Sunday, March 10, 2013

Time to move this state forward . . .

I spent the day in Olympia with Board member Mary Jane Glaser and Mark Koch at the WASA, WSSDA WASBO Legislative Conference.  After spending the day yesterday in Seattle at the E3 Washington Board meeting I was not looking forward to another day in Olympia, the fourth visit in the last two weeks, but I am glad that I went.  The updates and guidance provided us with important information as we make decisions on the message we want to give our legislators.

We heard from Governor Inslee, Superintendent Dorn, and Thomas Ahearne, lead attorney in the McCleary case.  We also heard from senators and representatives from each caucus in both houses who provided us with updates on both fiscal and policy bills.  The legislators included Senators Billig and Dammeier and Representatives Wilcox, Hunter, Dahlquist, and Tamiko Santos.  The place was packed with administrators and board members who greeted Superintendent Dorn and Attorney Ahearne's words with loud applause and cheering, something that all the legislators did not hear following their comments.

I could share information with you in posts for the next week.  We heard many numbers mentioned with representatives from both parties saying that they were looking at increasing education revenue to meet the McCleary court ruling.  Rep. Hunter talked about $1.7 billion which is the number being pushed by WASA. It is above the $1.4 billion recommended by the Joint task Force on Education Funding and is arrived at because it is 2/5 of what must happen by 2018 when basic education needs to be fully funded under the court order.  The lowest number came from Senator Dammeier who said in the "billioinsh" range, a number that is larger than what we have been hearing might come from the new senate majority caucus.  The problem is no one has a plan for where the money will come from.

One of the themes from Senator Dammeier and Representative Dahlquist was that any new money must be outcome based, the citizens need to see that the money is resulting in increased achievement.  Their rationale for new reforms that meet their outcome base requirement is that we are doing a poor job in our state of educating our young people.  So, they decide that one size all reforms are going to reduce the achievement gap and for underachieving youth.  I don't disagree that we must do something to reduce this gap, but it is not the same in all systems and one size reforms are not the answer.

At the same time we hear from them that we are doing a poor job, Senator Billig shared that we are generally in the top third of the states on achievement measures and in the bottom third on funding per pupil.  Superintendent Dorn shared that we rank 42nd in per pupil funding and are in the top 10% of achievement rankings with only Utah ahead of us.  These numbers suggest we are doing something right in our state, yet there are many in Olympia believing that we need new reforms to fix us.

The best comment of the day came from Senator Billig when he said our next reform should be funding the reforms in HB 2261 and HB 2776.  This resonates with my belief on the need for stability, not new mandates from the legislature.

We are doing our part and are committed to an instructional focus to improve achievement for ALL young people.  It is now time for legislators to understand that we have the knowledge and expertise in this state to do the work and it is their responsibility to move this system forward by funding the reforms already in place.


John said...

I appreciate your comments Mike. As I read them I think about what we teach our kids about forming habits. Through repetition and practice, we as human beings form habits, both good and bad. It seems to me that many in Olympia have formed a bad one. If one says our system is not doing well enough times, I guess it becomes truth. We in Washington have been doing a lot with a little; in Tahoma we have done even more. It gives me hope that you are hearing the message about being 42nd in per pupil spending. WEA has been sending this message for the last decade. Hopefully a new habit is forming amongst our lawmakers and we begin to focus on the most important reform to education: the full funding of it.

Mrs. Clemsen said...

I appreciate the comments of both of you. I often contemplate how the voice of an educator can be heard and acknowledged. As I work every day with 28 students who all have very unique academic, social, emotional, and physical needs, I am perplexed because a huge segment of our country's population is being overlooked--the youth. I personally think we are encroaching on a crises. Each year the needs from me rise because my students aren't getting what they need in other places. I say "WASHINGTON WAKE UP!" Build a state of educated students who can serve the world in a positive way. I never know how to reach our legislatures with impact. I wish they would visit our classrooms.