Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hey Legislature - Do Your Jobs! Kids are Waiting

That's the basic message from the Washington State PTA and they - are - right.

Special Session?  Why?  It is now costing money to have the session AND costing time.

And just like our school districts have discovered, the Legislature knows that parents are ponying up money and time because they won't let their school communities down.

E-mail your legislator today.

I note that many Legislative watchers are seeing that the roadblocks seem to be around certain ed "reforms" like grading schools.  To hold the entire budget hostage for something that practically already exists (the info on every single school in the state is at OSPI for the reading and certainly is more comprehensive than a single letter grade) is wrong.

The bottom line (highlights mine):

The studies have gone on for years. The discussion, the indecision, the inaction. Families deserve to know when the money will come. If you spend a billion or less on the program of basic education this year, how will you close the funding gap by 2018?

Those of us out here need to see that legislative calls for more “reform” come with funding to train our educators, and to screen, diagnose and intervene with our students. A “C” or “D” label on a school shouldn’t hinge on the PTA line item, “Tutoring: $13,000.”

Out here, we need to see that you are committed to the constitution and carrying out your paramount duty to amply provide for the education of all children; to do so with a stable and dependable revenue source (per the Supreme Court); and to provide for a general and uniform system of schools.

Helping some kids is not enough. The state is on the hook for all kids, and the ball is in your court. 

The PTA message is quite long but here are some other excerpts:

 In the Washington State PTA we realize this isn’t news to you. We know you are familiar with the constitution and last year’s McCleary ruling. But still, it bears repeating. Because from the outside, this is what families and children hear:
  • We can’t pay for education if it means cuts to other programs/rethinking tax breaks.
  • We can’t pay for high school, or books or counselors until we reform the system.
  • Maybe all kids don’t really need the funding.
  • Maybe we can help some kids, and maybe that will be enough.
Helping some kids is not enough.   Failing to pay for education because you can’t resolve approaches to budgeting is not defensible, neither is leaving it to parents and non-profits to cover what is legally the state’s first and foremost responsibility.
Per the constitution:

Article IX, SECTION 1, PREAMBLE. It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.

Article IX, SECTION 2, PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM. The legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools.

But since 2009, the Legislature cut student achievement funds (“I-728”) and with it money to keep K-3 class sizes small, expand access to full-day kindergarten and train teachers. The Legislature cut allocations mid-year, leaving school districts scrambling to cover contracts. The Legislature cut salaries, forcing districts to negotiate furlough days or swallow more losses. All these cuts came after the Superior Court ruling that school funding was inadequate. The state lost the McCleary suit on pre-recession funding. By the time the Supreme Court affirmed McCleary, the state was in the hole billions, and then more billions.

The quality and availability of pre-K to third-grade early learning, and of college prep and career education, can’t rest on inequitable and unstable local levies, private fund-raising, or grants for the select few.

Our state has embraced reform, yet it doesn’t cover training and costs involved in screening and intervention for struggling readers. And while we have adopted career- and college-ready learning standards, and while the Legislature is asking schools to “opt kids up” into accelerated high school classes like AP and UW in the High School, as a body you still only budget for about five periods a day in middle and high school.  This makes it very difficult to offer a range of courses.

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