Last week National Public Radio interviewed Jonathan Johnson, the founder of the Rooted School, a new charter school opening in New Orleans. Mr. Johnson’s high school program will prepare students for the 7,000 tech-sector jobs predicted to arrive in Louisiana. Mr. Johnson believes students need more options than college. The Rooted School will offer a small-school environment to prepare students for a technical career, in addition to getting ready for college.
The Senate and House proposed budgets for 2015-17 take sharply different approaches to solving the problem of rising tuition at Washington’s public institutions of higher learning. Starting under Governor Gregoire, the state cut funding for public colleges and universities, while at the same time telling administrators they could impose large tuition increases. The increased burden falls hardest on middle–class families trying to gain access to college for their children leaving high school.
State lawmakers are debating the merits of an idea called the “levy swap,” in which Olympia would take the money people now pay in local school taxes and redistribute it statewide, while in turn reducing the taxes people pay to local school districts. Still, most parents would likely be upset if they found out the taxes they voted for local schools were going to Olympia instead.
Senator Michael Baumgartner (R- Spokane) has introduced SB 6079, to allow families that choose to receive up to $5,000 of the average $7,400 in public money the state spends per child. Parents can use the money to access educational services for children at public or private schools. SB 6079 would help lawmakers fulfill the key purpose of education funding, to meet the paramount duty of providing for the education of every child residing in the state.
Hundreds of excited parents and students gathered early Saturday for a lottery to select students to attend a new charter public school to open in Tacoma this fall. SOAR Academy, the first elementary public charter school in Pierce County, will provide kindergarten through 8th grade for schoolchildren. The school received 234 applications for 124 available slots in kindergarten and first grade. Principal Kristina Bellamy-McClain drew at random from a drum to select student names.
The levy-swap concept, in which state lawmakers would take local levy funds in return for lower local property tax rates, is being debated in Olympia as one way to increase state funding for public education under the McCleary decision.
Senator Marko Liias (D-Lynnwood) has released a new edition of his Washington White Board video series, arguing that state officials pay entry-level public school teachers so little they qualify for public assistance. Senator Liias has also introduced a bill to create a state income tax.
This week, always-thoughtful Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), Chairman of the House Finance Committee, released an interesting paper discussing state and local funding of the public schools. He notes that for 40 years, Washington has pursued a “state funded” education system, where most tax dollars are sent to Olympia to be distributed back to local schools, and small added local levies are intended to pay for modest enhancements.
On Monday the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee held a hearing on SB 5744, a school reform bill sponsored by Senator Litzow (R-Mercer Island). The bill would require administrators to consider teacher performance when layoffs are required.
Senator Litzow and several other senators have introduced SB 5393. The bill would free public schools with the highest rank, “Exemplary,” on the state’s School Achievement Index from 38 of the Common School regulation’s 72 chapters.
In a meeting with editorial writers last week, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo critiqued the role of powerful teachers unions in our public education system. He said teachers unions represent themselves, not students.
Today, The Seattle Times reports members of the state Charter School Commission may consider a rule to prohibit family members from serving together on the board of directors of a charter school. The charter school law allows family members on charter school boards, but the Commission is moving to block family members from working together to help their local school.