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October 24, 2013 at 7:30 AM
Call Embert Reichgott Junge the mother of all charter schools and you’re not far off the mark. The Democrat was in the Minnesota state Senate in the early 1990s and helped write and pass the nation’s first charter school law. That legislative feat led to the expansion of charters across the country.
Washington state was one of the last states to adopt a law allowing charters and with the news this week that 23 organizations have advised the state Charter School Commission of their interest opening a school here, it seemed useful to look at where charters have been to get a gauge on where this state is going. Junge was in Seattle this week speaking with pro-education reform groups and pushing ”Zero Chance of Passage,” her account of the bipartisan effort to pass the first charter school law.
Talking with Junge, one thing quickly becomes apparent. The political history of charter schools is sorely misunderstood. The non-traditional public schools have been cast by opponents as a tool used by the political right to privatize education. The truth is charter schools grew out of the political center. The victory in Minnesota was led by moderates. There was Junge but also the state’s Democratic governor, Rudy Perpich; Albert Shanker, then president of the American Federation of Teachers; and civic leaders looking to improve public schools. Everyone was drawn to charters for different reasons. Perpich wanted to expand school choice. Shanker and other union leaders were drawn to charter schools’ promise of autonomy which they interpreted as allowing teachers more control over school decisions. Now fast forward 20 years later. (more…)
September 30, 2013 at 6:31 AM
Population increases statewide, but especially in western Washington are causing school districts like Lake Washington, Issaquah and Seattle to build new schools quickly and take up the always painful task of redrawing boundaries.
In the Seattle Public School proposed boundaries are the topic of a meeting tonight at Meany Middle School. This Times story recaps Seattle’s proposed changes in elementary- and middle-school attendance boundaries next year.
Nearly every district is using building construction levies to modernize old schools and build new ones to manage overcrowding. Seattle voters approved the Building Excellence IV (or BEX IV) capital levy last February and projects include replacing or upgrading 17 schools.
The plan is being greeted differently in different areas of the city. I’ve heard from Georgetown Parents for Maple School concerned about boundary changes that would lengthen the safe walking distances from their homes to school. West Seattle parents are looking to make changes to the proposal as well, according to the West Seattle blog.
Shifting boundaries is one aspect of the plan, the other is about what district officials call program equity or their efforts to ensure premier academic programs are spread throughout the district. In that vein, the proposed changes include splitting the Accelerated Progress Program currently housed at Lincoln and relocating it into two other schools. Is that a fight the district should be picking? Better yet, is it one they can win? (more…)
September 20, 2013 at 7:00 AM
My column this week features three longtime Washington educators preparing to launch three separate public charter schools. Brenda McDonald, Kristina Bellamy-McClain and Maggie O’Sullivan are working with the Washington State Charter Schools Association.
These women are bright, experienced and have strong ties in the communities they’re choosing to locate their schools. McDonald’s entry into the Spokane School District should be made easier by the fact that Spokane was the first district in the state to be approved as a charter school authorizer. The district is obviously open to an innovative new school emphasizing foreign languages and STEM studies. The other two women are considering schools in Tacoma and South King County.
September 19, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Seattle is a step closer to becoming one of the few cities in the nation offering universal preschool. A City Council committee Wednesday approved a proposal for voluntary, high-quality preschool for all 3- and 4-year-old children in the city. The resolution passed by the Government Performance and Finance Committee authorizes the city Office of Education to figure out how many 3 and 4 year olds living in Seattle are not currently enrolled in high-quality preschool, design a preschool program to serve them and figure out how to pay for it.
Tall order. But it is being done in cities like San Antonio, San Francisco and Boston.
Besides universal preschool is one of the few things everyone at City Hall agrees on. Under Mayor Mike McGinn, the $231 million Seattle Families and Education Levy helps fund 20 preschool sites operated by 11 community agencies. This City of Seattle news release back in July reported another $470,000 for the city’s Step Ahead preschool program, bringing Seattle’s total investment in early learning to $62 million over the life of the seven-year levy passed in 2011. Learn more about Seattle’s pre-K initiatives here.
Both the mayor and the man who wants his job support universal pre-K. State Sen. Ed Murray’s mayoral campaign sent an email touting his support for the proposal. The Democrat was in the Legislature in 2006 when Gov. Gregoire proposed a state agency for early learning and a public-private partnership, Thrive by Five, which invests in early learning efforts.
“If I am elected mayor, I will work closely with Council member Burgess, other members of the City Council and stakeholders to ensure we put a proposal before the voters during my first term in office,” Murray’s statement read.
All of Seattle’s wealth, innovative spirit and focus on education ought to be called upon to make this effort succeed.
June 14, 2013 at 12:43 PM
As the state House and Senate near a budget deal (we all hope), lawmakers are reminded to make sure higher education has enough money.
This is not the year for cuts. At a minimum, the budget must include maintenance-level funding that allows our public universities and community and technical colleges to pay for current programs and obligations.
Budget proposals from the Democratic House and the Republican-led Senate Majority Coalition include maintenance-level funding. Both budgets also invest more money in the State Need Grant.
But in letters to key lawmakers this week, education leaders from both the state’s four-year and two-year systems expressed serious concerns about the budget prospects. (more…)
June 6, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Gov. Jay Inslee was on to something Tuesday when he said lawmakers on different sides of the political aisle would have to compromise on the state’s final operating budget by engaging in some give and take. Actually, it seems to me Democratic and Republican legislators have done a considerable amount of both.
Despite some reported differences (it’s hard to tell exactly how far apart they are since lawmakers have made a point of not negotiating the budget with the press), Republicans and Democrats have each made some public concessions that should propel them to the finish line by the special session’s June 11 deadline. By focusing on what they can pass in a bipartisan fashion, perhaps we stand a better chance of averting the worst-case scenario: a government shutdown.
House Democrats unveiled a revised budget proposal Wednesday afternoon with some considerable concessions aimed at pleasing the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC). This included nixing extensions on a business and beer tax. In turn, the MCC deserves some kudos for approving several Democratic wishes: supporting state employee labor contracts, funding Planned Parenthood, and expanding Medicaid as required by federal health care reform.
In the other chamber, the coalition made up of 23 Republicans and two Democrats say they want revenue measures for education to be tied to reforms. Well, it’s worth noting both chambers have already passed three significant bills intended to provide spending controls throughout the next biennium. SB 5329, signed by Inslee last month, gives the state the authority to step in and demand improvements in persistently low-performing schools. Districts that fail to meet agreed-upon goals would have their funding withheld. The governor has also approved two other measures that are key to improving education outcomes, HB 1472 and HB 1642.
Other issues are still up in the air, but compromise is within reach:
— House Democrats have introduced HB 2034, a package that would repeal several exemptions and dedicate an additional $255 million to education. We’re only talking about seven or so exemptions out of 640 that are currently on the books. As the editorial board suggested in this March 30 editorial, all exemptions should be reviewed and it makes sense for a few of these preferential tax rates to end.
— The MCC wants workers’ compensation reform. Our editorial board agrees this is important for keeping and creating jobs in the state. To get it done, they may have to settle for less elsewhere. For example, lawmakers could hold off on the worthy but controversial push for a SB 5242, a “mutual consent” measure which would end the practice of forced teacher placement in schools.
Overall, The Seattle Times editorial board has encouraged lawmakers to focus on the bigger picture. Pass a budget. Get out of Olympia on time. Consider what’s in the best interest of the children who will make up Washington’s future work force. This means the Legislature should take a good look at its current budget breakdown and make full funding of education a top priority — 45 percent of general funds should be dedicated to K-12 public schools; 9 percent for higher education; and additional investments in early learning.
Lawmakers must meet in the middle. Accept that some things — including certain treasured reforms and spending priorities— may have to be saved for another day.
Lynne Varner and Jonathan Martin contributed to this post.
May 31, 2013 at 7:00 AM
My column this week noted the education reforms in Colorado, a state of similar population and demographics to Washington. Colorado is further down the road making school improvements and offers lessons for this state. The biggest lesson is about charter schools, which Colorado has had for nearly 20 years. An advocacy group in Denver, A-Plus, produced a report last year that credited a handful of high-performing charter schools as driving the bulk of improvement growth scores seen in the Denver Public Schools.
Denver has 32 charter schools serving more than 10,000 students.
The district’s growth score was among the highest compared with other large urban districts in Colorado – essentially improving by 1 percentile point when scores from charters were included. In response, the district has launched a principal training program in which school leaders will spend a year in high-performing charter schools to glean best practices to take back to the traditional schools. And a group of middle schools is asking the district for permission to tweak their school calendars like charter schools do.
My column mentions a school funding proposing by Colorado state Sen. Mike Johnston. This Denver Post article best explains it.
At the end of my column I linked to Johnston’s speech. If you have the time, it is worth listening to. But below is a powerful excerpt.
May 27, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Two bold decisions by leaders at opposite ends of the educational spectrum raise the bar on what the public should expect from educational institutions and those who lead them.
In the first instance, Washington State University’s Board of Regents approved a 2 percent tuition increase at WSU for next year. It is a bold move considering the state Legislature has not agreed upon a budget and it is not certain how WSU will fare financially. The Times Editorial Board has opposed cuts to higher education budgets because they threaten quality and access at these institutions but are also usually followed by steep tuition hikes. To make a pledge on tuition that is independent of whatever the Legislature does, WSU President Elson Floyd assumes a continuation of the tuition-setting authority granted state universities in previous legislative sessions.
”This is really our attempt to announce to the public, and most importantly to students, what our tuition will be this fall,” Floyd said in a statement. ”As a consequence of our semester system, the delay in developing a final state budget places us in a very difficult time frame.”
Different area of education, but similar context led the Highline School District in South King County to announce recently that it is guaranteeing free, full-day kindergarten to all students next year. Washington has long frustrated families by funding only half-day kindergarten, leaving districts to charge tuition for the second half of the day. Full-day kindergarten in the Seattle Public Schools will cost parents $2,720 next year. Yikes!
Charging parents for what should be a part of a free, public education has led to inequities between students whose families can afford full-day kindergarten and thus were more prepared to enter first grade and children who did not have that opportunity.
The Legislature has committed to funding full-day kindergarten for all students by 2018. And lawmakers are working to reverse the disinvestment in higher education that spurred the steep rise in tuition in recent years.
That’s all well and good. But I’m delighted by the bold steps taken by Highline Superintendent Susan Enfield and WSU ‘s President Floyd. Both have been around long enough to know that nothing is certain in Olympia. Enfield and Floyd stepped up for the students and families they serve.
May 22, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Earlier this week, Seattle Times reporter Lornet Turnbull wrote about the growth of poverty in South King County’s suburban communities. She highlighted the findings of a new Brookings Institute study that concludes a lack of affordable housing has led low-income households to move outside Seattle city limits.
In particular, the last line in the article caught my attention: “We should create and re-create economic opportunities for people in South King County, but we should also be working to give them access to homes and jobs in higher-opportunity parts of the region, like the Eastside,” said Alan Berube, one of the study’s authors.
For now, let’s focus on the former point. If education is the great equalizer in our society, then we have to rely on our educators to get through to the next generation in these communities. In case you missed our previous “Education Conversations” segments, I want to bring your attention to our interviews with Highline School District Superintendent Susan Enfield and University of Washington College of Education Dean Tom Stritikus.
Enfield serves a primarily low-income, incredibly diverse area south of Seattle. Stritikus also spoke about this population and altering the growing opportunity gap between students in poor and wealthier areas.
Their ideas are prescient and worth sharing.
Whether you’re an educator, a student or a parent — right-click and save the images below and post them to your Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter accounts. Click on this link to watch more of their interviews and to learn about the editorial board’s “3 to 23″ education initiative.
May 15, 2013 at 8:20 AM
A major study of public education philanthropy found that education reforms have been accompanied over the last decade by a shift in financial support from private foundations. The biggest example is the shift of philanthropic dollars from traditional public schools to charter schools, a finding guaranteed to fuel flames in the charter vs. traditional public schools debate.
The Michigan State University-led study tracked grants over a 10-year period from 15 U.S. foundations that give the most money to K-12 education.
“Not only are they giving more, but they are giving more, faster, and we find that very interesting,” one of the studies co-authors, Jeffrey W. Snyder told Education Week.
“Beyond Grantmaking: Philanthropic Foundations as Agents of Change and Institutional Entrepreneurs” was released at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco last week. I wrote about that meeting in this column. The research is thick but fascinating because of the power of philanthropic foundations to make social change. Total assets of the United States’ 76,000 foundations has grown from an estimated $272 billion in 1995 to $625 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars in 2012, according to the Urban Institute. How that money influences, and improves, social conditions is worthy of ongoing attention.
But any takeaway that philanthropy is a corrupting influence is too simplistic a view. Nor do I think the authors intend for their research to be used to make that narrow point. The issue is far more complex. Funders are becoming much more active in shaping how their money affects change. They are holding themselves accountable for results. I would warn against rushing to judge this shift. The impact of private funding, particularly from large foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is far more complex than a good versus bad paradigm allows. Here’s one reason why.