I did testify and was pleased my bigger picture comments were picked up in this story from KNKX .
“Please do not make a difficult situation worse by trying to challenge and verbally abuse the Supreme Court,” she said. “You are equal branches of government charged with overseeing each other’s work. Please think of them as colleagues, not as enemies and get this work done for the children of Washington state and for the ultimate good of our economy and democracy.”But, for my money, the best testimony came from incoming SPS 4th grader, Asher Ravona. He spoke well for all the public school students of Washington and, in his own voice.
The consultants gave a length review of their work thus far. The final report from the consultants is due November 15, 2016; the Taskforce report to the Legislature is due Jan. 9, 2017.
Here are some highlights from the consultants' preliminary report to the Taskforce (I'll try to get a link to it):
- Their work is around a "prototypical school staffing." I didn't see that phrase entirely defined.
- There are nine areas around their work. One was "clarifying basic education and local enrichment." Again, not defined so I would assume enrichment may mean levies/bonds but might include other grants like PTA. A second one that caught my eye was "Whether additional state legislation is needed to help school districts support state funding for K-3."
- They had a chart of what the state allocated for all districts for different staffing and it proved interesting. For example, the State allocated 55,543 certificated instructional staff but districts paid for 66,427 staff. Districts weren't so far apart on administrative staff but hugely different for classified staff (I missed the number but it was something like 4,000 allocated but 13, 000 actual. This should tell the Taskforce something about the numbers needed to run our schools.)
- The information on districts and data proved quite informative. The districts had about a month this summer to get info requested to the consultants. They asked 299 districts to complete the forms. 295 were regular districts, 4 were tribal and 1 was a charter district. (I believe that last one may be Mary Walker School district which served as the umbrella district for the defunct charters after the law was overturned last September.) Eight-seven percent of districts submitted data and that was across rural, suburban and urban districts.
- One legislator asked about the districts that did not submit data, noting that those with 5,00-10,000 students had the highest non-compliance rate. The consultants said they did not contact districts after a second try and said many districts said, "We cannot comply and do not intend to." This lead Senator Rivers to say she would like a list of the "scofflaws." The consultants said they would have that to the committee in a week's time.
- The amount the State pays for a certificated instructional position is $34,155. The consultants said factors that district use to raise that amount include attracting/retaining teachers, local needs, student needs, district initiatives and available funds.
- The consultants were asked about how to disaggregate what is truly the State's responsibility from all this data and the consultants suggested that it was not up to them to decide "which is your duty."
- The big takeaway for me is that the consultants are ONLY considering salaries and not benefits. I would submit that we all know that benefits are a huge part of any kind of job consideration.
- The consultants said that, in their analysis, they would be using "nurses, accountants and architects" salaries because they believe they are comparable in duties and training. This set of a round of sharp questioning by some legislators. One noted that his wife was a nurse and he pretty sure she would never consider herself on the same working level as teachers (or vice versa.) Senator Rolfes said that teaching and nursing are sometimes considered "women's" professions.
- Rep Magendanz asked why they had a 10-month work timeframe for teachers when the school year is 9 months. The consultants said that from "previous analysis" teachers work before the school year starts and after it ends. Senator Rolfes chimed in that this is true and not really accounted for (the teachers are not paid for most of this time). She said "There is a reality behind the complexity of this problem."
- I learned a new term - "duty root" which is the way of saying what a staff person's work assignment is.
- The state does not have a revenue to expenditures accounting system (at least not for public education.)
- "Cross-walking payroll data (unique to each district) to uniform categories in the data collection tool leaves room for interpretation by each district."
- Senator Rolfes also asked if the data would be publicly available for parents and community to see how their district spends money and compare it to other districts? The answer was yes.
- There was a contingent of teacher librarians including one from Denny and one from Sanislo. They had great stats on how much better students do when they have a full-time teacher librarian. It was also stated that in Seattle, 43% of schools received zero funding from the district from their library and that of the $5M spent on SPS libraries last year, only 23% came from SPS.
- There was also a good speaker, David Berg, on gifted education and he urged that the Taskforce and Legislature not forget these students.
- There was one speaker from the "Freedom Foundation" who only spoke of how bad the unions were and that they supported and protected long-term teachers more than new teachers.