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Education in the News

Legislative ALERT: State could cut school year, It would mean redefining Basic Education to give kids less.

posted Jan 18, 2012, 8:03 PM by Wade King PTA Drive   [ updated Jan 18, 2012, 8:08 PM ]

Our legislators are back in Olympia wrestling with the budget.  The Washington State PTA has created a link to send a message to your representatives telling them that cutting the school year is not a solution. 

Balancing the budget by cutting school days sets kids up for failure -- both in this budget cycle and the ones to come. To cut school days, the state would have to redefine the Program of Basic Education and argue children don't need that time in class. This would affect kids today and future generations, and further set our association back from our top priority: improving and fully funding basic education. Today, basic education only covers for about 5 hours of the school day. That sixth hour is "enhancement funding" and comes compliments of your local levy or from state levy equalization funds.  Children need more, not less, instructional time. They already face tough odds. Consider:

1.         1 in 3 Washington fourth-graders are below basic in reading. (2011 Nation's Report Card)

2.         By 2018, 2 out of 3 of our jobs will require a college degree or credential, but Washington's high school graduation rates hover in the bottom third nationally. (The BERC Group College Tracking Data Services)

Education is the state's paramount duty. A downsized economy will be our norm for the foreseeable future and our children need real solutions.

To take action, click here:


Education in the News: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

posted Jan 18, 2012, 7:58 PM by Wade King PTA Drive

The long-awaited national figures have been released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.  This report is more commonly known as the Nation's Report Card (  Contrary to what we often hear, reading is a concern.  Early literacy, specifically screening for phonological awareness and direct, explicit, research-based classroom reading instruction in the K-3 years is our Washington State PTA's No. 3 priority, while math and science is our No. 2 priority.

The NAEP tests a sampling of students from each state, this allows states to gauge student achievement in relation to one another.  Students take the same test rather than their state's standardized test.  The test is given every two years to measure student achievement in math and reading. 


Nationally, math scores are the highest ever; reading scores are mixed, with 4th grade reading scores remaining flat. Here is a press release giving a short overview of the national scores: 


Washington State:

In Washington State, reading and math scores remained flat, with the 4th grade reading gap widening between high poverty and non-high poverty children.  Flat reading achievement has been flagged as a concern since reading is the foundation in school improvement. In Washington, 4th grade reading stayed the same as 2009, but that average was down from 2007. Between 2003 and 2011, our 4th grade reading gap widened for kids getting free and reduced price lunch.  About 1 in 3 Washington 4thgraders are BELOW BASIC in reading:


4th Grade Reading Average Score, WA State:

2003       2005       2007       2009       2011

221         223         224         221         221

(National average for 2011: 220)


4th Grade Reading Scale, WA State:

Below basic: 33% (34% national)

Basic: 32% (34% national)

Proficient: 26% (25% national)

Advanced: 8% (7% national)


About 1 in 6 Washington 4th graders are BELOW BASIC in math. Washington is slightly above national average.  Achievement gaps for the kids in 4th grade getting free and reduced price lunch in math remain – neither wider nor narrower than before.


4th Grade Math Average Score, WA State:








2011: 243

     (National average: 240)


4th Grade Math Scale, WA State:

Below basic: 17 % (18% national)

Basic: 39 % (42% national)

Proficient: 36% (33% national)

Advanced: 9% (6% national)


Comcast offers $10 Internet access for low-income families

posted Jan 18, 2012, 7:55 PM by Wade King PTA Drive

Thanks to regulators who required low-income access when Comcast acquired NBC Universal earlier this year, families with students who receive free school lunches will now qualify for low-cost Internet access.

For students this fall, that means families with an income of about $29,000 or less would qualify for the new “Internet Essentials” program, which provides $9.95 a month broadband Internet access, vouchers for discounted $149 computers, free Norton anti-virus software, and free computer training. The program is available for families in Comcast service areas with K-12 students who don’t have current Internet service and don’t have any outstanding Comcast bills. And unlike the introductory rates advertised on TV, Comcast says the $9.95 rate won’t increase.

Find out more at

Common Core Standards

posted Aug 28, 2011, 5:23 PM by Wade King PTA Drive

Last month, Washington State officially adopted the Common Core State Standards.  This year, the State will be developing awareness of the standards and how they build on what we currently have.

The Common Core Standards define what kids need to know to graduate college or career ready, and then identify the stepping stones needed to get there. In general, the steps emphasize fewer topics and deeper understanding. The states have agreed on math and English language arts standards. Science is in the works. Implementation will be phased in, with assessment starting in 2014-15.


How will school salary cuts play out?

posted Jun 8, 2011, 7:59 AM by Wade King PTA Drive

June 7, 2011

Short answer to the salary question: It will vary among districts. Any loss in take-home pay will depend on local contracts, local resources and how much of the staff is hired using local funds. The cut is to an allocation. Actual reductions in take-home pay may range between 3 percent (for principals) and none.

The answer will also vary among individuals. Details (and there are many!) are below.

If I just need to know 2 things:

1.      Yes, districts can “make up” for cuts by supplementing with local funds, though there are some restrictions. (For teachers, extra pay is supposed to be linked to extra responsibility, time or initiative.) PLEASE NOTE: About 80 percent of school budgets go to salaries and benefits, so that doesn’t leave much wiggle room to accommodate cuts elsewhere, and districts are also struggling to offset huge cuts to direct instructional support for children. Collectively they lost $860 million in student achievement/I-728 funds, and another $215 million in K-4 class-size reduction funds. The salary reductions, in comparison, tally up to $179 million.

2.      No, school days cannot be cut. That doesn’t mean non-classroom staff can’t take furlough days. And it doesn’t mean classroom staff can’t take a furlough day in place of “extra” time they may be compensated for. (Many classroom teachers are paid for working days in addition to the 180 days in the school year. These can range from a couple to a lot. All depends.) PLEASE NOTE: The legislature considered bills to allow cutting short the school year, but failed to act on them. (Washington State PTA opposes cutting instructional time for kids; there are other ways to balance the budget.)

So, what was cut?

The state is reducing its portion of salaries by:

·         1.9 percent for certificated instructional staff – teachers, librarians, etc. 

·         1.9 percent for classified employees. These are support personnel; they can vary from the bus driver to the accountant, to the human resources director (and in some small districts, that might be the same person!)

·         3 percent for certificated administrative staff. Mostly, these are your principals.

Why the variance? The thinking was state employees all accepted a 3 percent cut, so the state should cut all salary allocations by 3 percent. It was pointed out that some school staffers already took cuts over the years that state employees did not, so legislators compromised at 1.9 percent. Previously, teachers lost some state-paid professional development days (which some districts then paid for with local funds); classified personnel have seen their hours cut as districts moved to preserve core classroom staffing.

Why will cuts vary among districts?

Some districts will have the resources to offset state cuts with local funding. But mainly, the cuts will vary because the allocation will be distributed differently.  The cut is to what the state covers. Those of us who are levy veterans know MANY staffers are hired with local funds.

·         Districts that ONLY have basic education staffing levels will see 1.9 percent and 3 percent cuts to the base allocation.

·         Districts that exceed those staffing levels will be able to redistribute the cuts among a larger pool of staffers. On average, one out of four teachers is paid for with local funds. That ratio is higher in districts like Seattle, where local funds make up about 40 percent of the budget.

Why will cuts vary among individuals?

·         Teachers get what are called “step” increases for years worked and additional education. A teacher who just got his or her masters, for instance, will get a nice increase.

·         Other teachers are nationally board certified and will get a bonus for that. If they are newly national certified, they will see a nice increase.

·         Other employees, such as classified staff, may not see a cut if their pay is already too low. Districts can’t pay less than state minimum wage.


There will be teachers who won’t see a cut in pay, just a smaller increase. Other teachers, those beyond the steps, who are not newly national certified and whose districts do not supplement the state’s base pay, may see 1.9 percent less. For the average teacher salary that would be $1,000. But there are many variables and you shouldn’t assume the average actual cut will be $1,000.

Can districts make up for the cuts?

Maybe. Most salaries are covered by a mix of state and local funds. The state covers what is called “base pay”; districts can supplement with what is called “TRI pay.” Districts could increase TRI pay for additional time, responsibility and initiative. Or, if teachers would rather work less for less pay, they could theoretically furlough a “TRI” day. It all depends on the contract and what the parties agree to.

Can districts still lay off employees?

Yes. As far as state law, June 15 is the cutoff. Normally it is May 15, but the late budget pushed the date back. HOWEVER (nothing is simple) individual teacher contracts need to be reviewed to see if they allow for the June 15 extension. Some older contracts may have outdated RIF language.

Do all contracts have to be reopened?

Not necessarily. Roughly a third are up for negotiation anyway. Roughly another third have what are called “pass through” clauses, so any reduction from the state automatically becomes part of the contract. The remaining have what are called “triggers” – any change means they need to renegotiate terms.

It is strongly advised (by lawyers and the respective professional associations) that all districts review and discuss the changes with their staff members, even if they have a pass-through clause. Districts have both collective agreements and individual contracts and they all need to align.

Plus, good working relationships rely on great communication.

How much was cut, in all, from K-12?

Not including pensions, K-12 education took a $1.7 billion hit.

That means, if current programs, staffing levels and various commitments were maintained at current levels, and planned cost of living increases went through, and I-728 was funded, and EVERYTHING (but pensions) were funded, K-12 would have $1.7 billion more.

Remember: Some of that money would go to state-level services, so not all the cuts are being pushed down to school districts. But most of it would directly benefit children, and all of it affects the quality and quantity of instruction.

MCCLEARY UPDATE: For those interested, the school funding lawsuit comes before the state supreme court on June 28, at 1:30 p.m. TVW will televise. Or go watch live, and bring the kids. Each side gets 20-30 minutes for arguments.

State PTA Legislative Priorities

posted Feb 14, 2011, 12:26 PM by Wade King PTA Drive

We are heading into the upcoming Legislative Session and here’s a recap of the issues so that we can all advocate for K-12 Education.  We know that budgets will be a huge issue but it needn’t stop our advocacy efforts to improve education, health and welfare for all of our kids.

In October members all across WA State voted on the top legislative issues that set priorities for our state lobbyist in Olympia. Here’s a rundown of the issues, in priority order. For more information:

1.     Following-up on Education Reform Bills – did you know that 5% of WA students drop out every year and of those who graduate only 20% will earn a Bachelor’s degree within 6 years. We don’t fund enough periods and the State Board of Ed has new graduation requirements but all reforms remain unfunded.

2.     Strengthen Math and Science Education – WA state have persistently low scores on math tests and last year only 45% of 10th graders met the math standard and only 47% met the science standard, the results are much worse for some groups

3.     Improve Literacy Instruction – Kids struggle with reading, the cornerstone of educational success and about 60% of find learning to read a challenge with 20-30% finding reading remarkable difficult

4.     Teacher “Reduction in Force (RIF) Policies” – Typically seniority alone determines layoff and hire-back decision, which can result in the retention of some less-effective teachers at the expense of others. This issue expands RIF policies to include more than just seniority

5.     Fund Education First – Article XI of the state’s constitution “The paramount duty of our State is to make ample provision for the education of all children residing in our boarders” and yet legislators cut education and put more burdens on local districts.

6.     New Model for Teacher Compensation – As we move to outcome based approach to teaching, a new research-based state teacher compensation model that emphasizes rewarding teacher effectiveness in improving student learning.

7.     School Breakfast and lunch programs – Improve the quality and nutritional content of school breakfast and lunch as 93% of all school meal programs fail to meet nutritional standards.

8.     Physical Education and health – Strengthen physical education and health, by adding it as a core subject. One third of all kids between the ages of 2-19 are overweight or obese.

Budget Impact on BSD

posted Feb 14, 2011, 12:26 PM by Wade King PTA Drive

Read the most recent update from Superintendent Greg Baker on the State budget and education funding.

Bellingham School District Budget Cuts:   How did it impact Wade King this year? 
  1. Every-other-day kindergarten, with a fee-based every-day option. 

  2. Aligned end and start times, 9:30-3:30:

    • 3-5th grade receives 30-minutes less instructional time per day. 

    • Primary grades receive 30-minutes more of instructional time per day. 

  3. 3-5th grade receives 90-minutes less per week of P.E. instruction with a certificated P.E. specialist. 

  4. Primary grades now receive 45-minutes per week of P.E. instruction with a certificated P.E. specialist. 

  5. Primary grades now receive 60-minutes music instruction per week with a certificated specialist. 

  6. Elimination of the strings program. 

  7. Librarian position reduced to .5 FTE:

    • K and Life Skills receive literacy support through library programming with a certificated teacher-librarian. 

    • 1-5th grades do not receive literacy support through library programming with a certificated teacher- librarian. 

  8. Added a Mandarin teacher at .5 FTE

Primary (K-2nd grades)

Intermediate (3-5th grades)

30-minutes more of instructional time per day.

30-minutes less instructional time per day.

45-minutes per week of P.E. instruction with a certificated P.E. specialist.

90-minutes less per week of P.E. instruction with a certificated P.E. specialist.

60-minutes music instruction per week with a certificated specialist.

Elimination of the strings program (5th grade)

Librarian position reduced to .5 FTE:

·       K and Life Skills do receive literacy support through library programming with a certificated teacher-librarian (storytime).

·       1-2nd grades do not receive literacy support through library programming with a certificated teacher- librarian (storytime).

Librarian position reduced to .5 FTE:

·       3-5th grades do not receive literacy support through library programming with a certificated teacher- librarian (storytime, Reading Around the World, Young Reader’s Choice, Sasquatch).

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