Responding to a request for input on implementing a program of basic education, the State Board of Education sent this letter to Legislature’s Education Funding Task Force :
September 8, 2016
Dear Members of the Education Funding Task Force:
We appreciate your request for input from stakeholder communities on how the Education Funding Task Force can utilize its platform to better our education system in Washington State. Specifically, you ask for “a description of what you feel would define a successful Washington K-12 public school system.”
The State Board of Education has a unique role in this process. By statute, the Board is charged with “advocacy and strategic oversight of public education,” as well as a responsibility to “promote achievement of the goals” of the program of basic education (RCW 28A.305.130). We also have a unique responsibility in setting standards for high school graduation for individual students, and setting goals for our public education system on a range of student achievement indicators (RCW.28A.150.550).
Given our role, we are regularly confronted with the relationship between the standards set for our schools, and the resources deployed to help reach those standards. Our collective view is that performance and funding are connected. While minimum proficiency standards may not require difficult resource decisions, truly high college and career-ready standards for all students – such as those adopted by Washington – require commensurately high resources.
We believe that the role standards play in funding decisions is key to your work. We understand that analyzing the accounting detail of how districts spend their local levy funding is potentially useful to policymakers. We are concerned, however, that it becomes the basis for determining what ‘ample’ funding is. It seems more desirable that “full funding” be based not simply on what was included in HB 2276, or what is currently expended out of excess levies, but rather on a specially designed basic education program that broadly fulfills the ambitious statutory goal of preparing all high school graduates “for success in postsecondary education, gainful employment, and citizenship.” (RCW 28A.230.090). That is what we believe the Quality Education Council attempted to do, and what we ask you to consider as part of your recommendations going forward.
Despite our ambitious goals, it is worth noting that today approximately 3 out of every 10 low-income students do not graduate in 4 years, while only slightly more than half of limited English proficient students do so. Without the needed resources, these gaps will persist and may even widen as we transition to a K-12 system that is fully aligned to college and career-ready standards. While funding levels are certainly not the only reason for these unacceptable outcomes, we believe they are a meaningful contributing factor. Accordingly, we would ask the Task Force to consider the following recommendations for inclusion in its final report.