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School funds fix could take years
It will take several years to overhaul education funding in the state despite bi-partisan support for reform.
That’s what 5th District Rep. Glenn Anderson, a member of a task force charged with redefining basic education and developing options for a new schools funding structure, told Valley residents last week at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Snoqualmie Valley PTSA Council at Chief Kanim Middle School.
“It’s a big uphill battle in a very difficult time,” said Anderson, who joined State Sen. Cheryl Pflug of the 5th District, and Sen. Eric Oemig and Rep. Roger Goodman of the 45th District to weigh in on education funding and the state budget at the meeting, which about 100 community members attended.
The lawmakers met with constituents just before the Legislature began its 2009 session this week, with a top priority of addressing the state’s projected $6 billion budget shortfall.
Reforms proposed by the task force include teacher compensation changes, equalization of local enhancement, and the elimination of what Anderson dubbed “Byzantine” spending structures.
The State Board of Education has proposed the creation of “Core 24,” a program to create state funding for six high school class periods each day rather than the five that are currently supported. The task force calls for funding additional costs by allocating a larger portion of the state budget for K-12 education.
Oemig said that while Core 24 was a good idea, he didn’t think the state could pay for it.
“Do we need standards? Yes. Do we need curriculum? Yes,” Oemig said. “(But) where’s the money to fund that thing?”
Some parents at the meeting expressed frustration that the Snoqualmie Valley School District ranks 290th of 295 districts in Washington for per-pupil funding from the state.
“You’re buying into a marketing pitch that you don’t understand,” Anderson said, explaining that other districts receive more dollars because they are “more dysfunctional.” State formulas give extra funds to districts with students who are poor, non-English-speaking, or face other challenges.
“We’re one of the least dysfunctional communities in the state,” Anderson said. He added that “per-pupil spending has absolutely no correlation with academic achievement.”
More information on the Washington State Basic Education Funding Task Force is online at www.whatittakesforkids.com.