Washington State Happenings

(Posted 1/2/12)

From the January WASA Hotline published by the Washington Association of School Administrators

Legislative Special Session Adjourns— Regular Session Ready to begin
When legislators adjourned the 2011 Legislative Session in May, they had adopted the 2011–13 Operating Budget with $723 million in reserve to protect the state from future economic downturns. Following three downward revisions in revenue projections, however, that "healthy" reserve turned into a projected $1.4 billion shortfall for the remainder of the biennium (ending June 30, 2013). Faced with a growing deficit, Governor Gregoire announced in September that she would be calling policymakers back to town for an emergency Special Session on November 28.

Supplemental Operating Budget Request
Prior to the opening of the Special Session, Gregoire released her 2012 Supplemental Operating Budget request (see
www.wasa-oly.org/TWIO_112111 for details). Her proposal would have saved more than $1.7 billion by drastically cutting spending across all of state government, reducing local government revenue sharing, and making a series of budget transfers. Her plan also would have set aside approximately $600 million in reserve.

Gregoire’s request would have cut the K–12 education portion of the budget by $370 million and saved an additional $340 million in the current biennium by delaying schools’ June 2013 apportionment payments to the first business day in July 2013. K–12 cuts would have included a reduction in and restructuring of Local Effort Assistance ("LEA" or "levy equalization") and a reduction of four days in the current 180-day school year. To prevent these two cuts, along with a few other non-education proposed reductions, the Governor also requested the Legislature to allow the voters to decide whether to approve a temporary, one-half cent increase in the state sales tax.
"Early Action" Budget
Gregoire urged the Legislature to move quickly and adopt a revamped budget that erased the state’s $1.4 billion budget problem by Christmas. The ultimate outcome of the session, however, was significantly less than a "full meal deal." Working through 17 days of a constitutionally limited 30-day Special Session, legislators settled on an "early action" budget that closes $480 million of the state’s current budget gap. A large portion of the plan relies on budget transfers and delayed payments, which simply defers the majority of the difficult (and controversial) budget decisions until the Legislature returns this month (see
www.wasa-oly.org/TWIO_121211 for details.)

Looming Budget Crisis
On Monday, January 9, the Legislature convenes its second year of the 62nd Biennial Session. During the "short" session, limited to 60 days, policymakers traditionally focus on policy issues while the two-year budget is fine-tuned. With only a partial down payment made on the current budget crisis facing the state, the 2012 Legislature will have a heavy focus on budget matters. The major potential reductions to the K–12 education portion of the budget were largely avoided in the "early action" budget; however, the Legislature has a long way to go to completely erase the budget gap. K–12 will continue to be in the crosshairs.

Perhaps more than ever, school administrators [and others concerned about education in the state] need to be alert and active in the legislative process. Engage with your legislators and members of your local community. Remind them of your schools’ needs. Remind them that K–12 education is not simply just an expense—public education is a wise and sound investment in our state’s future.

Hotline • January 2012


(posted 9/16/11)

 WASA provides the following summary of recent financial estimates:

The Economic & Revenue Forecast Council met Thursday, September 15, and adopted its latest report (an executive summary and a PowerPoint presentation from the meeting is available here: http://www.erfc.wa.gov/forecast/documents/rev20110915color.pdf). As expected, revenues are projected to be lower than anticipated in the June forecast. The new forecast is approximately $1.4 billion lower than first predicted in June. Given the state’s reserves (both the budget stabilization account and unrestricted ending fund balance), the projected shortfall for the 2011-13 biennium (ending June 30, 2013) is $1.28 billion. Please remember the “shortfall” comes from the difference between the level of anticipated revenues and anticipated expenditures (i.e., expected revenues are projected to be less than expected expenditures). Actual state revenue is projected to increase through the end of the biennium, but revenue is not expected to increase as much as originally predicted, creating a “shortfall,” rather than an actual “deficit.”
It is unclear when or if a Special Session of the Legislature will be called. Legislative members of the Council acknowledged that a Special Session would not be as quick or easy as the one-day Special Session that occurred this past December; and each agreed that a plan needed to be developed prior to any Special Session being called. Marty Brown, OFM Director and the Governor’s representative on the Council, indicated that the Governor was “uncomfortable waiting until January” to address the shortfall, but hesitated to specifically indicate when or if a Special Session would be called. For the past several weeks, Governor Gregoire has been meeting regularly, via conference call, with legislative leaders and budget-writers and will continue discussions with them in the coming weeks—including a meeting today. Certainly, one of the many points of discussion will be options for a Special Session. Last night, it was reported that Gregoire believes a Special Session “appears unavoidable,” but said she wants to wait to hold a Special Session until after the next revenue forecast in November.
A final note about the forecast—the potential need for a Special Session hinges on not only the level of a budget shortfall, but also WHEN any shortfall will occur. The $1.4 billion reduction in anticipated revenue is a combination of a $500 million revenue loss in Fiscal Year 2012 and a $900 million revenue loss in Fiscal Year 2013. In other words, if a Special Session is deemed necessary, legislators may only need to immediately address the current $500 million shortfall and may be able to wait until the Regular Session in January to address the remaining shortfall. That’s not much consolation, but hopefully puts the budget situation in some context in terms of timing.
By September 22, state agencies are supposed to submit their 2012 Supplemental Budget requests to the Office of Financial Management. Those requests are to include targeted cuts of 5 percent and targeted cuts of 10 percent. When these proposals are submitted, the Governor and legislators may have a clearer picture of where “savings” may be found.
We will continue to keep you apprised as we know more. Let us know if you have any questions.
Paul Rosier and Dan Steele
Executive Director Assistant Executive Director

(posted 7/15/11)
Following passed on by Paul Rosier of the Washington Association of School Administrators:


 I received a call from Carol Hester this morning informing me that George Brain passed away last evening.  I don't have many details of his passing or of the services planned, but thought that you would want to know this as soon as possible. 

As most of you are aware, Dr. Brain was a true education icon in Washington and across the country.  He served as superintendent in Bellevue, Washington (1953-1959) and Baltimore, Maryland (1960-1964) and was Dean of the College of Education at Washington State University from 1965 to 1983.  He was a Past President of the American Association of School Administrators.  Most importantly, he was a true mentor and friend to many educators in Washington and around the world. 

George and his wife, Mary, resided on the family farm in Thorp since his retirement from WSU in 1983.  I will let you know when I hear more regarding his services. 

We have lost a true education legend and friend.

Dennis Ray

(posted 7/12/11)
Check out the following link to see an interesting take on the problems of schools in this state -- particularly in Seattle.  http://crosscut.com/2011/07/12/education/21069/The-troubling-lack-of-public-will-for-reform-of-Washington-schools--/one_page/ 

(posted June 27 2011)
Now that the legislature has given up in its responsiblities the courts take over.  On June 28 the State Supreme Court will consider appeals on a King County Superior Court decision that found that the state was not meeting its consitutional obligations to fund schooling.  Read about it in the Associated Press article published in the Seattle PI.

(posted May 25, 2011)
It appears that the Washington State Legislature has finished its work on the budget by cutting 2 billion 127 million from K-12 and higher education with the higher education cuts partially offset by tuition increases. 
For one set of opinions about the budget check out


Seattle Times 5/25/11 Summary of Washington State Budget Cuts

$356 million in pay cuts, including a 1.9 percent cut for teachers [179 million] and 3 percent for state workers [177 million].

$535 million cut from colleges and universities, partially offset with tuition increases.

$344 million saved by ending cost-of-living increases for certain state pension recipients.

$1.2 billion saved by suspending two education-related initiatives.

$130 million saved by reducing enrollment in the state Basic Health Plan.

$116 million saved by eliminating Disability Lifeline grants and replacing them with an essential needs and housing program.

$215 million cut to funding that reduced K-4 class sizes.

New $30 annual vehicle fee to visit state parks and other state recreational lands.

(posted May 2 2011)
One of the actions being proposed in the Washington legislature is a 3% reduction in salaries for school employees.  The Washington Association of School Business Officials have developed the following explanation of why local school districts are opposed to this action.  The Washington Association of School Administrators forwarded it to its membership on May 2.

Why School Districts Do Not Support the 3% Salary Reduction

The K 12 three percent salary cut proposed by the Senate budget creates legal and operational problems for school districts. School district employees are not state employees in the technical sense of who hires and who bargains with them. The three percent reduction to the LEAP schedule is a cut to basic education. The cuts would have direct effect on basic education at the local level in several ways:

Certificated Employees:

• There are 295 school districts in Washington each with individually negotiated Teacher Association contracts.

• When an existing contract contains a provision for teacher salaries to be tied directly to the State Salary Allocation Model (SAM), the 3% reduction might be passed through to teachers. However, the cut will generate required bargaining over fewer hours of work as this represents a change to working conditions and is, therefore, an issue to be bargained at the local level. Districts will be challenged to use one time fund balance resources to cover the loss. Using Fund balance to pay for ongoing contractual obligations is fiscally irresponsible because fund balance is a onetime, non sustainable resource.

• The Basic Education Act requires a minimum of number of instructional hours per school year so reducing the school days to achieve a 3% savings places school districts is in direct violation of the Basic Education Act.(RCW 28A.150.220(3).

• If unable to lessen pay, districts will be challenged to backfill for the 3% reduction by using a District’s reserve funds to add addition pay for TRI.

Classified and Administrative Support Staff:

• Classified salaries are not tied to a Salary Allocation Model - only a base salary is determined in the apportionment model.

• Reductions in Classified salaries or in the number of days or hours worked may have to be negotiated by each school district for each employee association.

• Some districts have a provision in their classified bargaining agreement that allows for a reduction in time of up to one hour per day. Not all classified contracts contain this language.

• A reduction in classified hours may result in a reduction of an employee’s full-time equivalent status and, therefore, may impact eligibility for benefits.

• Classified and Administrative positions support classroom activities and many of these employees must work the same schedule as teaching staff.

(Posted 2 4 2011)


From WASA Hotline for February 2011 by Paul Rosier, WASA Executive Director

Can we reach the 90 percent goal? This is the goal WASA has set for the percentage of districts joining the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS). We are making progress. When we set the goal in November, 55 dis¬tricts—18 percent—in the state were members of NEWS. At last report, 99 districts—34 percent—are now members. We still need 166 districts to join to reach our goal.

So why is important that at least 90 percent of the districts in our state join NEWS? The future of education in Washington now depends on the Supreme Court. We have known for the past 30 years that the state has not met its constitutional duty to fully and amply fund public education. The state has studied this issue many times. Legislators and governors have stated that the state is failing in its duty to fund public education; yet, nothing has been done except a new law to restructure the K–12 funding system with no money appropriated to actually fund it.

We now have a Superior Court ruling by Judge John Erlick in McCleary v. State that declares the state is failing in its constitutional duty to fully fund the actual cost of providing all students with the knowledge and skills they need to meet our state’s high academic standards. The state is not meeting its paramount duty. This is the most detailed and well written decision we could have possibly obtained.

The case has been appealed by the state to the Supreme Court of Washington. This spring the court will hear the appeal. There is always a political aspect to this type of case, and having at least 265 districts supporting the NEWS defense of Judge Erlick’s decision is powerful. Having a vast majority of the districts in the state standing on the sidelines is also a powerful message. It is up to the education community, are we willing to support NEWS???

Now is the time to approach your school boards about joining. Membership in NEWS requires a monetary commitment, but that can be as little as $100 to $1 per student, whichever is smaller. However, NEWS does need financial support, so a larger donation would be great. Remember the state appropriated over $900,000 in this budget year to support its appeal. More information regarding joining NEWS can be found at news@waschoolexcellence.org.

Do not let the children of Washington down. Join WASA in supporting NEWS and Erlick’s decision.


(posted 1  12  11)
The state school directors association provides the following look at school finance in the state:
Legislative Update
by Marie Sullivan, WSSDA Director of Governmental Relations
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

State of the State delivered; budget hearings underway

Legislators hit the ground running today, with a full schedule of committee hearings and a noon speech by Gov. Chris Gregoire, who harkened back to the days of the Great Depression and the early 1970s as times with similar economic implications as those facing the state today.

In her State of the State address, the governor called on the legislature to take early action on her supplemental budget proposal and to act on the various reforms she has proposed over the past month. The Governor said now was the time to challenge the status quo and urged legislators to put state government on a 21st century path.

Led by Chair Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, the House Education Appropriations Committee started the morning with presentations by the Governor’s budget office to close the $588 million shortfall in the budget year ending June 30, 2011, and the projected $4.6 billion gap in the 2011-13 operating budget.

Senior budget analyst Jim Crawford described elements of the Governor’s budget proposals, which are briefly described below.


Early action on the FY11 supplemental budget

When the Legislature met in special session December 11th, it made the following cuts to K-12 education:

• $39 million decrease in K-4 class size enhancement (effective February 1, 2011)

• $10 million in general cuts to OSPI

• $52 million in higher education

• $208 million shift of federal education jobs funding to backfill apportionment reductions to school districts in the 2010-11 school year

FY11 supplemental budget proposal

The Governor’s current proposal for the fiscal year ending this June makes the following changes to the early action items to close a budget gap of $588 million:

• $253 million is shifted to the 2011-13 biennial budget. This budget trick moves school districts’ June apportionment payment into July

• $42.1 million in K-4 class size enhancement (makes the cut retroactive to start of the school year)

• $18 million in local effort assistance (LEA), representing an equal 6.3% cut to property poor districts

• $7.1 million elimination of the highly capable students program

• Eliminating programs such as Readiness to Learn, Summer Vocational Skills Center, and reducing other programs

The spending proposal also creates two contingency funds, of $13 million and $15 million respectively. The first fund is designed to help eligible districts handle financial issues due to the June apportionment shift; the second fund is for districts that will need assistance to weather the program cuts during this school year. Any use of the contingency funds will require districts to repay the amount by June 30, 2012.

Under questioning by committee members, Governor’s representative Jim Crawford said they recognized that school districts were under contractual obligations and that it was unlikely that services would be cut in the current school year. There was wide-spread recognition by committee members that school districts would need to tap fund balances to meet obligations, and that changes probably wouldn’t be made until the following school year.

Crawford also said that the Governor had not considered reducing school days in the supplemental or existing school year, and was not inclined to reduce days in the upcoming biennium because other actions, such as making changes to the definition of basic education, would need to occur to capture any savings.

The House Ways & Means Committee took public testimony Tuesday afternoon, which one lobbyist called a “parade of the horribles” when describing the drastic cuts proposed for education and human services. WSSDA will be submitting a formal set of concerns, aligned with our priorities as adopted by the Legislative Assembly last September.

2011-13 Operating Budget Proposal

As described previously, the Governor’s spending proposal for the 2011-13 biennium is an “all-cuts budget” as required by the constitution. For K-12, many of the eliminated programs and reductions from the early action or supplemental budget proposal are carried forward into the operating budget plan. These include:

• $806 million by suspending I-728

• $306.4 million from Pension 1 retirees COLAs

• $253.3 million by suspending I-732 COLAs

• $253 million for the June 2011 apportionment – paid in this biennium

• $216 million for eliminating K-4 class size reduction funds

• $99.5 million by suspending bonuses for national board certified teachers and the additional bonus for working in challenging schools

• $39.5 million in LEA reductions (tiered approach, described below)

• $16.8 million by eliminating the highly capable students program

• $7.2 million by eliminating readiness to learn

• And other programs listed in the budget detail or presentation

The tiered approach to cuts to LEA links the percentage cut to how closely the district aligns with the property tax average; the most property poor districts would take a 1% cut while others would take a 3%, 5% or 28.75% cut.

Legislators questioned this approach, and OFM acknowledged that this adds a new formula to LEA and that a group of school finance experts is working on recommendations for possible changes to levies and LEA, with their work to be completed later this year.

The Governor’s proposal includes new funding to continue the teacher/principal evaluation pilot projects initiated under ESSB 6696, and $15 million in incentive funding for early adopter school districts.

In addition, basic education is funded at $12.9 billion, LEA at $588 million, state assessments at $105 million, $20 million for the school breakfast/lunch programs, and all-day kindergarten for the first 20 percent of districts. In addition, much of the funding to phase in SHB 2776 is delayed, with the exception of transportation. In transportation, the proposal calls for a change to school bus depreciation, putting the payment in the final year.

Legislators had many questions about the budget proposal, including what options the Governor or Office of Financial Management might have considered other than cuts to K-12, why keep suspending I-728 and I-732 when future budgets wouldn’t be able to catch up, and if someone was tracking the cumulative effects of the proposed reductions and program eliminations. There also was recognition by many committee members that these proposals would force school districts to use cash reserves which have been set aside in anticipation of cuts in this biennium and which are critical in some districts for cash flow, bond ratings, and pre-planned purchases.

Both the House and Senate Ways & Means committees will continue to discuss all the Governor’s budget proposals, although there is more pressure to take action on the FY11 supplemental at this time. Most likely, legislators will wait for the March 17th revenue forecast to introduce their 2011-13 operating budget proposals.

The Senate Way & Means Committee will hold a work session Monday, January 17 at which education advocates (including WSSDA) have been invited to share their concerns about the Governor’s proposed supplemental and biennial budgets. WSSDA is putting together a panel of school directors but invites all school directors to contact their local legislators to indicate their biggest concerns and how the proposed cuts will impact programs in their local schools.

OSPI response to governor’s budget proposals

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn presented OSPI’s response to the Governor’s proposals and made a strong case to keep some programs that are designed to encourage innovative learning approaches, close the “opportunity gap,” and discourage dropping out of school. Dorn also made a pitch to delay the upcoming science assessment test for 10th graders and said he would be offering a proposal on the math assessments. His key points were:

• Ample funding for K-12 Keep the critical education funding, including LEA, highly capable, K-3 and teacher bonuses

• Implement initial phases of finance reforms associated with SHB 2776, including transportation and MSOC

• Delay the roll out of high-stakes assessments

• Continue to fund programs that give students hope and choice, e.g., Navigation 101, Jobs for American Graduates, Washington Achievers and College Success.

Dorn acknowledged the tough job legislators have this year, but said that Washington state is 44th in the nation in funding per pupil, and 18th in achievement in NAEP (4th grade math and reading scores). In a presentation later in the day, Dorn reiterated this point, saying that we get good “bang for our bucks.” However, he followed up by saying that more cuts to K-12 will hurt those students who need the most help, and that’s not where we want to be as a state.


WSSDA legislative reports are prepared by WSSDA's Governmental Relations staff team: Marie Sullivan (360.252.3010) and Sheila Chard (360.252.3011). We welcome your questions and comments. We also encourage school directors to keep in touch with their legislators on a regular basis. If you need contact information, visit the Legislature's District Lookup Tool. WSSDA also provides a number of links to key House and Senate committees.

WSSDA • 221 College Street NE • Olympia, WA • 98516

(posted 1 7 11)
For some sensible commentary on the Governor's proposal to create an education super agency see Joel Connelly's comments in the Seattle PI.

(Posted 1/6/11)
 Washington's Governor says education would be better served if all the different agencies having to do in some way with K-12 or Higher Education were combined into one office under a Secretary of Education whom she would appoint.

To learn more about this proposal and early reactions to it check on this link to an article in the January 6, 2011 Seattle Times.

(Posted 12/27/10)

Citizens in Kennwick Washington (one of Washington state's tri-cities) have an informative blog titled Kennewick School District Citizens .  Check it out as a possible model for your community action efforts.

(Posted 12/16/10)
  Washington's Governor announced her proposed budget cuts yesterday.  See article from the Seattle Times. Education, K-12 and college, takes hard hits.  Public schools will see increases in class size, lay offs of teachers, elimination of programs that provide for assistance to potential drop-out, and other cuts.  State colleges and universitieis will be allowed to raise tuition 9 to 11% but will still take significant cuts.

The Governor says she hates her budget and she is right, many of the cuts are immoral.

(Posted 12/10/10)
Michael Dunn, superintendent of Educational Service District 101 in Washington state has shared a thoughtful piece, "I'm Not Waiting...Super Men and Women Abound" in the December 2010 issue of the WASA Hotline.  On the WASA home page click on the Hotline link to read Dunn's comments. 

I am sure we all know "super men and women" like those he describes.

(posted 11/17/10)

The Nov 17 Seattle Times featured dualing op ed pieces responding to indications that Teach for America is considering becoming involved in Seattle.  The linked commentary explains why Seattle should avoid "Teach for Awhile" while editorial columnist Lynn Varner in an opposing statement suggests we should "send in the overeducated whippersnappers."

I am not sure that the TFA people are any happier with the suggestion they are producing overeducated whippersnappers than they are with the translation of the intials into Teach for Awhile. The latter charge is well documented -- the former not as clearly demonstrated if one includes professional knowledge as part of what being educated includes for a teacher.

(posted 9 8 10)  Information from the Washington Association of School Administrators

WASA Takes Positions on Ballot Issues

Nine statewide measures will appear on the November 2010 general election ballot. The WASA Executive Committee has taken positions on four of those measures, which could have broad impacts on K–12 education if they pass. The recommendations by the Executive Committee were reviewed by the WASA Legislation and Finance Committee.

OPPOSE Initiative 1053—Requiring a Two-Thirds Majority to Raise Revenue

This measure would restate existing statutory requirements that legislative actions raising taxes must be approved by two-thirds legislative majorities or receive voter approval and that new or increased fees require majority legislative approval. While this measure would have no immediate direct impact on K–12 education, if it were to pass, it would severely restrict legislative flexibility to raise the revenue needed to fund essential services.

SUPPORT Initiative 1098—Establishing a State Income Tax on High Income Earners

This measure would tax couples with adjusted gross incomes greater than $400,000 annually, or incomes of more than $200,000 for individuals. It also would cut the state property tax by 20 percent and increase the Business and Occupation Tax credit to $4,800. The Office of Financial Management’s fiscal analysis estimates I-1098 would generate a net increase of $11 billion in state revenue over five calendar years to be used exclusively for education (early learning, K–12, and higher education) and health services. Seventy percent of the proceeds would be dedicated to the Education Legacy Trust Account and 30 percent would be dedicated to health services, including the Basic Health Plan, state and local public health, and long-term care services.

OPPOSE Initiative 1107—Repealing Taxes on Candy, Bottled Water and Soda Pop

This measure would reverse certain 2010 amendments to state tax laws. Specifically, I-1107 would eliminate the sales tax on candy, eliminate the temporary sales tax on bottled water, and end the temporary sales tax increase on carbonated beverages. It would also reinstate a reduced business tax for certain food processors. The Office of Financial Management’s fiscal analysis estimates that passage of this measure would reduce State General Fund revenues by approximately $352 million over five fiscal years. Additionally, local revenue is estimated to be reduced by $83 million over five fiscal years.

SUPPORT Referendum 52—Green Energy Bond Program for Schools

The 2010 Legislature adopted Engrossed House Bill 2561 to finance construction and repair projects increasing energy efficiency in public schools and higher education buildings. If ratified by the voters, the measure would authorize the issuance of $505 million in state general obligation bonds to fund capital improvements for energy efficiency in buildings owned by public school districts and public higher education institutions. The measure would also continue the sales tax on bottled water otherwise expiring in 2013. The Office of Financial Management’s fiscal analysis notes the 29-year debt service costs are estimated to total $937 million for an average annual state cost of $32.3 million; however, those costs are projected to be covered by the extension of the sales tax on bottled water. Revenues from the bottled water tax extension are estimated to increase State General Fund revenues an annual average of $39.8 million.

Detailed information about each of these ballot measures is available through the state’s online voters guide on the Secretary of State’s website. The guide includes explanatory statements, fiscal impact statements, arguments for and against, and the full text of each measure.

(posted 7 27 10)
As I expected Washington applicaion not among finalists for Race to the Top funding.

(posted 7 25 10)

According to a story in today's Seattle Times, Washington's State Superintendent of Public Instruction has determined that the state will adopt the national standards developed by the National Governor's Association and the association that includes most state superintendents.  Legislative approval is required. 

There is still no evidence that such standards will improve learning, the state has not completed a study of how the new standards relate to those adopted previously by Washington, and the state's plan to obtain fedeal funding from Race to the Top is at a considerable disadvantage given problems with enabling laws passed in the last legislative session.

In the rush to adopt such standards many questions are being ignored.  For example, various groups have adopted national "goals" or "standards" in mathematics during the past 25 years but anyone who has been following schooling in the country knows that there strong differences of opinion within the scholarly community and among teachers and parents regarding what should be taught in math and how it should be taught.  In any event none of the adopted standards have overcome the general deficiency in knowledge of math among those who are called on to teach it. 

(Posted June 9, 2010)

Race Issue in Marysville School Board Debate.
Marysville, Washington school board members recently engaged in a heated debate about race according to newspaper reports

(Posted June 7, 2010)
The Snohomish School District was one of the districts opting not to support Race to the Top application from the state.  Read Article from Everett Herald about their decisions and note comments from readers.

(June 2, 2010)

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today [June 1, 2010] announced that Washington state has officially submitted its Race to the Top application to the U.S. Department of Education. Race to the Top grants will go to states that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform.

“When we started this process to apply for Race to the Top, we knew it would be critical that we get broad support from across the state. I’m proud to say we accomplished that and our application is much stronger because of it,” said Gregoire. “Improving our education system takes hard work and commitment. I am grateful for all the support our education reform plan has received throughout the state, and I know we will be successful in our goal of ensuring every child in our state gets a world class education.”

Statewide, 265 of Washington’s 295 districts have signed on, representing 97% of the student population. Copies of the entire 1,100-page application are available online at http://www.waracetothetop.org/.  Read more about this at Governor's Web Site .

Do you suppose there are 30 districts that know something the Governor doesn't know?

(May 18, 2010)
According to the Seattle Times, education officials in Washington state reported that at least 226 of 295 school districts have endorsed the state's bid for federal Race to the Top funding. Gov. Chris Gregoire had campaigned to win support for adopting tougher national academic standards, financial incentives to place effective teachers in struggling schools and other reforms designed to win the state up to $250 million in federal funds. Officials said more districts are expected to sign on, with the final grant application due in June.

This was reported as a positive result from a month of pressure on the districts.  Of course it could have been headlined that in spite of the pressure applied, nearly 1/4 of the districts have not signed on.

(May 7, 2010)
The Seattle Times expresses its concerns about slowness with which school districts in the state are committing to State's application for Race to the Top funds.  The paper suggests there are no reasons for the Districts not to sign on and reports that the Governor is concerned.  Its possible Districts may see the race as not worth running.

(April 14, 2010)
The state legilsature has finally adjourned.  Both higher education and K-12 schools took additional cuts.  Previously voter-approved funding for teacher salary increases and lower class sizes in the primary grades are gone.  In spite of the court's reminder that funding education is the paramount duty of the state, the legislators responded to intense pressures against increased taxes by making minimal nuisance tax increases on such items as pop and beer, increased Business and Occupation taxes slightly, and balanced the rest of the budget by making more cuts and accounting manipulations.  Also, local school districts were given more authority to submit tax levies to voters in spite of the court's clear warning that this approach did not meet constitutional obligations for state support of schooling.

Trial Findings McCleary et al v State of Washington

Judge John P. Erlick, 4 February, 2010, Superior Court of Washington King County

(Same Republican Attorney General who has joined in suit against Federal Health Care Legislation indicated on March 26, 2010 he will appeal this Superior Court Decision and Governor who is opposing him on health care issue supports this appeal. on education funding.)

(excerpt pages 26-28)
For a citizen of this State to participate meaningfully in this State’s democratic process and intelligently cast his or her vote on the broad array of State and local government offices and ballot measures noted above, that citizen must be meaningfully equipped to learn about, understand, and evaluate the candidates, ballot measures, positions, and issues being debated and decided in that election….
Having an educated citizenry is critical to this State’s democracy. (“To be educated is to be free,” Marti.)

130. Having an educated citizenry is also vital to the operation of this State’s justice system. For example, the jury system upon which this State’s justice system is based depends upon each juror being meaningfully equipped to read, understand, comprehend, and debate the evidence, issues, and arguments presented to the jury for decision.

131. Having an educated citizenry also plays a vital role in preserving the cohesiveness of this State’s pluralistic society as a whole. For example, broad public education provides each member of this State’s citizenry a shared knowledge and understanding of the common history, common values, and common ideals that all citizens in this State share. This unifying awareness and understanding is especially important to maintain the cohesiveness of a widely diverse society like the one in this State, which is an amalgamation of citizens from a wide range of different cultures, backgrounds, lifestyles, orientations, neighborhoods, and family roots.

132. Education also plays a critical civil rights role in promoting equality in our democracy. For example, amply provided, free public education operates as the great equalizer in our democracy, equipping citizens born into the underprivileged segments of our society with the tools they need to compete on a level playing field with citizens born into wealth or privilege.

133. Education also plays a critical role in building and maintaining the strong economy necessary to support a stable democracy—one that is free and independent from outside power and influence. For example, broad public education builds the well educated workforce necessary to attract more stable and higher wage jobs to this State’s economy, and provides the living wage jobs and employment necessary to provide gainful employment to this State’s citizens, and lessening the burdens on this State’s citizens of social services, crime, and incarceration.

134. The importance of and challenges facing our educational system are not limited to Washington. Politically-diverse figures, U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, former U.S.Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, and civil rights advocate Al Sharpton, have recently joined forces to promote reforms in education. Speaker Gingrich noted: “First of all, education is the number one factor in our future prosperity;… I agree with Al Sharpton, this is the number one civil right of the 21st century….There is no excuse for accepting failure.”

Judges Ruling Doesn't Change Budget Problems (3/25/10)

School districts wait for the final axe to fall as the legislature continues to struggle with state's financial woes.  Meanwhile they are developing budget scenarios featuring cuts in the usual places like art,  music, and athletics.  In addition to proposed increases in class size (since the state is likely not to continue prior practice of extra funding for primary grades) some other cuts are being proposed.  For example, today's papers report Bellevue is considering compounding its elimination of secondary librarians last year with elimination or reduction of elementary school librarians.  Also, student fees continue to increase and the notion of a "free" public education for all becomes less and less a reality.

Judge Erlick's conclusions that the state is not meeting its constitutional obligations will be more true when this legislative session is over than before it began.

Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction charged with DUI (3/24/10)

Seattle PI.com reports Orting [Washington] Prosecuting Attorney Aaron Walls says the charge was filed Wednesday morning in Orting Municipal Court. The charge is a gross misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Dorn was arrested early Sunday in the rural Pierce County community. The Washington State Patrol says a breathalyzer test found Dorn's blood-alcohol content was 0.11, which is 0.03 above the legal limit in Washington.

He has apologized and as of April 3, 2010 newspapers report he pled guilty and was sentenced to 365 days in jail with all but one day suspended. 

Washington Legislature Acts to Enable State to Seek Race to the Top Funds
At the close of the regular session legislators acted on several provisions designed to help the state succeed in the federal grant competition.  Changes were made in the state accountability system, teacher and principal evaluation processes, curriculum standards, and teacher preparation programs.

The act appears to open up the state's collective bargaining processes to binding arbitration on interest disputes for the first time, empowering superior court judges to make final decisions when there is a conflict between districts and unions over how to deal with improvement of education in the worst five percent of schools and mediation has not resolved the conflict.

Whether the changes are enough to help the state overcome other hurdles, the new laws take additional steps reducting the power of local school boards in relation to employment and curricular practices.

Oh yes, as usual the legislation will require considerable action by local school districts without added funding to pay for it.

Districts Get Federal Money

The SeattleSeattle PI online PI online reports  on school districts in Washington who received Federal Grants to help persistently low performing schools.