Education factors large in this year’s state legislature

  • <br>Enterprise staff
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 12:04pm

The state legislative session that wrapped up last week left several bills related to education in the hands of Gov. Chris Gregoire, who can sign or reject them.

Lawmakers also passed a $33.4 billion, two-year state budget that dips into the state’s surplus.

Core funding for school districts was bolstered for the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years, with about $165 million in new education funding for specific purposes.

That includes:

• $74 million for special education

• $25 million for more classified staff such as security and technology employees

• $25 million for transportation

• $12 million for technology upgrades

• $19 million toward equity among school district allocations for classified and administrator pay

• $10 million for replacing vocational equipment

The budget includes more than $309 million in new money for instruction, including:

• $140 million to increase Initiative 728 funding

• $51 million to expand all-day kindergarten for those who attend the state’s poorest schools

• $39 million for teacher professional development in math and science instruction

• $16 million to expand the Learning Assistance Program for kindergarten through 10th grade

• $12 million for the Promoting Academic Success Program to help seniors who haven’t passed the WASL

• $8.5 million for after-school programs and dropout prevention

• $6 million for the LASER program to buy hands-on science kits

• $8 million to expand time students can use for applied learning in skills centers in addition to regular studies

• $3 million to extend vocational education to some middle school students

• $2.5 million for expansion of gifted education

Some of the K-12 education bills passed by the Legislature:

• Would delay the math and science WASL requirement to 2013 and set up a regional appeals process for students who fail. The bill expands alternatives, like using ACT and SAT scores as a replacement for reading and writing scores, exempts more students learning English from the test and favors end-of-course exams to replace the WASL for math and science.

• Ensure sex education is taught in a comprehensive fashion in public schools

• Direct all public schools to provide parents with information on the human papilloma virus that can cause cervical cancer and about a vaccine to protect against it. The state will cover the costs of the vaccine.

• Approve cost of living increases for K-12 and community college teachers and K-12 support staff. They will receive 3.7 percent raise Sept. 1 and an estimated 2.8 percent raise in 2008-09. The raises are required by voter-approved Initiative 732. The Legislature funded an additional 0.6 percent salary increase for K-12 certificated staff in 262 school districts, which will bring them closer to districts that are grandfathered at a higher salary rate.

• Fund $5,000 bonuses for national board-certified teachers and an additional $5,000 if they teach in schools with more than 70 percent free and reduced-price lunch. The bonuses are now in law.

• Let voters decide if they want a simple majority for school levies.

• Phase in all-day kindergarten over 10 years.

• Increase the per-student funding required by voter-approved Initiative 728 from $375 to $450 per student next year. The money can be used for professional development and smaller class sizes, among other offerings.

• Urge Congress, the president and Gov. Chris Gregoire to work together to improve and fully fund the “No Child Left Behind” act, which imposes penalties for low standardized test scores, among other provisions.

• Create a task force to review the definition of basic education and all current basic education funding formulas. The group will develop a new funding structure and formulas that align with the final report of the Washington Learns Steering Committee and the basic education provisions in current law.

• Require public schools to have safety plans.

• Create apprenticeship programs for K-12 construction projects.

Some of the higher education bills passed by the Legislature:

• Pledge $4 million in the capital budget for starting a new college in Snohomish, Island or Skagit county, laying the foundation for larger investments in the future.

• Add another 9,700 enrollment slots at two- and four-year colleges statewide.

• Allot $7.5 million for pay increases for faculty at state community colleges who do extra work or have more experience and $11.25 million to improve salaries of part-time faculty.

• Increase community college tuition up to 2 percent. Cap tuition increases at 7 percent.

• Require publishers to disclose how much their books cost so faculty members can research less-expensive alternatives.

• Give children of military veterans who have become totally disabled or died tuition waivers for college.

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