THURSDAY, JANUARY 17, 2013
No schedule for basic education funding
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.
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.
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
These are sound choices backed by evidence. What makes them smart is the integrated approach. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to review findings of theChicago Longitudinal Study. The Child Parent Center approach includes preschool, full-day K, smaller classes through grade 2, and family engagement and support in both the preschool and primary school years. The program began in the 1980s and the study has tracked participants into adulthood.
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
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
- 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
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.
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