Schools have been forced to cut after-school programs, preschool sessions and other extra services for students since the state lost its No Child Left Behind waiver earlier this year, school district representatives told a legislative committee Friday.
The U.S. Department of Education revoked the state’s waiver because the Legislature failed to pass a bill last session requiring student test scores to be a factor in teacher and principal evaluations. As a result, public schools no longer have flexibility in spending about $40 million in federal funding.
“Since we haven’t had the waiver, it’s been devastating,” said Linda Sullivan-Dudzic, the director of special programs and elementary education for the Bremerton School District. “We can’t take another year without the waiver.”
“Quite frankly, I’m wondering why we have to chose between tying our teacher evaluations to an assessment that we have not even taken yet and having the flexibility and doing the best by No Child Left Behind,” Sullivan-Dudzic told the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee during a work session Friday.
Before the waiver was revoked, the district had an after-school program that served 360 students with 70 hours of instruction. That’s since been cut to 20 student who receive 18 hours of instruction, Sullivan-Dudzic said.
Other school districts are experiencing similar reductions.
Rosalind Medina of Tacoma Public Schools said the district had to cut some services to students, including before and after-school programs and extended learning opportunities.
Wapato School District cut two sessions of preschool and teacher interventions for at-risk students, according to superintendent Becky Imler.
“When we had the waiver, there was a difference for kids. My story is not just true in Wapato, it’s true throughout the Yakima Valley. We’re an area of high Title 1 need. We need the flexibility, we need the local control because with it we can make a difference,” Imler said.
Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, questioned why the districts haven’t applied to be a NCLB provider, which would provide supplemental educational services for disadvantaged students.
“I think what you’re facing here is the current underfunding of basic education. If this Legislature steps up and funds basic education, you won’t have these stories,” McAuliffee.
Committee chair Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, said after the hearing that not having the waiver has been a “huge detriment” to the students who need the help the most. He said he is working on a bill for the upcoming session that would require test scores to be part of teacher evaluations.
“There’s clearly an impact in the school districts not having access to that funding,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, who also sits on the committee.
“If we were funding a lot of the programs that the state is supposed to be funding, would this loss of flexibility from federal government have been as big a deal?” Rolfes said.
Rolfes and Litzow discussed the waiver, along with other K-12 education issues, on “The Impact.” That show will air Wednesday, Nov. 26 at 7 & 10 p.m.