K-12 education may be taking a big hit with school days cut and improvements sidetracked. Cuts were expected to K-12 education; the questions were always what and how much. Neither House nor Senate budget proposals funded schools at maintenance levels, and both chambers are considering allowing furlough days.
Following is a recap of the budget:
The good news is:
All-day kindergarten for our poorest students was funded, the House proposal even increased it a percentage point each year – so that by 2014 the state would cover kindergarten for 22 percent of our poorest children.
Money was also provided to trim K-3 class sizes at high poverty schools. The Senate allotted $64 million, or enough to trim 2.5 students from high poverty K-3 classes; the House provided $25 million, enough to trim 1 child from high poverty K-3 classes. (Regular class sizes are funded at 25.23 for K-3; 27 for grades 4-6; 28.53 for grades 7-8; 28.73 for grades 9-12. This is an allotment scale ONLY and districts are free to fund at levels they choose. This is usually negotiated with the local unions.)
Money was also designated to cover a trimmed-back education ombudsman office, and kindergarten assessments at schools that receive all-day kindergarten funds.
The teacher and principal evaluation pilots were funded, and with a little extra so a few schools could start the transition process early.
Levy equalization funding was maintained in House and Senate budgets (it was trimmed in the governor’s proposal, with a scale that sent more money to lowest income schools)
And just about everyone agreed early learning is essential for kids. On the Senate side, ECEAP was the one program not cut. (That’s a preschool program for low income kids; it includes parent education and is strongly supported by national PTA.)
So what was cut?
Teacher and other school staff salaries (though bonuses for National Board Certification were kept in House and Senate proposals). The House “saved” $56 million by freezing the Step increases – these are increases teachers get for longevity or more education. The Senate cut its salary allotments by 3 percent for $261 million in “savings,” the same deal negotiated with state workers. The hitch is state workers took that cut as furlough days. When teachers are furloughed, school shuts down.To complicate matters, teachers are not state employees. They are district employees. So while the state can opt to send less money for salaries, how those cuts are absorbed into individual school budgets will vary between districts. Contracts will have to be reopened. Both House and Senate are considering allowing schools to shut down for up to 5 days to accommodate staff furloughs
$1.5 billion by suspending the student achievement fund (I-728) and cost of living increases (I-732). The achievement fund gave schools money for extended learning (all-day K, summer school, after-school remediation, etc.) and class-size reduction.
$212 million in K-3 class size reduction (partially restored for high-poverty schools)
$92 million (Senate only) in bus funds
Various cuts to Alternative Learning Education; reform initiatives, maintenance, food service, the teacher mentoring program and student assessments and a host of small programs that targeted science, math and other learning areas. Budgets for the state board of education and state superintendent’s office were also cut.
Parents: Legislators need to hear from you! Please take a few minutes and email your legislators or call the hotline at 800-562-6000.
Below are some talking points you can use in your email or phone call:
Saving our ABCS, Easy as 1-2-3
1. Don't balance the budget on the backs of children.
Legislators are considering up to $2,000 less, per student. This is on top of the retroactive cuts just passed. The Senate's 3 percent salary cut is too much for school districts to absorb.
2. Cutting instruction is no way to "pay" for education
The state should not furlough kids or make that a local option. Access to education should NOT be part of budget talks, and should NOT be subject to local bargaining.
3. Take positive steps for students
The state needs to improve basic education to better meet the needs of kids and better use taxpayer money. We're asking legislators to implement this year's recommendations of the Quality Education Council - they include thoughtful steps to improve instruction, close the gap and support educators. They are low or no cost, have bipartisan support, and are supported by Washington State PTA, and the Washington Education Association, the State Board of Education, the state superintendent and a range of education groups and advocates. These were included in HB 1443.
We can support kids – even in a tough economy
PTSA Legislative Chair
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