OSPI NEWS RELEASE: REYKDAL: Legislature’s Budget Shows Strong Commitment to Students, Educators, and Communities

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Legislature’s Budget Shows Strong Commitment to Students, Educators, and Communities

The 2019 Legislative Session ended on April 29, providing the state with a new budget. Below is Superintendent Chris Reykdal’s statement.

Superintendent Chris Reykdal

OLYMPIA—May 2, 2019—Last spring, more than 30,000 Washingtonians shared their K–12 education budget priorities with us. The top priorities they identified were mental health supports, counseling and advising, access to career and technical education opportunities, and effective buildings and facilities for learning.

This input from the public was the primary driver of our budget proposals for the Governor and Legislature, and I’m pleased the Legislature decided to invest in many of these proposals.

In addition to investments in programs and facilities, the Legislature was also able to provide additional levy support, which will allow most school districts to raise more in local dollars. Many of these districts saw cuts to their levy authority following last year’s legislative session, and their budgets have been squeezed because of it. This levy opportunity should bring relief to many of our districts across the state.

Some of the key investments the Legislature made were in school safety and student health, supports for students with disabilities, providing pathways to graduation, access to dual language instruction, and ensuring students have access to a safe and healthy learning environment.

School safety and student health

The Legislature provided funding for regional school safety coordinators at all nine educational service districts. Seeing the need for a regional, coordinated system of prevention, early identification, and intervention, we proposed this delivery model so all schools would have support in safety planning, responding to emotional and behavioral distress in students, and more.

Special education

Arguably one of the most pertinent needs the Legislature addressed this session was the lack of funding for students with disabilities. This budget adds approximately $125 million for direct supports for students to receive the special education services they need.

In addition, the Legislature provided $25 million for teachers to learn best practices for including students with disabilities in general education classes with their peers, an area where we lag behind other states.

Pathways to graduation

One of my top policy priorities for the past two years has been providing students with pathways to a high school diploma that are aligned to their postsecondary goals and interests. This year, the Legislature passed House Bill 1599, which expands current graduation pathways to include specific career and technical education (CTE) programs of study, among others.

Building off this, the Legislature also provided funding for the expansion of statewide CTE course equivalencies. These equivalencies offer flexibility for students to meet credit requirements on a pathway that aligns with their postsecondary plans.

In addition, funding is provided for the startup, expansion, and maintenance of programs in maritime, construction, aerospace, and advanced manufacturing. With a state economy that is begging for skilled workers in these trades, our K–12 system must have the ability to adapt and meet these needs. This funding will allow our students to be more competitive when they enter the workforce, and it will meet some of the needs of these economic drivers in our communities.

Buildings and facilities

This year, we asked the Legislature to invest in our small and rural schools with critical building system repair needs. Recognizing that every student should have access to a safe and healthy learning environment, the Legislature invested vital funds in this area through various grant programs.

Dual language instruction

In 2017, the Legislature provided initial grant funding for school districts to establish, support, and expand dual language programs. This year, the Legislature provided additional funding to expand the grant programs to more schools. My vision is for every student to have access to dual language instruction beginning in kindergarten, and this grant program is an important first step.

I am grateful for the important work of the Legislature this session. We saw policymakers from both sides of the political aisle work together to make progress that will have a great impact on the lives of our students and educators. With additional basic education funding and levy flexibility restored, we must continue working together to break down systemic barriers and close opportunity gaps between students.

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