EDUCATION ISSUES AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL: GENERAL INFORMATION

KNOW THE PLAYERS

This is a little educational background on your Members of Congress:

Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Representative):  She was home schooled and attended private, Christian schools – including Pensacola Christian College (not accredited at the time she attended it.  This is an article critical of Pensacola College).   Her educational background may influence her perspective on vouchers and separation of church/state.  

Patty Murray (Senator): She has been consistently supportive of public education. She is a leader in the fight against vouchers.  Read this article to learn more about her leadership against vouchers.   She voted against Betsy DeVos. 

Maria Cantwell (Senator): On her webpage she says she benefited from Pell Grants when attending college.  She has supported charter schools in the past but no vouchers.  She voted against Betsy DeVos. 

This is a general article on what impact Betsy DeVos might have as Secretary of Education:


THE ISSUE (1): FEDERAL FUNDING FOR EDUCATION

The Federal government has a limited involvement in funding for public education. Only about 10% of most states’ education budget comes from the Federal government.  Financial support for public education from the Federal government falls into these main categories:  Pell Grants (college scholarships for low income students), Title I funds (K-12 supplemental funds for low income students) and IDEA funds (K-12 money for students who qualify for special education services).  The Federal government also provides a little money through grants for a variety of educational programs.

Perhaps the educational issue that most parents, students and teachers are familiar with is the issue of testing.  Starting with President Bush, the federal government tied funds for Title 1 to state systems of accountability, specifically test scores.  The law was called “No Child Left Behind” or ESEA.   President Obama’s administration diminished the punitive aspects of E.S.E.A. and tried to incentivize states to support educational accountability and the common core standards.  This year Congress, supported by President Trump, has rolled back the accountability aspects of Title 1 funding even more.  Many teachers’ unions and state education departments support decreasing Title 1 regulations.  Opponents worry that without accountability, schools will not focus on academic achievement for low income students.

In her confirmation hearing, Betsy DeVos showed a shockingly low level of understanding about services for student in special-education.  Right now, the federal government is only paying 16% of special-education services.  The goal was 40% when the IDEA law was passed in 1990 (the first version was passed in 1975).  The issue of special education services is complicated and there is a current case under review by the Supreme Court that could be critical in determining the quality of services provided to students who qualify for special-education.


LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION (1): FEDERAL FUNDING

This is a general article explaining how federal education dollars are spent.

This is an article on how education would be affected by Trump’s budget.

This link and this link describe the Trump administration’s policies on Pell Grants.

This article discusses legislation passed by Congress and supported by Trump on Title 1 funding and accountability.

This link is an in-depth article on issues in special education right now.

 

THE ISSUE (2): CHARTERS & VOUCHERS

Betsy DeVos is a supporter of charter schools and vouchers.  Charter schools are independent schools supported with public funds.  Charter schools generally have more freedom structuring their curriculum and students’ educational experiences than standard public schools.  They are a divisive issue in education.   Many people support charter schools as an alternative to “failing” urban public schools.  However, most teachers’ unions oppose charter schools because they lack accountability, do not serve all students, are not usually unionized, and can damage public schools by siphoning off stronger students.  The Obama administration was very supportive of charter schools and tied states’ access to educational grants to state support of charter schools.   

Vouchers are different than charter schools.  Vouchers allow families to use taxpayer funds to pay for private schools, including religious schools.  The Department of Education cannot require states to support vouchers.  However, Betsy DeVos could tie grant funds to states’ support of vouchers.  Additionally, there is legislation in the House which would create block grants for states to be used to support vouchers.  We are following this bill, although govtracker.com gives it only a 3% chance of passing. 


LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION (2): VOUCHERS

This article lists reasons why vouchers are not a good idea.

This article describes the results of recent studies on the effectiveness of vouchers in supporting student achievement.

This article describes Trump’s budget proposal support for vouchers.

This article describes recent legislation supporting vouchers in Arizona.

This is a link to information about the House bill on vouchers.

 

THIS ISSUE (3): RIGHTS

The Federal government does have a significant role in creating and enforcing a variety of regulations designed to protect students’ rights in all states. 

Title IX prohibits sex discrimination by any educational program that receives educational funding.  Under Obama, the Department of Education took on a leadership role in trying to prevent and respond to sexual assaults on campuses.  Additionally, Obama’s administration tried to strengthen protections and rights for trans students.   Trump has already rolled back guidance from the Obama administration that stated (quoted from the NPR article cited below) “that to be in compliance with the law, every K-12 school district, state education association and high school athletic association in the country ‘must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.’”

There is currently a lot of concern about how school discipline policies are being enforced.  Many studies have documented that students of color are dis-proportionally punished in the educational system.  The federal government is critical in holding school districts accountable for inequitable discipline practices.


LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION (3): RIGHTS

This article discusses concerns about the Trump administration’s possible Title IX policy changes.

This article discusses the order Trump signed rolling back protections for trans students.

This is an interview with Derek Black discussing his concerns about students’ civil rights under the Trump administration.

 

 

 

EDUCATION ISSUES AT THE STATE LEVEL

The Issue: The McCleary Decision & Fully Funding Public Education 

The biggest issue right now for education in Washington State is fully funding basic education.  The Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2012 that the State legislature is not meeting its obligation to fully fund basic education.    Legislators are currently working on the final push to approve equitable funding for the Washington schools. 

Two different bills have been approved and need to be reconciled.  The House bill (put forward by Democrats) provides consistent and ample funding through a capital gains tax.  This plan would not fully fund education by September 2018 however, despite the Supreme Court’s deadline.

The Senate bill (proposed by Republicans) involves large cuts to other programs, like ECEAP preschools, TANF (support for poor families), housing and homeless services, and educational programs like clubs and after school programs.   The Senate bill cuts 1.5 billion from needed services.  Additionally, the Senate bill would cut taxes for large companies and increase property taxes on millions of home owners (and renters through higher rents).


Links to More Information:

The site paramountduty.org has a lot of information on the McCleary decision and educational funding. 

Here is a letter to the editor explaining some of the funding issues that the legislature is trying to resolve.

This is a Seattle Times editorial explaining the House and Senate bills.

This is a video about the different proposals to fully fund education and their impact on tax payers and students.


Taking Action:  Call Maureen Walsh (Senator)

The organization Paramount Duty has a script for calling your legislators to urge adoption of the House bill HB 2186, not the Senate bill SB 5607.  Here is the link to that script.

Our Senator is Maureen Walsh.  She won an award for supporting early learning (which is cut back in the Senate Bill) so she might be open to discussion about the Senate bill.   However, she did vote FOR the Senate bill on February 1, 2017 and ran unopposed.  PO Box 40416 Olympia, WA 98504  (360) 786 – 7630

Here and here are links to information about Senator Walsh's support for education in the past.

In Walla Walla our House Representatives (whose votes are not as needed because Democrats control the House, but maybe they can exert pressure on the Senators or support a revised bill) are Bill Jenkin (R) (360) 786-7836  |   AND Terry Nealey (360) 786-7828  |  

 

 

 

 

ACTION ALERT INFORMATION: FUND WASHINGTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS!

On Tuesday, April 4th, the Washington State Legislature will hit $60,000,000 in court ordered fines for not fully funding K-12 education. The organization Paramount Duty is asking people to write letters to the editor to highlight the issue.

General Info:

We cannot fund K-12 schools at the expense of children’s health care, or higher education, or homeless services, or mental health services.

Great public schools are not only the key to providing Washington’s kids with an opportunity for a bright future; they are also the foundations of a prosperous state.

In a state that is home to world-class companies, Washington has the wealth to ensure every Washington student receives a world-class education.

The legislature’s paramount duty is to fund our schools, not to keep taxes low on rich people and large corporations.

We know from the experience of Kansas that slashing taxes and cutting school budgets hurts the economy. It causes businesses and workers to flee. We know from the experience of states like California that raising revenues for education by targeting those with the greatest ability to pay is very good for the economy.

Skilled workers and businesses want to stay in a state with fully funded good schools. That is part of our competitive advantage. It’s one reason why our innovative companies haven’t left for Kansas or Mississippi.

Washington needs new revenue to ensure our schools are providing students with an excellent education.

Our tax system is upside down. The people with the lowest incomes pay seven times more in taxes as a share of personal income than the richest 1 percent. This upside-down system must be fixed if we’re going to be able to generate the revenues need to fund our schools.

 

GOP Budget-Specific Talking Points:

There are a lot of poor and low-income people all across this state who are suddenly being defined as "rich" and are facing a huge $5.5 billion property tax increase.

This also includes huge cuts to programs that helps the poorest kids in the state - cuts to ECEAP preschools, to TANF which helps poor families, cuts to housing and homeless services.

We cannot accept a plan that funds our schools by taking food and shelter away from children or their parents. We cannot balance the budget on the backs of low-income families.

We are also concerned about the impact of this plan on our classrooms.

We believe the per pupil model isn't actually transparent. It just gives money to principals to spend as they want, like a block grant, making them choose between special education, ELL, school buses, school nurses, smaller class sizes or experienced teachers. Can't drop a huge change like this on the state without much more discussion and planning. Not appropriate to do through the budget process.

This budget hurts special education funding, as it doesn't fund what districts already pay today.

This includes cuts to local voter-approved education enhancements like clubs, sports, and after school programs without the assurance that local districts can replace lost funds.

 

Republicans’ Education Funding Proposal:

The Republicans' plan is unacceptable. It fails our children, our Constitution, and the courts.  It also fails those we need to most protect: our mentally ill, our homeless, our youngsters in need, and those who have no where else to turn. If this was an assignment it would receive an F. You cannot divide us—we will stand together against this draconian budget proposal.

This budget proposal cuts funding from other crucial state services and programs, which is unacceptable. And it doesn't fully fund public schools, which is also a nonstarter.

During the floor debate on the education plan, Senate Republicans discussed equity in terms of property tax payer equity.  But equity for taxpayers means taxing those who can afford it and are currently ducking paying their fare share through Washington's 600 tax loopholes.

It is unacceptable to cut $1.5 billion from critical services and other education programs.  And, the Senate Republican plan is still billions of dollars short of what the Constitution guarantees

There is no possible way this budget proposal complies with McCleary or the Constitution.  It certainly isn't moral either.

Big corporations in rural areas like Walmart, Boeing, and Avista would get a huge decrease in their property tax bills.

The Republicans are choosing to raise a regressive tax on the hardworking families rather than ask the richest 1% and the corporate special interests to pay their fair share.

This is a massive property tax increase to millions of taxpayers, even those in low-income communities (and could be worsened by Tim Eyman's latest initiative).

This proposal makes our tax system much more regressive.

The Republicans' plan is a back-door massive property tax cut for large corporations such as Walmart, Puget Sound Energy, Avista, and Boeing.

This caps teacher pay, which will worsen the teacher shortage.

The Republicans propose completely eliminating the voter-approved smaller class size measure. Research has shown that small class sizes are one of the most important ways to help improve student learning

The Republican plan takes away key protections ensuring special education students’ needs are met. It also dispenses with giving additional funding based on Free/Reduced Lunch numbers, and instead uses the arcane national poverty line.

The Republicans' “per-pupil” model eliminates guarantees ensuring that students across the state get the same basic, equitable services and programs. It puts huge amounts of money under the control of unaccountable bureaucrats.

ACTION ALERT: THANK YOU TO WADE SMITH (SUPERINTENDENT)

UPDATE: THE SCHOOL BOARD APPROVED DR. SMITH'S RESOLUTION.  YAY!!!

Wade Smith, Superintendent of Walla Walla Public Schools has written a resolution that he is going to present to the Walla Walla School Board. The resolution would declare Walla Walla public schools as safe spaces for undocumented immigrants. This does not mean they are "sanctuaries" but affirms the District's commitment to supporting all students, regardless of their immigration status. We are suggesting that you write thank you letters to Mr. Smith and letters of support for the resolution to the School Board.  We are not anticipating that the Board will reject the resolution, so we think the tone of the letters should be appreciative. We don't think calls would be appropriate as too many might be overwhelming, but emails are fine! On February 28th, the resolution will be presented to the Walla Walla School Board.

 

Who to write:

Wade Smith, Superintendent of Walla Walla Public Schoolswsmith@wwps.org

Walla Walla School Board (Sam Wells, Cindy Meyer, Ruth Ladderud, Dr. David Hampson, Derek Sarley)

Walla Walla Public Schools

364 South Park Street

Walla Walla, WA 99362

 

What to write:

Thank you for your support for all students in Walla Walla Public Schools.  I appreciate the School District publicly affirming a commitment to creating a safe space for every student and for promoting the worth and importance of every student.