Completion of this year’s legislative session is on hold for the moment, and the just-completed 2015-17 state budget faces a $2 billion hole, because of a late-breaking dispute over funding for Initiative 1351, the class-size reduction initiative.
Yesterday, after 165 days of discussion and negotiation, lawmakers in Olympia reached agreement on a state budget for 2015-17. The new budget will increase spending on K-12 public schools from the current $15.26 billion to $18.15 billion, an increase of 19%. Lawmakers achieved this large rise in spending with the natural increase in current revenues, without imposing new taxes on Washington families and business owners.
After months of suspense and threats of closure, members of the state Charter School Commission narrowly voted Thursday to allow First Place Scholars charter school, located in Seattle’s Central District, to continue operations. The school serves some 75 low-income and homeless families, including a number of special needs children, who otherwise would have difficulty gaining access to a quality public education.
Members of the State Charter School Commission, created by voters in 2012 as part of Washington’s charter school law, plan to meet Thursday at 10:00 a.m. at South Seattle Community College to consider whether to close the state’s first charter school, First Place Scholars school for homeless children in Seattle.
Last night I saw “Most Likely to Succeed,” a new movie attracting a lot of buzz in Seattle, about a charter public high school in San Diego. About 500 people packed Queen Anne’s vintage Uptown Cinema last night, and the movie shows again today at 3:00 pm. “Most Likely to Succeed” was selected for SIFF, the Seattle International Film Festival, after winning awards at Sundance.
There’s good news today for charter school children and their families. Reporter Jim Camden at The Spokesman-Review provides an informative account of the reaction of charter school supporters on learning that the surprise rules state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn wants to impose would sharply restrict innovation and student learning at the new schools.
They say that if you want to make an announcement that won’t be noticed, post the notice on an obscure website and schedule the hearing the day after a holiday weekend. That’s just what Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn did when he issued his plan to impose 119 pages of administrative rules on public charter schools and the families that support them.
Education leader Rep. Chad Magendanz has released an informative chart (below), based on OSPI data, showing that teachers on average are not underpaid, but make well above the median household income in our state.
The numbers show that on average teachers make more than the taxpaying working families who pay their salaries. The teacher salary figures are for a ten-month work year, while most people earn their income over twelve months.
Last night, teacher union executives called for extending their ongoing one-day strike actions to close more schools, expanding to the districts of Seattle, Snohomish, Lake Stevens and Franklin Pierce. Currently union executives are using strikes to close schools to 257,000 children, for the time being denying access to public education to one in four Washington students. Teachers union executives say they are using school closures as part of their effort to lobby state lawmakers for more in pay and benefits and for other spending increases.
This morning Carleen Johnson of KOMO News Radio interviewed me because of the spreading teachers strikes in Washington, now affecting 80,000 students in 14 school districts. Teachers union executives are calling on the legislature for pay raises, so knowing what teachers are paid now is basic to covering these strikes.