Focus Day is Thursday, Jan. 24. Free and empowering!This is Washington State PTA's citizen lobbying day when advocates show up, speak up and otherwise let their legislators know that kids matter. We provide common talking points but all members are always encouraged to speak to the issues that matter most to them.
Focus Day blog
The 2013 Legislative Session has kicked into gear, and our top priority -- improving and paying for basic education -- is at the forefront. The conversation kicked off Tuesday in a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee, where many of those testifying agreed: The outgoing governor's budget proposal had good elements, but did not go far enough to satisfy the McCleary school funding ruling. There is still no payment plan for K-12 education.
Following is Washington State PTA testimony to the committee.
To: House Appropriations Committee
Re: Education section, HB 1057, Gov. Gregoire’s proposed 2013-14 budget. Concerns
Dear Chairman Hunter and Appropriation Committee Members,
Thank you for serving on the House Appropriations Committee, especially this year when there is such a focus on the McCleary decision and the need to significantly grow the education budget. The Washington State Parent Teacher Association was party to that landmark lawsuit and we wholeheartedly agree with its conclusion: Not only do we have to significantly re-invest in our children’s education, we need to do so in a purposeful manner.
In her budget proposal, Gov. Gregoire took an integrated approach to Pre-K to grade 3 learning:
- Early learning programs for three- and four-year-olds;
- Access to full-day kindergarten;
- Small class sizes in kindergarten through grade 2, when it is most beneficial
A cost-benefit analysis was done in 2011. There was an $11 return on the dollar, on average, for individuals who went through the entire program; $8 for those who started with kindergarten. Children at higher risk saw much higher returns ($18 for boys; $16 for those whose parents had not completed high school).
Best of all (in PTA’s worldview):
“The Child Parent Center [program] resulted in significantly higher rates of attendance at 4-year colleges and employment in higher-skilled jobs and significantly lower rates of felony arrests and symptoms of depression in young adulthood.” (Excerpted from Science Daily, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110204091258.htm)
This is a federally funded Title I program, but it shows states the power of well-spent education dollars. Closing the opportunity gaps is a moral and economic imperative, and this type of investment is an essential component. Washington State PTA strongly supports increasing access to early learning, especially within an integrated approach for kindergarten through grade 3 that includes full-day kindergarten, small K-2 class sizes, and effective family engagement.
A much bigger budget problem
The legal obligation to Washington children, however, extends beyond early learning and the primary grades. The state laid out its intent to fully fund basic education with passage in 2009 of ESHB 2261. Yet four years later, this state still doesn’t pay for a basic six-period day, and our 24-credit career- and college-ready graduation requirements are on hold indefinitely. This affects every child in the state. Students aren’t reaching their academic potential because schools can’t consistently give them access to the education they need.
Struggling readers continue to struggle in ineffective programs. Too many of our K-3 teachers and principals do not understand the science behind reading, do not recognize the indicators for dyslexia or other reading disabilities, do not understand the importance and relevance of phonological screening in the K-3 years. Middle-schoolers ready for algebra continue to be denied access, simply because there aren’t enough slots for them.
Our schools are stressed. State funding doesn’t cover the operational costs of what most community members assume is a standard six-period day that can offer a basic college prep program, career and technical classes, arts and physical education. All of our large, successful school districts have foundations, booster clubs and PTAs raising significant private funds to cover basics like curriculum and staffing. State funds to support school improvement plans are nonexistent.
For this reason, Washington State PTA is concerned that the budget proposed by Gov. Gregoire doesn’t go far enough to address the McCleary court decision. The minimum components of basic education, as defined in law, are not being met and there is no schedule for full implementation.
Minimum components of basic education, as described in RCW 28A.150.220, include:
- Instruction in the essential academic learning requirements and accompanying state assessment system (The new “Common Core” standards in math and English language arts fall under this category, along with other learning standards)
- Instruction that “provides students the opportunity to complete twenty-four credits for high school graduation, subject to a phased-in implementation of the twenty-four credits as established by the legislature.”
- Supplemental instruction and services for underachieving students through the learning assistance program
- Supplemental instruction and services for English Language Learner students through the transitional bilingual instruction program
- The opportunity for an appropriate education at public expense for all eligible students with disabilities
- Programs for highly capable students
Education must be prioritized in the budget and legal commitments met. Fully implementing and funding 2009’s HB 2261 will get you there. This bill extends well beyond K-3 class size and full-day kindergarten and has significant components for grades 4 to 12 at all schools.
In the upcoming budget, Washington State PTA asks you to fund six periods in middle and high school (increase instructional time to 1080 hours) and provide for adequate counseling and family involvement so that all children together with their families can develop a solid high school and beyond plan, and all students can graduate ready to step into work, college or training after high school without costly remediation in basic academic skills.
We support Gov. Gregoire’s approach to preK-grade 3 investments, as well as increases to adequately cover transportation and maintenance, supplies and operating costs. We would also strongly encourage you to make investments in our teaching force. Please consider:
- Incentives to attract promising candidates into the field of teaching, and highly qualified teachers to high-need subjects and difficult-to-staff areas
- High quality mentoring for new teachers
- Incentives for teachers to achieve National Board Certification
- Ongoing professional development in effective practices
- Alignment of teacher education programs to evidence-based instructional practice
Our association recognizes the costs of basic education are significant and we do not underestimate the implications full funding will have on other programs – especially health and safety supports for children. But Washington must have stable, equitable K-12 funding that aligns with actual student need and community expectations. For that reason, Washington State PTA supports both a “fund education first” approach and new revenue. We do not advocate funding only education. As a state, we need to make the hard choices necessary to build a strong educational system, and all legislators need to understand that the discussion involves far more than class sizes and compensation. Washington is building a structure and supports to give all of our children a solid, equitable education that will prepare them for life beyond high school.
Again, I’d like to thank you each of you for your service. Appropriations is a particularly demanding committee, but more importantly your work is critical to making every child’s potential a reality.
Government relations coordinator
Washington State PTA
About Washington State PTA: Founded in 1905, the Washington State PTA is the largest child advocacy association in the state, with about a 140,000 members in 900 local PTAs across the state. Our vision: Make every child’s potential a reality. We volunteer and speak up to make it happen.