In his just released budget, Governor Inslee has necessarily made funding basic education a major focus. And that’s great news for our kids. We’ve long known that our state’s education system is grossly inequitable. Washington State is still failing to graduate roughly 30 to 40 percent of our most vulnerable children; ranking 41st in the nation in terms of high school graduation.
We support many of the goals in the Governor's budget. Reducing opportunity and achievement gaps, such as increasing school counselors, funding interventions for low-performing schools, increasing Learning Assistance Program funding, supporting foster care students and improving school attendance. We applaud the Governor and his team for focusing on reducing opportunity and achievement gaps for our students.
Big Issue with Ed Budget Transparency
Still, these funds must be targeted to the students who need them most. Determining how this is managed will require more information and discussion. In order to ensure students in every community have equal opportunities, we must examine not just how much money goes to schools and what we fund, but also how we determine which schools and students need additional supports.
One challenge in that is there is currently little transparency in the budgets of local schools, nor accountability for the funds. How can we know what’s working and what’s not? We need to fix that during this budget cycle; while we have an opportunity.
Teacher Pay Needs Further Review
One of the strengths of Governor Inslee’s budget is its focus on supporting our educators, whom we know have the greatest impact on student achievement and challenging jobs. Addressing Washington’s teacher shortage to ensure we attract and retain high-quality talent is paramount. The Governor’s investment of $73.2 million in expanded mentoring and training for teachers, principals and para-educators as well as alternative routes into teaching would help. If done right, so would the proposal’s intention to create more time for educators to collaborate and develop professionally. We look forward to hearing more about how this would work.
Furthermore, the Governor recognized that our current salary schedule for teachers is outdated and unaligned with research on what knowledge and skills signify professional growth in the craft of teaching. While other improvements are needed to our compensation system, this budget proposal moves in the right direction by placing less emphasis on years of experience and advanced degrees.
School-to-Career Options Need More Investment
While the Governor makes modest investments in career and technical opportunities and Computer Science, we believe it is the time to do more. These programs prepare students for today’s jobs. Washington State should look to a recent measure passed in Oregon, Measure 98, as a model for how we can invest in raising our graduation rates by creating more pathways that transition students into the world of work and higher education.