wiling to sacrifice my children’s health and future for the good of all,” he said.

If the bill passes, Swenson said his only choices would be to take his children out of public schools or move out of state. “You cannot force me to hurt my child,” he said.