Archive for Education

UPDATED: Legislature approves bill keeping charter schools open in Washington

By | March 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

UPDATE: The Legislature has approved a bill that would keep charter schools open in Washington after the Washington Supreme Court declared the schools unconstitutional.

Senate Bill 6194 passed out of the House on a 58 to 39 vote on Wednesday following more than two hours of debate. It passed out of the Senate on Thursday on a 26-23 vote.

Watch TVW of the House floor debate here and the Senate floor debate here. 

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

The bill attempts to addresses the court’s concerns by redefining charter schools as public schools that are operated separately from the common schools system. Charter schools would be funded through the lottery-funded Washington Opportunity Pathways Account instead of the state’s general fund, and would not be able to use local levy dollars.

Rep. Maureen Walsh, R- Walla Walla, voted in favor of the bill. She said there needs to be an option for students who are looking for alternative education routes.

“What are we afraid of? That potentially a thousand kids out of a million kids are going to actually hit gradation? Are actually going to be intrigued with their education and want to go to school?” she said.

She continued, “It might not look like our regular public school or private schools, but it’s school and we are keeping those kids in school and I think that really our paramount duty.”

Rep. Sharon Santos, D-Seattle, voted no on the bill, saying the state has plenty of innovative public schools that offer students a variety of programs.

“I think it’s fair to say in our existing system of public schools we already have a great deal of choice and flexibility,” she said. 

She also raised concerns about using any public funds for charter schools, saying there needs to be “public oversight for the public dollar.”

educationAbout 1,100 students currently attend eight charter schools throughout the state. The charter schools are authorized by the Washington State Charter School Commission.

Lawmakers in the House debated more than 20 amendments before final passage of the bill, including an amendment that requires members of the commission and charter school boards to file personal financial statements with the Public Disclosure Commission.

Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D- Mukilteo, sponsored the amendment, saying it’s about transparency for the public and parents.

“It’s for consistency, for accountably and most of all it’s for transparency,” she said. “Not just for us because we help supervise those public dollars but more importantly, transparency for parents and community and our students.”

Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, voted against the amendment. He said it would be inappropriate for charter school board members to file financial statements like an elected official.

“Members of these boards are not elected, they have unique circumstances,” he said.

The amendment passed on a 91-6 vote.

Members also adopted an amendment requiring charter school boards to conduct independent performance audits after the first school year of full operation. Another amendment requires charter school boards to post warnings online of any ongoing litigation challenging the constitutionality of charter schools.

Categories: Education, TVW, WA House, WA Senate

Gov. Inslee signs basic education funding plan bill

By | March 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the first bill of the 2016 legislative session on Monday, laying out a process to fully fund basic education by 2018.

Senate Bill 6195 requires next year’s Legislature to end the state’s overreliance on local school levies. It also collects data on teacher compensation and how local school levy dollars are being spent.

“The Legislature has continually made progress on fully funding education, and this bill is the next necessary step in that process,” Inslee said before signing the bill.

DSC_0759The plan also creates a legislative task force to continue working on the issue before the 2017 legislative session.

“This will recommit that the Legislature is ready in 2017 to live up to these commitments to fulfill our constitutional obligations to fund education,” Inslee said.

He said that the next step is “arguably the most complex,” but is optimistic that lawmakers will “complete the task.”

Following the bill signing, Inslee spoke with reporters about the progress of negotiations on the supplemental budget proposals. He said that lawmakers from the House and the Senate met with him Monday morning to start negotiations for a final plan. He said that he is confident that Legislature will come up with an agreement before the session ends on March 10.

Read more on the proposed supplemental budgets here. 

“There’s absolutely no reason that these legislators operating in good faith should not be able to come up with a budget with in this period of time,” Inslee said. “There’s no reason to go into overtime. I made that abundantly clear.”

Watch TVW video of press conference here.

House supplemental capital budget focuses on new classrooms, mental health

By | February 24, 2016 | 0 Comments

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday introduced the House supplemental capital budget, which provides funding for classrooms, mental health facilities and environmental cleanup projects.

Watch TVW video of the press conference here.

The House capital budget authorizes $87 million in spending for state and local construction projects in Washington through 2017, leaving $1.8 million in bond capacity reserved for the 2017 supplemental capital budget.

Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness

Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness

Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, said the process has been a bipartisan effort focusing on the “crisis that the state’s facing.” He said their main focus is classroom construction, with $10.8 million authorized to purchase modular classrooms for school districts.

“Almost every school district is being faced with the use of portables and large class size,” he said. “We tried to focus on the classroom needs across the state.”

He said lawmakers will select four school districts on both sides of the mountains and “focus on districts that actually need classrooms, not whole new schools.”

Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, said that she’s glad such a significant portion of the budget is going to education. “This is something I think holds great potential for our state, for some of our most distressed communities,” she said.

The capital budget also includes is $1.85 million for the Department of Social and Health Services for mental health institutions. That includes funds to design an 18-bed addition to the Child Study and Treatment Center and $1.4 million to convert facilities at Maple Lane for “temporary use as forensic beds.” Maple Lane is a former juvenile detention facility.

“We started a process on mental health in the last cycle,” Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis said. “It was a very good budget for mental health so we can continue that on.”

Additionally, Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, praised the proposed $8.6 million for low-interest loans to local governments for projects that include drinking water, solid waste, street, storm water and bridge construction projects.

“I’m just pleased that we were able to make this investment in the public works assistance account and really kick start attention to those needs,” he said.

A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee to vote on the capital budget.

Categories: Budget, Education, TVW, WA House

Legislature approves basic education funding plan

By | February 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

The McCleary basic education funding plan is the first bill of the session to pass out of both the House and the Senate.

Senate Bill 6195 passed out of the House on Thursday on a 66-31 vote and now goes to the governor for his signature. It passed out of the Senate earlier this week.

What some are calling a “plan for a plan” requires next year’s Legislature to end the state’s overreliance on local school levies. It also collects data on teacher compensation and how levy dollars are being spent.

The plan also creates a legislative task force to continue working on the issue before theeducation 2017 legislative session.

Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, said the bill isn’t perfect, but it’s a good step forward.

“We’re coming up against the big 2018 deadline for putting McCleary to bed and this reaffirms our commitment to doing just that,” Magendanz said.

He said having the “bill returned intact” from the Senate is something that should be celebrated. The Senate initially pushed back the deadline by one year, but then returned it to the House’s original version calling for a solution by the end of the 2017 session.

Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, voted against the bill, saying the Legislature could end up before the Washington Supreme Court again. He warned that the state could be facing “McCleary II.”

“What concerns me about this bill is there is nothing in here that provides statutory direction for us to avoid this exact same problem five years down the road,” he said. “If this committee that we put together does nothing to address this fact, then there is nothing in law that says that says they can’t just do it again.” 

Watch TVW video of the floor debate here.

Basic education funding plan approved by Senate

By | February 17, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Senate passed an education funding bill Tuesday that matches one previously approved by the House.

Senate Bill 6195 passed out of the Senate on a 26-23 vote. It was amended to be identical to House Bill 2366 that was approved by the House in January.

The bill requires next year’s Legislature to end the state’s over reliance on local school levies, collect data on teacher compensation and create a task force to continue working on the issue before the 2017 legislative session.

Nearly all the lawmakers agreed that the bill was not ideal.

Both Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, and Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, voted in support of the bill. They said the bill was not perfect, but it was a step forward.

Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, said he was “reluctant” to support the bill but the “reality is this bill is better than no bill.” He said all it does is push the solution out another year.

“Today we are teaching our children a math lesson,” he said. “Unfortunately while they really need to be learning about the Pythagorean theorem, today we are teaching them about the lowest common denominator.”

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, said the bill “does not solve the problem.” While he voted in support of the bill, Ranker said it is not something lawmakers should be happy about.

“We should not celebrate this,” he said. “We should not feel like we’ve done our work. We should not feel like we’ve satisfied our moral and constitutional obligation.”

Kindergarten class. Photo by the U.S. Department of Education.Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, opposed the plan, saying that the McCleary definition of basic education is flawed. He said pouring money into a broken system will not fix it.

“I think what improves educational outcomes for students is great families being more involved in their kids’ education, choice and opportunities, competition, and a shake up of a broken system of education,” he said.

Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, also voted no on the proposal. He said that this was a just a “bill for the sake of having a bill.”

“I never dreamt that in 2009 when we started making our plan that we would be here staring at the 2017-18 biennium,” he said. “With nothing better to say than that we are going to do something about this next year. I find that really, really disappointing and disturbing.”

In a statement, Gov. Jay Inlsee praised the House and Senate for passing the legislation.

“It is great news to see that both the House and Senate have passed legislation with bipartisan support to ensure we continue the necessary next steps towards fully funding our schools,” he said.

The legislation will go back to the House for approval and then to the governor for signature.

Watch TVW video of the floor debate here.

Categories: Education, TVW, WA House, WA Senate

House approves pilot program allowing some community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees

By | February 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

community-collegeA bill that would allow some community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees passed out of the House on Monday.

Watch TVW video here. 

House Bill 2769 creates a pilot program allowing up to five community or technical colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in “high-demand fields.” The program would be run by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

The bill passed with a vote of 68-29 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Prime sponsor, Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, says this bill would allow technical and community colleges to “offer baccalaureates in high-demand fields,” like STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). She said the state has more than 25,000 openings in the high-demand fields, and that this would allow more people to earn degrees in subjects like nursing and teaching.

“We want to make sure that our community colleges can provide those degrees…for the people exactly in their community,” she said.

Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, voted in support of the bill. He said that rural areas are going to be different than an urban area and that “we need to recognize that diversity.”

“The mission of our community colleges can be expanded to fit the different needs of different communities,” he said.

Republican Rep. Matt Manweller, a political science and constitutional law professor at Central Washington University, voted no on the bill.

He said four-year schools have a “rigorous accreditation process,” for their professors that community colleges don’t.

He said that a student doing cutting-edge research at the University of Washington shouldn’t get the same degree as someone studying at a community college.

“[Community colleges] were not hired to do this job and then to put them in this position puts them at serious risk to our system of higher education,” Manweller said.

Categories: Education, TVW, WA House

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.