Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Few Thoughts About the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education 2007-2009 Operating Budget Recommendations

And the award for Most Wonkish Title in the History of This Blog goes to…this post!

I can’t quite remember how I happened upon this; I think it was from a newsflash that the WASA sent out. It’s the suggested education budget of the committee mentioned in the title of this post, and it’s a very interesting look at just where the state is thinking of going with their education spending. If you consider reading it, the stats that matter most to K-12 Education are towards the front, beginning on page 4. Some items that jumped out at me:

$6,594,000 to increase the number of math and science teachers! There are three proposed pathways to pump up the pipeline, and the hope is that nearly 700 new teachers will come up through the ranks. I have to think that this money is only for recruiting the new teachers; their salary will easily be several times the amount listed.

$1,786,000 to measure district financial health! This one kind of seems like a cure in search of a problem—are there really that many districts that struggle financially? When they do its very high profile (Hi, Seattle!), but it’s also a very public rebuke that gets attention. And isn’t this a job better done by the State Auditor’s Office?

$388,000 to fund two new positions at OSPI! The two positions may well be necessary—a Skills Center director and a World Languages supervisor—but the part that caught my eye is the cost: $194,000 per position. That certainly includes salary, benefits, and retirement, but it’s still a fairly shocking number.

$29,317,000 to lower class size! This will pay for 216 new teachers statewide to lower the staff ratio in grades K-3. That’s $135,726 per teacher, and I would be fascinated to know how the hell they came up with that number.

$22,101,000 for more classified staff! From the report:

Funding is provided to enhance the classified staff ratio in the general apportionment formula for school districts. Currently, the formula allocates one classified staff for every 60 students enrolled. The new formula will allocate classified staff at a rate of 1 per 59 students.

The ratio is lowered by one person, and it costs 22 million dollars. What a difference a person can make, eh?

$58,678,000 for special education funding! There are some technical changes involved here in how they look at preschool students and changing the safety net; I’m wondering how far short this figure is for those who were behind the special education lawsuit.

$8,045,000 to beef up the ESDs! Under these joined proposals the ESDs would each get a math specialist in 2007 and a science specialist in 2008 (hear that, Science Goddess?). OSPI would put on additional Summer Institutes in math and science, and the staff at each office would be more fully threshed out.

$3,316,000 for gifted education! The silver lining is that school districts would be able to claim funding for 2.5% of their enrollment, up from the current 2.0%. Would have rather they increased the per pupil amount for gifted students, but so be it.

$5,333,000 to increase the bonus for National Board Certified Teachers!
$2,000,000 to lure NBPTS teachers to challenging schools!

Hate the first item, love the second. The current bonus for NBPTS certified teachers is $3,500; the proposal would raise it to $5,250 next year and $5,400 the year after. This, when there’s scant evidence of the effectiveness of the standard and many are in districts that are doing just fine anyways.

That’s why I really, really, really like the second item. National Board teachers who worked in schools with a 70% or greater poverty level would get an additional $5,000 bonus, and they could get $5,000 on top of that if they were nationally certified in math or science. I think that’s a great way to lure good teachers to the schools that need them most, and my personal druthers would be for the money from the first item to instead go into the second.

$51,122,000 for All Day Kindergarten! The plan is to phase-in all day K, beginning with the 10% of schools with the highest poverty rates next year and increasing it to the highest 20% the year following. It’s going to be voluntary, but I can’t imagine why any school with those sort of demographics would turn down the chance.

$5,369,000 for math and science coaches! 25 of each, with math to come first and science to follow in the following year. The wording in the budget offers that they’ll only have to serve two schools, which seems like a pretty good ratio.

$9,400,000 to expand LASER! I’ve talked on here before about the trouble my district has had with getting LASER implemented the right way; here comes a lot more money for the program.

$20,000,000 for “targeted assistance” in math and science! This is to fund House Bill 2339, which gives grants to school districts to work on achievement in the aforementioned subjects.

$11,593,000 for Promoting Academic Success! PAS is the program that Dr. Terry worked through last year to help those juniors who failed the math WASL as sophomores; this money is to expand the program to also help seniors.

$14,000,000 for scholarships for talented math and science students! I like this one an awful lot, too. The money would purchase credits in the Guaranteed Education Tuition program (GET) for kids who had demonstrated some math and science smarts on the WASL. If you want kids to take the test seriously, putting a financial incentive on it can’t hurt.

There are no guarantees that any of these will make it through the whole legislative process, but it’s pretty interesting to see just what they might be thinking of doing!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've a few thoughts on some of these items, but lets start with this one:

State research on the success rate of PAS:

the results aren't all that flattering.


1:40 PM  
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5:25 AM  

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