Archive for 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.

Senate hearing focuses on bullying, emotional health in schools

By | February 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

The emotional well-being of Washington students was the focus of a state Senate hearing Thursday, as lawmakers heard bills to prevent bullying and promote social skills.

Senate Bill 5526 would address bullying of transgender students in state schools, requiring districts to adopt a policy to prevent harassment and train more educators to help when it occurs.

Transgender students regularly face physical and verbal abuse at school, Sen. Marko Liias, Mukilteo Democrat and prime sponsor of the bill, told committee members.

More than 80 percent of transgender students report verbal abuse, he says, 40 percent report physical abuse. Forty percent of transgender young people attempt suicide before age 20, he said.

“We know that there are harmful consequences for kids in our schools,” Liias said. “It’s our obligation to take every step we can to provide a safe, supportive learning environment.”

Another bill considered by the committee aims to teach students how to better recognize emotions, manage stress and resolve conflicts.

It’s called social emotional learning and “it is not sitting around and singing songs,” Melanie Smith of Seattle-based Committee for Children told lawmakers. “It is building blocks of how we learn to interact with people, how we communicate with people and how we resolve conflicts with people. It’s how to pay attention and how to learn.”

Senate Bill 5688 would require the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the body that sets Washington’s learning standards, to study benchmarks for teaching students the skills. An OSPI work group would have until Oct. 1, 2016 to submit a plan to lawmakers for implementing social emotional learning-based curriculum for state schools.

Both bills were heard Thursday in the Senate early learning and K-12 committee. Neither has been schedule for a committee vote.

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Bill to boost preschool quality passes out of House committee

By | February 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

Photo by Barnaby Wasson via Flickr.

A bill that aims to improve kindergarten readiness for low-income students by boosting the quality of providers that accept state subsidies passed 8-3 out of the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee.

The Early Start Act requires childcare and preschool providers who receive state subsidies for low-income families to take part in the state’s Early Achievers Program. The bill would apply to providers who accept subsidies from the Head Start, ECEAP and Working Connections Child Care programs.

The program would rate the providers on how well they get kids ready for kindergarten, and also provides additional training for employees.

In response to several concerns brought up at a hearing last week, the Early Learning and Human Services Committee adopted an amendment that would allow the Department of Early Learning to take into account accreditation programs for private preschools. The amendment also opens ECEAP to faith-based providers.

The committee also adopted another amendment that would allow tribal-run preschools to provide information on kindergarten-readiness directly to parents interested in enrolling, rather than posting their information on the Department of Early Learning website.

Bill sponsor and committee chairwoman Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle, said many child care providers miss chances to improve the early learning of children as young as infants.

“It’s just providing that information and education to them so that those babies have a learning-rich environment for the first few years. We know how critical it is,” she said.

Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, voted against the bill, listing a number of concerns.

“It’s too top-down, top-heavy. This could have the unintended consequence of creating a shortage of day care options for parents particularly in high poverty areas,” Scott said.

Scott also had concerns that the Early Start Act would be a step toward requiring pre-kindergarten programs for all children in the state.

However, Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, says she’s a strong supporter of the bill, saying while she shares some of the concerns of skeptics, it’s important to ensure quality programs for children.

“I also believe that if we are spending millions and millions and hundreds of millions of dollars subsidizing child care, we want a return on our investment. We don’t want to throw our money down a hole,” Walsh said.

Rep. David Sawyer, D-Tacoma, voted against the bill, saying that he would prefer if there were a sunset clause that would force legislators to review the changes and make sure they are effective and equitable to all children in the state.

“Nobody has bad intent, I just want to make sure that we get it right,” Sawyer said.

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Wednesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | January 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Wednesday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” We cover a bill known as “Sheena’s Law” named after the victim of a murder-suicide in Spokane. Plus, mobile home owners and landlords clash over a bill that would make changes to leases. The show also has highlights from a debate over a bill known by supporters as the Early Start Act.

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

WSU, UW propose fixes to doctor shortage

By | January 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

The state’s top two universities have different ideas about how to train more doctors, but both agree: Washington State University can establish and operate a new medical school if it’s not at the expense of the existing University of Washington program.

Washington faces a dire shortage of primary care providers, particularly in underserved rural communities on the eastern side of the state. The state’s only medical school struggles to train enough doctors with only enough funding to admit 140 students to study within the state each year.

Both universities have different proposals to improve healthcare access. WSU wants funding to hire staff and secure accreditation for a new school while UW wants to expand an existing program to accommodate more students. Spokane lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allow both.

The University of Washington has since 1917 had exclusive rights to operate a medical school in the state. Now, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner and Rep. Marcus Riccelli have introduced joint bills to remove the restriction and allow WSU to create its own program on the other side of the mountains. The bill also removes UW’s sole rights to medicine, forestry products and logging engineering majors.

UW doesn’t mind giving up its exclusive rights, but worries about the financial impact for its existing program, spokesperson Genesee Adkins said. WSU last year announced it was withdrawing from WWAMI, a doctor training program operated in partnership with the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. WWAMI trains doctors for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. It’s an acronym for the first letter of each state.

In 2013, WSU accepted nearly $6 million in state money to help support existing students at the Spokane branch of the WWAMI program. Now, WSU plans to reallocate the funding to pay for its own program.

Adkins says UW does not want the money reallocated. “Do not explore this one concept at the expense of another,” she told the House Higher Education committee on Tuesday.

UW wants $8 million to expand the WWAMI program in order accommodate 80 students in Spokane per year by 2017. “The need for expansion of medical professions is absolutely clear and we recognize that need,” University of Washington President Michael K. Young told lawmakers on Thursday. “Our program is scalable.”

Washington State President Elson S. Floyd says the two programs don’t have to be mutually-exclusive. “We are not duplicating what already exists,” Floyd said. “The teaching model at the University of Washington can continue. It is our hope and desire that it would be augmented.”

WSU wants $2.5 million to launch a community-based medical school, using partnerships with medical facilities instead of building its own research hospital. Michigan State and Florida State universities – as well as UW – use similar models.

The university hopes to welcome its first class of 40 students by 2017 and grow to accommodate 120 by 2021.

House Bill 1559, which only removes the restriction and doesn’t provide funding for either program, has more than 60 bipartisan sponsors signed on. The bill needs only a simple majority to pass the chamber of 98 lawmakers. Senate Bill 5487 is a companion.

Categories: Education, Healthcare

Inslee makes case for capital gains tax, carbon charges in 2015 State of State

By | January 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee addresses the 2015 Washington State Legislature during the State of the State address.

Gov. Jay Inslee pledged to work on a transportation package, increased funding for pre-kindergarten and a minimum wage increase in his 2015 State of the State address, framing his policy decisions as an investment in Washington’s residents.

“One path leads to an economy that works for all Washingtonians, supports thriving communities and preserves a healthy environment. The other path leads to a slow erosion of our shared prosperity, a widening gap of inequality and a deterioration of our clean air and water,” he said.

“[T]here are no better people to invest in than Washingtonians, there is no better place to invest in than Washington and there is no better time to invest than 2015,” he said.

He also spoke on his plans for education, the environment and raising taxes through his proposed capital gains tax. His remarks on the latter two issues drew a more enthusiastic response from Legislative Democrats than from Republicans, many of whom withheld applause during those sections of the speech.

Republicans also issued a perspective on this year’s session  with a statement from Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton) and a press availability from several Republicans from the House and Senate sides of the Legislature.

Members of the 2015 Washington State Legislature, and members of the State Supreme Court, listen to Gov. Jay Inslee deliver the annual State of the State address.

Transportation

On transportation, Inslee said that his plan would be multimodal and include reforms and funding for “a transportation system that truly works as a system,” he said.

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Republicans say Inslee proposals would risk economy

By | January 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

Screen shot of Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton) delivering the Republican perspective on Jan. 13, 2015.

Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton) and Republicans in the Senate and House rebutted major points in Gov. Jay Inslee‘s State of the State address, saying his proposed policies would damage economic growth and would be unnecessary.

“His proposals do, indeed, have a cost. They would increase the cost of our food, our utility bills, and our fuel to get to and from work. And they would hit hard our rural communities,” said Smith, in the remarks delivered in the Republican response to the State of the State.

“Why then, would you put on the table any proposal that has in its crosshairs the very sector of our economy most crucial to our economic recovery and vitality?” she said.

She also said that there has been bipartisan support for such environmental policies as cleaning up waterways and toxic sites, and that she personally is committed to developing renewable energy, but that “there is room for on this issue for reasonable debate.”

“The governor says we need to create a new fuel mandate and new taxes to demonstrate leadership. But his proposals will have almost zero impact on the global challenges we are facing,” Smith said.

“We are absolutely willing to consider pollution-reducing ideas that will work, and that won’t place such a terrible burden on the hard-working people of Washington state, particularly those in the middle class, and those who are struggling,” she said.

Smith also said that the state can fund education through a combination of changes in policy and an additional $3 billion in revenue than originally forecast.

“If we are thoughtful and careful about how we spend your tax dollars, and prioritize, we can balance our state budget without tax increases,” Smith said.

“[W]e must rectify the failure of the past three decades, where leadership in Olympia has allowed non-education spending to dramatically outpace education spending. Simply put: education has not been the top priority. Funding education first would change that,” she said.

Smith joined fellow Republicans representatives Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) and Dan Kristiansen (R-Snohomish) and senators Ann Rivers (R-La Center), Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) and Linda Evans Parlette (R-Wenatchee) to rebut other parts of the governor’s address, and to answer questions from the media.

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Categories: Budget, Education, Republicans

Live from the Capitol: TVW’s opening day show starts 10 a.m. Monday

By | January 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature’s 2015 session begins Monday, Jan. 12. Opening ceremonies start at noon, but tune in to TVW early to catch exclusive interviews with lawmakers, who will discuss key issues for the coming months.

Starting at 10 a.m., The Impact’s Anita Kissee will host the live show from the Capitol rotunda. Gov. Jay Inslee will stop by to talk about his budget proposal and more.

Guests include House and Senate leadership from both sides of the aisle, including Senators Sharon Nelson, Mark Schoesler, Andy Billig, Linda Evans Parlette and Representatives Dan Kristiansen, Pat Sullivan, Joel Kretz and Eric Pettigrew.

Hear about key issues including education, transportation and mental health from Senators Jeannie Darneille, Doug Ericksen, Curtis King, Steve Litzow, Rosemary McAuliffe, John McCoy and Steve O’Ban, plus Representatives Judy Clibborn, Hans Dunshee, Richard DeBolt, Cary Condotta and Sharon Wylie.

We’ll also get insight about the session from Capitol reporters Jim Camden of The Spokesman-Review and Jordan Schrader from The News Tribune.

TVW will carry gavel-to-gavel coverage of opening ceremonies beginning at noon.

Stay tuned to TVW throughout the session for coverage of the state Legislature. Starting opening day of session, Legislative Review will air nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m. “The Impact” airs Wednesdays at 7 and 10 p.m. and Inside Olympia with Austin Jenkins is Thursdays at 7 and 10 p.m.

Elway Poll finds education a top priority, with voters open to taxes to fund it

By | January 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

A new Elway Poll shows that voters think education is the most important legislative issue this year, replacing the economy as the top priority for the first time in seven years. To pay for education, a majority of voters are willing to set aside some mandates.

Lawmakers are facing a $2 billion budget gap and an order from the state Supreme Court to fully fund basic education. They were also handed a $2 billion dollar mandate from voters to reduce class sizes with the passage of Initiative 1351 in November.

“Budget writing comes down to cutting programs and/or raising taxes,” wrote pollster Stuart Elway. “As usual, most voters don’t want to do either. To be fair to the voters, most legislators probably don’t want to do either. The essence of public opinion was probably captured in response to a question about how to deal with the education mandates.”

“Two-thirds of respondents said an acceptable solution would be ‘Doing as much as possible to fund education and reduce class sizes without raising taxes and without deep cuts to other programs — even if that means we do not fully implement the education mandates,”‘ Elway said.

Voters appear split on raising taxes to fund education mandates — 48 percent found the idea acceptable, while 49 percent were opposed.

Specific taxes found some support, however. Seventy-seven percent of respondents approve of higher cigarette taxes as proposed in Gov. Jay Inslee‘s budget, and 71 percent say a new carbon tax on industries could be an acceptable part of the solution.

Capital gains taxes and a tax on bottled water are less popular, with 57 and 56 percent of respondents in favor.

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School districts cutting programs since losing No Child Left Behind waiver

By | November 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

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.

Round-up of early election results: GOP retains control of State Senate, gun control measure wins

By | November 5, 2014 | 0 Comments

Early voting results show the GOP-led Majority Coalition Caucus is likely to remain in control of the Washington State Senate. A Democratic majority remains in the House, although Republicans appear to have picked up a few seats.

Here’s a look at some of the key legislative races:

Sen. Andy Hill, the Senate’s lead Republican budget writer from Redmond, appears to be holding onto his seat, with 53 percent of the vote. Democratic challenger Matt Isenhower has 47 percent of the vote.

Republican Sen. Steve O’Ban of Tacoma was defeating his Democratic challenger, Rep. Tami Green, 55 to 45 percent.

In Federal Way, Republican Mark Miloscia is in the lead with 56 percent. His Democratic opponent, Shari Song, has 44 percent. The seat become open earlier this year when Democratic Sen. Tracey Eide decided not to run for reelection.

Republican Sen. Pam Roach fought a bitter contest against fellow Republican Rep. Cathy Dahlquist in the 31st District. Results show Roach in the lead, 53 to 47 percent.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, a Democrat who joined with the Republicans to form the Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate, appears to be holding onto his seat. Sheldon is ahead with 55 percent of the vote against Democrat Irene Bowling.

Democratic Rep. Cyrus Habib is winning the 48th District seat by 64 percent. He will succeed Sen. Rodney Tom, who was one of two Democrats, along with Sheldon, who joined the GOP-led Majority Coalition Caucus.

In Spokane, Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner was leading his Democratic opponent Rich Cowan, 57 to 43 percent.

Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale also appears to have a comfortable lead, winning 59 percent of the vote over his Democratic challenger Seth Fleetwood.

In the state House, a few seats appear poised to switch parties.

Democratic Rep. Monica Stonier of Vancouver is trailing behind her Republican challenger Lynda Wilson. Wilson is ahead 51 to 49 percent.

In the 25th District, Republican Melanie Stambaugh, a 24-year-old newcomer to politics, is leading against Democratic Rep. Dawn Morrell. Stambaugh, who would become the youngest member of the Legislature if elected, is ahead with 53 percent of the vote.

One race that is too close to call is between Democratic Rep. Larry Seaquist and Republican Michelle Caldier, a dentist who is running for office for the first time. Caldier is currently ahead by just 78 votes.

Another tight race is shaping up between Democratic Rep. Kathy Haigh and Republican Dan Griffey, a firefighter who is challenging her for the third time. Haigh has a slight lead of 223 votes.

Rep. Roger Freeman, a Democratic lawmaker from Federal Way, died last week after a battle with cancer. His name remained on the ballot, and he appears to be winning the election against Republican Jack Dovey, 53 to 47 percent. If Freeman wins, Democrats will appoint a replacement.

Republican Rep. Jesse Young is leading in the 26th District, which includes parts of Bremerton, Port Orchard and Gig Harbor. He faced opposition from emergency room doctor and former Democratic Sen. Nathan Schlicher. Young was ahead 53 to 47 percent.

You can see all the legislative results on the Secretary of State’s website.

Voters also decided on three initiatives:

Voters approved Initiative 594, a gun control measure that expands background checks on gun sales in the state. The initiative was winning with 60 percent of the vote. The counter measure, Initiative 591, which bars the state from adopting background checks stricter than national standards, was being rejected by 55 percent.

A classroom size initiative is still too close to call. Initiative 1351 would require smaller classroom sizes, and the “no” votes were leading by 51 percent to 49 percent of “yes” votes.

Categories: Education

Charter school law before the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday

By | October 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a case that challenges the constitutionality of Initiative 1240, a measure approved by voters in 2012 that allows 40 public charter schools to open in Washington state over five years.

TVW will air the arguments live on Tuesday, Oct. 28 shortly after 2 p.m.

A coalition that includes the Washington Education Association, El Centro De La Raza and the League of Women Voters of Washington is seeking to have the charter school law declared unconstitutional.

The coalition writes in court filings that “education is the Legislature’s paramount duty” under Article IX of the state Constitution, and lawmakers must offer a “uniform basic education” though taxpayer-funded “common schools.”

The group argues the initiative diverts public funds for “experimental charter schools,” which it says are operated by private organizations and “not required to follow most of the uniform state laws” that apply to common schools. The schools are also outside the supervision of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the coalition says.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson wrote in response that plaintiffs are asking the court to “override the will of Washington’s voters based on an extreme, antiquated approach to Article IX.”

Ferguson wrote: “Moreover, plaintiffs ask this court to adhere rigidly to the framers’ supposed (but unstated) intent, while ignoring that the framers explicitly distinguished between ‘common schools’ and ‘high schools.’ Today, no one – not even plaintiffs – questions the legislature’s decision to classify high schools as common schools, and that Article IX is flexible enough to allow that classification.”

Read all the court filings here.

A King County Superior Court judge last year upheld most of the charter school law, but ruled that some parts are unconstitutional. Judge Jean Rietschel said in her ruling that a “charter school cannot be defined as a common school because it is not under the control of the voters of the school district.” Since it is not a common school, she said it does not qualify for certain state money, such construction funds.

The Washington Supreme Court agreed to review the case.

Supreme Court holds Legislature in contempt for education funding

By | September 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington Supreme Court is holding the Legislature in contempt for failing to submit a plan detailing how the state will pay for public schools through 2018.

However, the court stopped short of imposing sanctions. It is giving the Legislature the “opportunity to purge the contempt” if lawmakers submit an education funding plan by the end of the 2015 session.

“If the contempt is not purged by adjournment of the 2015 legislature, the court will reconvene and impose sanctions or other remedial measures,” Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote in the unanimous order released Thursday.

The Supreme Court ruled in the 2012 McCleary decision that Washington state was not meeting its constitutional duty to fund K-12 education. The court has since demanded regular updates from the Legislature, including an order asking lawmakers to submit a plan in April explaining how the state will pay for basic education.

The Legislature failed to submit that plan, spurring a contempt hearing last week in which lawyers for the state asked for more time.

“The state assured the court that a contempt order is not necessary to get the legislature’s attention, that school funding is the number one issue on the legislature’s agenda, and that the 2015 session will provide the best opportunity to take meaningful action on the matter,” Madsen wrote.

“The court has no doubt that it already has the legislature’s ‘attention.’ But that is not the purpose of a contempt order. Rather, contempt is the means by which a court enforces compliance with its lawful orders when they are not followed,” the court said.

The order will be posted on the court’s website.

Categories: Education, McCleary

Supreme Court hears arguments in contempt hearing related to school funding

By | September 3, 2014 | 0 Comments

A lawyer for the state argued Wednesday that the Washington Supreme Court should not hold the Legislature in contempt for failing to come up with a plan to fund schools because it would set back progress.

“Finding contempt and ordering a sanction could impede progress toward the ultimate resolution — the ultimate funding of schools — rather than promote it,” deputy solicitor general Alan Copsey told justices during a show-cause hearing.

The state Supreme Court is considering holding the Legislature in contempt for not complying with a court order related to the 2012 McCleary ruling, which found the state is not meeting its constitutional duty to fund K-12 education.

The court ordered the Legislature to come up with a detailed plan in April explaining how it will pay for schools through 2018. The Legislature failed to submit that plan, spurring Wednesday’s hearing.

Copsey asked the court to wait until after the 2015 session to give lawmakers time to write an operating budget and pass legislation to fund education.

“This court should give the 2015 Legislature the opportunity to act, but stand ready should legislators stumble in that duty,” said Copsey.

Justice Charles Wiggins questioned why justices should believe the Legislature will do things differently this time.

Copsey responded by saying the Legislature was not “thumbing its nose” at the court order, but it simply couldn’t agree on how to fund schools. He says he hopes legislators will come to an agreement in 2015.

An attorney for the McCleary family and other plaintiffs urged the court to take action against the Legislature.

“Call a spade a spade. They’re in contempt, don’t be afraid to say the word ‘contempt’,”  attorney Thomas Ahearne told justices.

Ahearne said the court should demand the Legislature submit a plan by the end of 2014. If lawmakers fail to submit a plan, he said the court should step in with sanctions.

“The reason for a sanction is to coerce…the person who is not complying to actually comply,” he said.

The Supreme Court will respond at a later date. TVW taped the show-cause hearing — watch it below.

Categories: Education, McCleary

McCleary school funding hearing set for Sept. 3, TVW will carry live

By | August 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington Supreme Court is ordering lawyers for the state to appear before justices to explain why the Legislature should not be held in contempt for failing to provide a complete plan for funding education.

TVW will air the hearing live on television at 2 p.m. on Sept. 3. It will also be live webcast at this link.

The state Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary case that the state is not fulfilling its obligation to fully fund education. The court has demanded regular updates from the Legislature since the 2012 ruling, and earlier this year the court gave lawmakers an April 30 deadline to explain how the state will pay for schools through the 2018 school year.

Legislators submitted a report by the deadline, but it didn’t include a plan. The report instead asked the Supreme Court to give “deep consideration” to the action taken by lawmakers this year, and recognize that “2015 is the next and most critical year for the Legislature to reach the grand agreement” to pay for education.

The plaintiffs in the McCleary case filed a brief this month asking the Supreme Court to take action if lawmakers don’t have a funding plan by the end of the year.

The court issued a show-cause order for the state’s lawyers to appear before the court to “address why the state should not be held in contempt for violation of this court’s order” that directed the Legislature to submit a complete plan for funding education.

Categories: Courts, Education, McCleary

Test scores hold steady, but majority of schools fail to meet federal standards

By | August 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

Statewide school test scores released Wednesday show students are performing about the same on math and reading tests as in previous years. More than 90 percent of students in the class of 2014 passed graduation tests, the same as last year.

But about 1,900 schools in Washington — or 88 percent — failed to meet adequate yearly progress under federal standards. The state must comply with federal No Child Left Behind standards this year after losing its waiver.

“We had to go back to a law that Congress knows doesn’t make sense anymore,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn at a news conference Wednesday. Federal officials revoked the waiver because the state Legislature did not pass a bill that would have changed teacher evaluations to incorporate standardized test scores.

“By losing our waiver, we’ve had to do some things that are ridiculous, stupid, ineffective, waste of resources and accomplished zero,” Dorn said. He cited the effort that went into sending mandatory letters to parents in failing school districts notifying them of the status. The letters were sent out over the last two weeks.

No Child Left Behind requires 100 percent of students to pass reading and math by 2014.

Reading and math scores for Washington students in grades 3-10 show only slight changes from the previous year, except for a 5.9 percent drop in 7th grade math scores and a 5.4 percent increase in reading scores for 8th graders.

“We’ve stayed kind of steady the last three years,” Dorn said. “Which is probably, in my mind, good news.”

Full results are available on OSPI’s website here.

TVW taped Wednesday’s press conference. Watch it below.

Categories: Education

School officials weigh changes to discipline law

By | May 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

A state law passed last year bans Washington schools from kicking a student out of school for good, instead placing a one-year limit on suspensions and expulsions.

Senate Bill 5946 also says schools “should make efforts” to get the student back in school as soon as possible, and hold a reengagement meeting with the student’s parents within 20 days of the punishment to develop a plan to get the student back in school.

The Office of Superintendent Public Instruction is finalizing procedures related to the new law, and about 50 people appeared at a public hearing on Monday to weigh in. Another 1,500 people submitted comments by email.

A working draft of the changes is expected to be completed by the end of the month, and the finalized rules would take effect at the start of the 2014-15 school year, according to OSPI.

Many of those who spoke at Monday’s hearing said that minorities and special education students face a disproportionate amount of discipline in public schools. School officials suspended or expelled more than 59,000 students in Washington schools in 2012-13, according to state data.

An analysis of the data by Washington Appleseed, a non-profit advocacy group, found that black students in Seattle were expelled at five times the rate as white students in the 2012-13 school year.

Katie Mosehauer of Washington Appleseed said the figures also show that the majority of students are being disciplined for “relatively minor behaviors,” such as disobedience, violating the dress code or truancy.

Mosehauser’s group wants OSPI to change the procedures so that reengagement meetings with parents are mandatory. She also wants a stronger appeals process and for the law to apply to all students, regardless of when they were expelled.

But others say that the proposals could jeopardize the safety of the students and teachers.

Under the law, schools can petition for a punishment that exceeds the one year limit for students who pose a threat to “public health or safety.” Emergency expulsions must be changed to another form of corrective action within 10 days.

Parker Howell, an attorney for the Washington Association of School Principals, said those parts of the law have generated confusion, and don’t offer clear guidance on how to handle emergency expulsions.

“In some cases, returning a student to school prematurely can entail safety risks and we must be thinking of the safety concerns of the other students and staff,” said Howell.

He pointed to a $1.3 million jury verdict awarded to two students who were stabbed by a fellow classmate in a restroom at Snohomish High School. The attacker had previously been suspended for threatening students.

Howell said under the current rules, a school administrator can only expel a student for violating school rules. He suggested changing the rule so students can be expelled for posing a safety risk.

Several parents and guardians of special education students also spoke at the meeting, and said they were grateful for the new law. Others representing minority communities also say it is long overdue.

Structural inequalities in Washington schools have resulted in a “school-to-prison pipeline,” said Thelma Jackson of the Washington Alliance of Black School Educators.

“Given the deplorable situation in discipline for many schools in Washington state, I am very glad to finally see some movement to remedy the unjust and unfair practices that have been going on in most of our schools for quite some time,” Jackson said.

TVW taped the hearing — it will be archived at this link.

Categories: Education

Education funding report to state Supreme Court says 2015 session will be ‘critical’

By | April 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington Supreme Court earlier this year gave the Legislature an April 30 deadline to submit a plan explaining how the state will pay for education. Lawmakers met that deadline with a report submitted Tuesday — but it doesn’t include a plan.

“The Legislature did not enact additional timelines in 2014 to implement the program of basic education as directed by the Court in its January 2014 order,” according to the report, which was prepared and unanimously approved by the Article IX Litigation Committee.

During the 2014 legislative session, “there was was no political agreement reached either among the political caucuses or between the legislative chambers” on a plan to fully fund basic education by 2018.

Nor does the committee have the authority to come up with a plan, the report said. The Article IX committee was set up to communicate with the Supreme Court on matters related to to the McCleary lawsuit, and “does not have policy-making or budget-making authority.”

The 58-page report details bills that were passed this year, including Senate Bill 6552. The bill requires high school students to earn 24 credits for a diploma, starting with the class of 2019. The current minimum is 20 credits, although some school districts require more than the minimum.

It also notes the Legislature approved an increase of $58 million in the supplemental budget for K-12 books and supplies.

The committee asked the Supreme Court to give “deep consideration” to the action taken this year, and recognize that “2015 is the next and most critical year for the Legislature to reach the grand agreement needed to meet the state’s Article IX duty.”

Read the full report here.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn criticized the report as “far from complete.”

“It isn’t even a plan. It reads like a small history lesson,” said Dorn, who urged the Supreme Court “to do what it can to keep the Legislature’s feet to the fire.”

Democratic Sen. David Frockt and Republican Rep. Chad Magendanz, who both sit on the Article IX committee, discussed the report on this week’s edition of “The Impact.”

“We didn’t pass a plan, per se,” said Frockt. He said the committee instead tried to acknowledge what the Legislature accomplished, and explain how the budget process works in a supplemental year.

“In terms of what the court does with that, it’s hard to say,” Frockt said.

The Supreme Court is expected to give a response to the report this summer.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a brief to accompany the report, saying he “hopes that the Court’s response to the attached Report will further facilitate, and not complicate, this endeavor, thereby allowing each branch to fulfill its constitutional role.”

Categories: Education

Feds rescind No Child Left Behind waiver from Washington state

By | April 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

The U.S. Department of Education is rescinding Washington’s No Child Left Behind waiver, a move state officials called disappointing but not surprising.

Washington is the first state to lose the waiver, and it means public schools will no longer have flexibility in spending about $40 million in federal funding.

“Loss of that funding means those districts now face potential impacts that could include laying off some of Washington’s tremendous teachers or cutting back on programs that serve at-risk students,” said Gov. Jay Inslee, who called the decision “disappointing but not unexpected.”

The waiver is being revoked because the state did not adopt legislation to require student test scores to be a factor in teacher and principal evaluations, according to the Education Department.

“I recognize that requiring the use of statewide assessments to measure student learning growth requires a legislative change, and that Gov. Inslee and your office worked diligently to obtain that change,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote in a letter to Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. “However, because those efforts were unsuccessful, and your legislature is not scheduled to reconvene until January 2015, I cannot extend Washington’s authority to implement ESEA flexibility…”

The state Senate rejected a bill on a 19-28 vote in February that would have made changes to the state’s evaluation system. The sponsor of that bill, Republican Sen. Steve Litzow, said the loss of the waiver is “not at all a surprise given legislative Democrats refusal to comply with the very requirements we signed up for.”

Superintendent Dorn supported making student progress a factor in teacher evaluations. “Unfortunately the teacher’s union felt it was more important to protect their members than agree to that change and pressured the Legislature not to act,” Dorn said in a statement.

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson said the No Child Left Behind law is “ineffective,” and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle “were not willing to risk our kid’s futures for policies that don’t work.”

“Our evaluation system was designed for Washington and it works for Washington’s kids and their teachers and principals,” Nelson said.

Categories: Education