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Weekly Roll Call: Charter schools still in limbo

We’re nearing the end of the line for this year’s legislative session. Last Monday was the last day for bills to pass out of opposite House fiscal committees and Friday was the deadline for oppose House action. Now the only bills remaining that can be considered are those that have passed out of committee and passed in both Houses or are necessary to implement the budget.

 Charter Schools

What We're Hearing: The House Education Committee failed to take action by the deadline last week on ESB 6194. The bill could still be considered as necessary to implement the budget before the end of session. We’re still hopeful. Stand supports this bill.

Why We Stand: Listening to children in junior high and high school plead passionately before legislative committees for their education is unsettling in a state where passions run so high on the issue of quality education. Initial test results in the first three months show incredible achievements in our public charter schools, particularly in addressing the opportunity gap; but the Washington legislature still hasn’t taken action to save them. The question is: will we be the first state to close successful charters

McCleary Funding

What We're Hearing: The Governor signed HB 6195 on Monday, February 29; just five days after it was delivered to his desk. The bill will study how to better address basic education funding for the next legislative session in 2017.  Stand supports the legislature’s efforts to resolve education funding challenges. 

Why We Stand:   In our current funding system, more affluent local districts can pass levies that supplement the state funding received for basic education services; however, poorer school districts can’t do that. In the four years since the Supreme Court sided with the McCleary family on the fact that the state was not meeting its obligation to fund basic education; funding has increased significantly; but not to the levels legislators themselves had determined were considered “basic funding” back in 2009. Crosscut did a nice job of explaining exactly what the issues are in this article written right after the Supreme Court censure of the legislature in the fall of 2015.

Opportunity Gap

What We're Hearing: The Opportunity Gap Bill, E2SHB 1541 passed Ways and Means with amendments on Monday, February 29 and then passed the Senate on Friday, March 4 by a vote of 38-10. The Senate and House now must reconcile some minor differences. Stand supports E2SHB 1541. 

Why We Stand:  Charter schools, McCleary funding, teacher shortages and the opportunity gap bill all address our concerns that lower income students, generally from communities of color, are usually not getting the same educational opportunities as their more affluent counterparts. For example, in a recent study Seattle public schools performed below the 50-city average in graduation rates, with only 70 percent of students graduating in four years (compared to the 50-city average of 75 percent) and there were substantive proficiency gaps between low-income students and their peers. We believe we can and should do better. That’s why we stand firmly on these issues.

Teacher Shortage

What We're Hearing: All three teacher shortage bills are still alive at last check. SB 6332/HB 2573 – relating to the shortage of public school teachers and substitute teachers having passed Ways and Means on Monday, February 29 and is now awaiting floor action. SB 6455/HB 2921 – Expanding the professional educator workforce by increasing career opportunities in education, creating a more robust enrollment forecasting, and enhancing recruitment efforts passed House Appropriations Monday, February 29 and awaits floor action. HB 1737/2SHB 1737  - Addressing the availability of retired teachers as substitutes, passed out of Senate Ways and Means on Monday, February 29 and awaits floor action. Stand supports these bills addressing teacher shortages and strongly urges the legislature to address this crisis during the legislative session.

Why We Stand:  Though the problem of teacher shortages is not new, some of the factors behind the shortages are. Teacher satisfaction is at an all-time low. There are many reasons why—low pay, lack of classroom resources and education reform requiring new and different testing and teaching methodologies several of the top reasons cited for leaving the profession.  We know that teachers need more support to better perform their jobs and back efforts to increase pay for teachers for hard-to-staff regions and subject matter.

Assessments

What We're Hearing: The Assessment bills that delinked testing from graduation requirements are dead for this legislative session. Stand opposed both bills because they delinked assessments from graduation requirements.

Why We Stand: Linking assessment scores from middle and high school to successful graduation provides a baseline for teachers, students and parents to clearly understand what it will take to graduate high school. There’s no ambiguity with clear guidelines for all involved. It makes sense. Check out this flow chart that demonstrates the process

Professional Development

 What We're Hearing: HB 1345  – provides a clearer definition of professional learning and sets the course for how state, regional, and local education leaders support professional learning in order to advance student learning and create accountability.  The bill passed Senate 45-3 on Tuesday, March 1 and awaits Governor’s signature. Stand supported this bill.

Why We Stand:  Our expectations and standards for teachers have changed with Common Core; however, the tools provided to support teacher development have not kept pace.  At Stand, we believe teachers need better professional development opportunities, as well as some funding, to fully embrace Common Core practices in the classroom.

Other education bills we were monitoring that are likely dead unless part of a budget deal this week:

SB 5675 -- to expand dual language and bilingual instruction for Washington students, had no movement over the last two weeks. Stand supports this bill.

HB 2698 – delaying implementation of revisions to the school levy lid until after full funding of basic education through the McCleary ruling. Passed Senate Education Committee last week and has not yet been scheduled for action in Senate Ways and Means. Stand not taken a position on this bill.

Standing with you,

Cary Evans 
Government Affairs Director 
Stand for Children Washington

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