Basic education funding task force releases final report to the Legislature

Ed system overhaul would include changes to teacher pay, additional class time

 

For immediate release – January 14, 2009

The task force that spent nearly two years reviewing Washington’s definition of “basic education” and the funding structure to support it has released its final recommendations for an overhaul of the state’s K-12 funding system.

 

The task force’s proposals start with a new definition of “basic education,” a definition that encompasses the state’s legal and constitutional obligation to fund kindergarten through 12th grade. The new definition takes a “start with the end goal in mind” approach that links graduation requirements with the program of education necessary for children to have a viable opportunity to meet those requirements, and gain an education that helps them be college or work ready.

 

“The new definition of basic education ties our expectations for our children to expectations for funding,” commented Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, one of the legislators serving on the task force. “This is probably the most significant change and will affect school funding decisions for decades.”

 

The report goes on to recommend that the Legislature move from a finance system based on funding levels to one based on service levels. In other words, instead of deciding to send a district $1 million for class size reduction (a number that doesn’t say much about how many students-per-class that translates to), legislators would decide to fund 25 students per teacher.

 

The task force recommends that the Legislature:

·         Eliminate increases in teacher pay for obtaining degrees and instead reward teachers for earning certification and demonstrate competence through a new peer evaluation system;

·         Create a comprehensive mentoring program for new teachers;

·         Provide bonuses to schools that demonstrate growth in academic achievement;

·         Address district inequities by eliminating grandfathered salary differences and various levy lids;

·         Address the persistent achievement gap by providing resources so disadvantaged children will receive significantly more instructional time to help them catch up;

·         Increase accountability by requiring districts to use common accounting and student information systems to be provided by the state; and

·         Include early learning for at-risk students in the definition of basic education.

 

“This report is an extremely important step in finally creating a clear direction for education funding in our state,” said Rep. Skip Priest, R-Federal Way, who served on the two-year task force. “For too long the Legislature has failed to fund the fundamentals of education – special education, transportation costs, equitable salaries and books. This report focuses on funding our schools to match the reality of today’s classrooms, special needs in each district and preparing students for the competitive global marketplace. I am also incredibly proud that our task force recommended enhanced early learning opportunities for low-income students. This will help ensure all students have an equal shot at success, regardless of their backgrounds or the career paths they choose.”

 

Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, says it’s now up to the Legislature to take action. “The charge of this task force was enormous – redefine basic education and rewrite the way we fund it to guarantee we fulfill our promise to every child in this state. We delivered. Our proposal will make substantive improvements in our schools, in our classrooms, for our children. Now it’s up to the Legislature to turn these recommendations into reality.”

 

The full report can be found online here. Legislators have also prepared a summary that can be found online here. The Legislature will ultimately have to approve any of the recommended changes.

 

The 2009 legislative session began January 12 and is scheduled to run 105 consecutive days.

 

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Contacts:                   Rep. Ross Hunter – (360) 786-7936 or hunter.ross@leg.wa.gov

                                    Rep. Skip Priest – (360) 786-7830 or priest.skip@leg.wa.gov

                                    Rep. Pat Sullivan – (360) 786-7858 or sullivan.pat@leg.wa.gov

                                    Rep. Glenn Anderson – (360) 786-7876 or anderson.glenn@leg.wa.gov

Media Staff:               Jaime Smith for Democratic members – (360) 786-7631 or smith.jaime@leg.wa.gov

                                    Bobbi Cussins for Republican members – (360) 786-7252 or cussins.bobbi@leg.wa.gov

 

About the Author

Ross
I am the Director of the Department of Early Learning for Washington State. I formerly represented the 48th Legislative District in the State House of Representatives, chairing the Appropriations committee and spent many a year at Microsoft.