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Archive for January, 2012

If you have been reading the newspapers the last few days, you know that there was a suit (McCleary v. State) about adequacy of state basic education funding before the state supreme court. That decision was handed down Thursday and was a major victory for the plaintiffs. The full decision can be found here.

In this decision are several items of interest and importance to supporters of appropriate educational opportunities for highly capable students.

• The court found that the new definition of basic education in ESHB 2261 is part of a comprehensive reform acceptable to the court in fulfillment of prior court orders. The inclusion of HCP in this definition is mentioned in several places.

• The court is going to retain jurisdiction over the case to ensure that the provisions of 2261 are fully implemented by the school year 2018, as set out in the law.

• The court reaffirms that “programs and offerings that fall within the legislature’s definition of ‘basic education’ are considered nondiscretionary and must be funded regardless of budgetary constraints.” ” State-level funding for ‘basic education’ is not subject to debate, even in times of budget shortfalls.” (Page 18)

• Unless the Legislature choses to change the definition of basic education (and the decision says such a change “must be accompanied by an educational policy rationale; the legislature may not eliminate an offering from the basic education program for reasons unrelated to educational policy, such as fiscal crisis or mere expediency,” page 54) HCP has a “safe harbor.” We are no longer at extreme risk every budget cycle.

It appears that the new definition of basic education is affirmed and that HCP funding is protected, two goals the Coalition had in supporting ESHB 2261 and subsequent legislation.

This ruling is not likely to ease the stresses on local districts since levy equalization is not a part of basic education and remains at risk of cuts. Districts rely on levies and levy equalization to fund up to 30% of their budgets, much of it going for basic education expenses instead of the enhancements that were the intended purpose of levies.

If you have strong feelings on this decision as a whole and what the Legislature should do next you need to contact your Legislator. A personal communication to your Legislator is always the best way to go. However, two organizations offer quick opportunities to contact your Legislators, if you wish to take advantage of them. These links are informational only and do not constitute an endorsement.

Consider signing on to the petition of the League of Education Voters. If you agree with their statement or if you are pressed for time, this petition might suit your needs.

Or you may wish to work through the state PTA on their Legislative Action Center.

The entire statement from the PTA sent state wide to its members is here.

In 2009, we gathered in Olympia to support the passage of HB 2261. In the McCleary decision, the fruits of that effort have been harvested. Join us on January 23rd to say thank you to our Legislators and all the others who supported our efforts.

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The Legislature opens the short session on January 9th. Ahead of them lies the difficult task of filling the budget “hole”. Just to make it clear, the 2011-2013 budget enacted last session actually appropriated more money (up 4.8%) than the previous budget. The “hole” is actually a shortfall, because actual and anticipated revenue is less than is needed to fund all the programs in that budget. Since the state is constitutionally required to have a balanced budget, expenditures need to be cut to match revenues. State agencies budget based on the amounts they are projected to spend in the next period. It’s not so much a wish list as what they are legally obligated to spend without any changes in the law, accounting for a changing number of people to serve. The cuts come from those projected levels.

The Governor’s proposed supplemental budget continues funding for Highly Capable Programs at the level appropriated in the 2011-2013 budget.  So do proposals from both the House and Senate. These three proposals will be a part of the discussion in the regular session. Legislative proposals at http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/archives/index_budgetsp.asp and Governor’s at http://www.ofm.wa.gov/budget12/default.asp

Highly Capable programs have been massively underfunded for decades. We need to ensure that the (relatively) small amount of state funding appropriated continues. Without the state funding, districts may not be willing to spend their local dollars on these services  even though they are now mandated as a part of basic education. These local funds often come from Levy Equalization which is at great risk.

We have also been told that there may be a bill to enact some of the recommendations of the Highly Capable Program Technical Working Group. At a minimum this proposal would enact the new definition of a Highly Capable child and some requirements on identification. The entire recommendations can be found at http://www.k12.wa.us/HighlyCapable/Workgroup/default.aspx More on this possible bill when information becomes available.

Why do we need you in Olympia talking to your Legislators on January 23, 2012?

• To say thank you for including Highly Capable Programs in basic education. As HB 2261 says so clearly, “access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction is access to a basic education” for Highly Capable students.
• To say thank you for maintaining funding in the current biennial budget and request that they continue to do so in the supplemental budget.
• To give Legislators an idea of how being in a Highly Capable Program has improved students’ educational experiences or helped them to plan their future.

Students are the best people to talk with Legislators about Highly Capable Programs. Each student who attends should bring a personal letter expressing one or both of these ideas or their own individual ideas, in their own words, to give to the Legislator(s). Legislators prefer handwritten letters so if you have a computer program that allows you to produce personalized stationery with your picture on it, please make some and use it for your handwritten letter. You can’t get more personalized than that…

If you can’t come to Olympia on January 23rd, please write this letter  anyway and send it to your Legislators. Mail addresses can be found on the web site of the state Legislature. http://www.leg.wa.gov/pages/home.aspx Use the Legislator information tab to find your Legislator.

PLEASE PLAN TO BE IN OLYMPIA ON JANUARY 23rd

Our program is scheduled to begin about 9:30 (subject to change at the last minute so please be there by 9 am).

Charlotte Akin, president-elect of WAETAG will be our keynote speaker.

The Governor is scheduled to drop in at approximately 10:00 am. We plan to thank her for including funding for HCP in her supplemental budget proposal. (You may recall that the last three or four budget proposals from the Governor eliminated HCP funding, so inclusion is a major event for us and we need to thank her.)

SPI Randy Dorn has been invited to discuss the steps OSPI is taking to inform districts about the change which made HCP a part of basic education and the efforts OSPI is making to assist districts in this transformation.

We will also have a short session on how to advocate with Legislators from Kelly Munn of the League of Education Voters.

Possible other parts of the program are still in development.

All Legislators have been invited to drop in as well as representatives from other groups which have supported our goals. Another chance to say “Thank you for your support.”

Last year we had nearly 500 advocates in Olympia. We hope to match that this year and rely on you to be one of the crowd. Pass the word forward!

Our next message will include a booklet containing information you can use when advocating with state legislators on behalf of Highly Capable Programs. Materials include information on the current status of Highly Capable Programs within Basic Education; recent articles about gifted students and their needs from local and national newspapers and journals; and excerpts from the State of the Nation in Gifted Education.

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