State Education 101

STATE BUDGET CUTS: OUTLOOK GRIM FOR STUDENTS

Proposed cuts come with long-term loss for kids and schools. The governor’s proposal to cut short the school year is bad for kids and Washington State PTA is working to stop it.TAKE ACTION

  • It hurts our most vulnerable students, denying them access to federal food programs and essential services, and adding to child-care costs when parents can least afford it.
  • It creates a legal mess with long-term consequences (more on that here).
  • It further delays college- and career-aligned graduation requirements.
  • It puts even more pressure on unstable levies and uncertain local effort assistance.

CONTEXT: Amply funding education for all children is Washington State’s paramount duty. Yet despite this constitutional charge, the state has cut about $3 billion from K-12 schools over the course of the last three years. Or put another way — $1,000 less per student, per year. This money directly benefited kids – kept class sizes manageable and paid for things like instructional support, summer school and remediation programs, along with more all-day kindergarten and pre-K slots. Other cuts have been made to salary allocations and pensions, but those are in addition to the $3 billion in cuts to students.

What is proposed now is worse. Not only is the state going to make additional cuts, it is poised to change laws to give kids less – today and in years to come.

As tough as these cuts have been for schools to absorb, they were “enhancement funding” and they were temporary. The state has something called “basic education” – it is a legally protected level of funding and services to ensure a basic and uniform system of public education. “Basic education” is not much – funding to cover 180 days and 1,000 hours of instruction with minimal staffing. It doesn’t even cover all of our six-hour school day. It doesn’t cover the instructional time needed for a college-prep course of study. Your local levy money pays for that. But it does ensure that in bad times, the absolute basics will be covered.

Well, we’re in bad times now. And the state could get rid of the funding floor by making the school year variable. Students have lost funding in this recession, but they haven’t lost a basic constitutional protection. Now they might lose both.  And the kicker? To do this the state has to redefine “basic education” and argue that – as a policy — kids don’t need that time in school.

And in case you’re wondering: the national average for instructional time is 1,200 hours of instruction – quite a bit more than our floor of 1,000 hours and 180 days.

Please, let our legislators know we can’t undermine our children’s future in this way.

Thanks so much. Have a safe holiday with your loved ones.

–          Ramona Hattendorf, government relations coordinator for the Washington State PTA.

(If you’re passionate about this stuff, send a note to adminstaff@wastatepta.org and ask to subscribe to Grassroots Connection. It’s an e-newsletter to keep PTA members informed about state and national issues that affect children’s well-being and education.)

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About lmsptsa

LMS PTSA Publicity/ Communication
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