State news roundup for December 20, 2014

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Washington – Governor’s budget falls short

Washington WEA our voice logoMonday night, Gov. Jay Inslee released a preview of his education budget.

He makes some much-needed progress on education funding, but his plan falls short of meeting the requirements of both the McCleary decision and I-1351. That is unacceptable. We urge you to tell the Governor and your legislators to fully fund smaller class sizes in all grades and to improve professional educator compensation, per the WEA 2015 legislative priorities.

Here are a few highlights, though many details are still lacking, and we expect to learn more when the governor releases his full budget this Thursday, Dec. 18.

  • The budget doesn’t fully address the requirements in I-1351. It does make progress in K-3, beginning in 2016, and provides limited investments toward other staffing categories in accordance with I-1351.
  • In 2016-17, K-3 class sizes are funded at 17 students and full-day kindergarten is fully implemented at all schools, with the I-1351 language that allows class size funding to be used for direct services if classroom space is not available.
  • The COLA is funded in the budget along with additional funding (about $150 million) to provide educators 3 percent in 2015-16 and 1.8 percent in 2016-17. In addition, the governor meets the legal pension requirements.

Read more about the proposed budget at OurVoiceWashingtonEA.org.

Utah – UEA supports Governor’s proposed FY2016 education budget

Utah Education Association logoIn a press conference Dec. 11, Gov. Gary Herbert released his recommended FY2016 Utah state budget that directs $342.7 million in new tax revenue to public education. His budget calls for $58 million to cover an anticipated 8,000 new students and another $161 million to add 6.25 percent to the WPU, the largest increase in a quarter century.

The Utah Education Association strongly supports the Governor’s proposed investments in the WPU, student enrollment growth, technology infrastructure and providing educators with classroom supply money.

“The proposed $342.7 million public education increase is a significant and worthwhile investment in Utah’s schoolchildren and the state’s economy. It also goes a long way toward restoring funding to pre-recession levels and positions us to begin addressing the additional resources so desperately needed in Utah’s grossly underfunded public school classrooms,” said UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh.

The Governor’s budget reflects his and the legislature’s long-standing stated belief that the primary way to increase funding for public education is to grow the economy and invest the resulting tax proceeds in education, she noted.

Visit MyUEA.org to get the full story on the FY2016 education budget.

Maryland – MSEA calls for immediate suspension of Kindergarten Readiness Assessment

MSEA MD Maryland logoOn the heels of an outcry from kindergarten teachers across the state, the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) released a report today calling for the State Board of Education and Maryland State Department of Education to suspend the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) until deep concerns about the assessment and its implementation are addressed. The report is based on surveys and feedback from hundreds of Maryland kindergarten teachers.

“Kindergarten teachers flagged numerous problems with the KRA, including the significant loss of instructional time, the test’s developmental appropriateness, inadequate technology support, and the test’s inability to inform and improve instruction for students,” said MSEA President Betty Weller. “We stand ready to partner with state leaders to ensure that teachers have time to teach, students have time to learn, and assessments serve as effective tools in the classroom.”

Among the report’s findings:

  • 91% of kindergarten teachers in an MSEA statewide survey do not believe that the KRA will help improve instruction.
  • 78.4% reported technology problems with the administration of the KRA.
  • 51% reported that no or minimal accommodations were made for students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and English Language Learners (ELL).

Find out more at MarylandEducators.org.

Michigan – MI taxpayers helping charter school management companies make big profits

Michigan MI logoHow charter management companies spend more than $1 billion dollars in state taxpayer dollars is again the focus of a news article in the Detroit Free Press. “Public money for schools buys private property” uncovers the arrangement National Heritage Academies (NHA) has with its schools. NHA, not the school, owns the school buildings and the contents, even though that’s all been purchased with taxpayer money.

In June, the Free Press ran an investigative report detailing the lack of accountability among charter school management companies when it came to spending taxpayer dollars. The report launched a statewide review by legislators and the Michigan Department of Education into the issue.

National Heritage Academies is the largest for-profit management company in Michigan, managing 48 schools. Except for two of those schools, NHA owns the school property, the school buildings, and their contents. That arrangement is unique among the other charter school management companies.

Visit MEA.org to learn more.

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