Funding for Public Education

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In 2009, during my second year as Assistant Superintendent, I was asked to testify on behalf of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in the groundbreaking McCleary vs. The State of Washington case. As the OSPI staff to the Achievement Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee (renamed the Educational Opportunity Gap and Accountability Committee), and closest to the impacts of lack of funding, I was selected to testify along with then-State Representative Skip Priest. Our testimony aided further understanding of the importance of a fully-funded education system.

 Read more about McCleary vs. The State of Washington, including the outcome of the case

The problems:

  • For six years and counting, the state Legislature has suspended voter-approved cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for school employees. The Washington Education Association (WEA) argues that as a result, teachers have lost 12% of their buying power. According to the National Education Association (NEA), when adjusted for regional cost-of-living differences, teacher pay in Washington is 42nd out of 50 states.

RESOURCE: Read the full WEA Report on Teacher Compensation

  • Para educators, who are vital support staff, often work with students who have the greatest needs. These support staff often lead small group sessions, help administer school wide tests, assist in the classroom, run school wide events, and, on occasion, serve as interpreters in districts with large English Language Learner (ELL) populations.  Our paras are critically important to our system, yet are significantly underpaid and under-supported for the work they do.

 

  • Our current funding system is not equitable in many ways. Although the state's "paramount duty" is to fund Basic Education, including teacher salaries, the state's failure to do so has forced school districts that have the resources to fund what is lacking using levies. Those districts unable to pass levies are left behind and unable to compensate educators at the same rates. Additionally, the current funding formulas do not take into consideration the funding of initiatives passed by the state, like smaller class sizes and full-day kindergarten. Also not included are state paid professional development days. As a result,  many districts are unable to compensate teachers for the additional training they need to stay current in instructional strategies or implement new mandates effectively.

My solutions:

  • I will advocate with state lawmakers in the opening days of session to request a freeze on the current levy amounts. The levy cliff is coming at the end of this session. If the levy cliff is not addressed AND teacher compensation is not fully funded by the state by the end of the 2017 session, school districts will be forced to lay off teachers at the end of this school year. When we are already experiencing a teacher shortage, lay-offs would be devastating to the system - both students and staff.

 

  • There are many state agencies that touch the K-12 system. As Superintendent I will work directly with education stakeholders to create a blueprint that clearly outlines a vision for high-quality education in Washington State. One aspect of this blueprint will provide budget recommendations and guidance to the legislature as they work to create a bi-partisan budget that fulfills McCleary. I will lead efforts in partnering with all stakeholders, legislature included, to create this blueprint that will help OSPI effectively leverage the resources that exist, and identify gaps that require additional funding from the state.

 

  • Our constitution states that we must "amply fund" basic education, which means "more than the bare minimum." Until we are able to infuse the necessary resources to ensure EVERY student has access to art, music, theater, and greater access to career and technical education (culinary arts, welding, mechanics, robotics); I believe we must also seek out opportunities for public-private partnerships, where possible. Great examples include; the Science and Math Institute hosted by Point Defiance Park, Technology Access Foundation STEM partnerships allow internship opportunities for students, and Federal Way High School who has developed partnerships with local machine shops to provide students with training in lucrative careers that have remained relatively unknown. As Superintendent I will work to not only advocate for the infusion of deserved funds, but also advocate and work with other districts and buildings to find ways to create public-private partnerships for their students.