North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

By Becky Berg
MSD Superintendent 

Legislature helps schools

 

Dr. Becky Berg

Upon becoming a school board member, there are several things that happen, one of which is becoming a member of the Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA). This organization works to further the education of school board members, and promote the legislation of school boards across the state on behalf of their local citizens, families, students, staff and teachers. Each local school board has a legislative representative which represents the District to the WSSDA Association. A convention is then held annually where the representatives from each district put forth their concerns and WSSDA staff puts them into one of four categories: Teaching, Governance, Funding and Allocation, and Learning.

Their concerns are prioritized and developed into legislative proposals. Then, WSSDA staff and school board members work with legislators in the State Capitol to help pass legislation that supports the learning and opportunities for students across our state.

This past legislative session, there were more than 300 bills related to education with only 34 that passed the House and Senate and were signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee. These bills covered everything from sunscreen application at school, to the Supreme Court's 2012 McCleary decision, which said the state was failing to meet its constitutional requirement to fully fund basic education.

After three additional special sessions that each lasted 30 days, the Legislature came to an agreement that will add $7.3 billion to public schools over the next four years. This additional funding will come from an increase in the statewide property tax. The plan also keeps in place local property-tax levies but restricts them to a lower amount beginning in 2019. It also requires that local taxes be used only for programs that supplement basic education. The additional funding from the state, and the new requirement on local property taxes means that school districts will not have to ask their local taxpayers to fund basic education needs. Instead, communities can focus on what more we can do to specifically support our local students and schools. The hope is that all students have the same opportunities and are treated equitably, regardless of where they live in Washington state.

In addition to providing more funding to public education, the legislature passed House Bill 2224, which provides flexibility and supports student success by delaying the requirement of meeting the high-stakes science assessments standards to graduate until the class of 2021. The board and I also agree that high-stakes testing attached to graduation is bad for students. Board President Pete Lundberg said it perfectly in his March 11 Marysville Globe article titled, "Disconnect state test, graduation." In it he states, "All learners are different, have varied skills, learning styles and abilities. They learn in different ways, at varied rates and times. Attaching graduation to one test, given on one day, at one time, in one way, does not allow for individual differences." We are thankful to the legislature for passing HB 2224, but there is still work to be done to ensure each student is able to demonstrate their learning in a way that recognizes their individual differences.

This past legislative session brought forth many other pieces of legislation intended to improve the life and learning of students across our state and region – some that passed and some that did not pass. We are thankful for the hard work of our local legislators, Senator John McCoy and Representatives Mike Sells and June Robinson for their diligent work on behalf of the Marysville-Tulalip community and our students. We are also thankful to the unions, associations and other individuals who have a vested interest in our students' welfare and continue to fight so that every student has the opportunities needed to achieve. As we approach a new school year, please let members of the Marysville School Board know what ideas you have for improving education in Washington state and here in Marysville and Tulalip. Meaningful change happens when we all work together to make a difference for our students. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

 

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