GOV. Jay Inslee’s plan to invest $1.2 billion in public education over the next two years matches his campaign promise.
Candidate Inslee pledged to invest in education, and his guidance to the Legislature deepens a critical conversation. Rebuilding the state economy begins with a 21st-century educational system for ages 3 to 23, but meeting the challenge is not only about new money but also ensuring that money is spent effectively.
Last week, the governor outlined his spending priorities for the 2013-15 budget cycle. On education, it mostly hits the proper targets.
Inslee’s proposals include a $35 million expansion in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program. That would create space for 3,000 more preschoolers over the next two years. Currently, ECEAP has a waitlist of about 4,000 kids.
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The governoralso encourages expansion of full-day kindergarten and programs ensuring students are proficient readers by third grade. Financial aid is another priority, with proposed increases in the State Need Grant, the State Work Study program and the College Bound Scholarship Program.
The governor proposes spending more on basic operations such as maintenance, supplies and school buses, a credible start toward meeting the state Supreme Court’s mandate that the state pay a larger share of education.
New money for education ought to rest on a solid foundation of accountability. The state Senate has passed thoughtful reforms that help the money make a difference. They include:
• Requiring approval of school principals before teachers are assigned to their building;
• Bolstering academic supports for elementary-school students to ensure all students read proficiently by third grade;
• Automatically enrolling high-school students in advanced classes;
• Ending the harmful practice of indefinite suspensions.
These bills go a long way to improving the educational system. Inslee should encourage House members to pass them.
The governor’s priorities document fails, in some areas, to link money with ongoing reforms. The recommended funding for extra school hours is not tied to Washington’s goal of moving to a 24-credit graduation.
Nor does he prioritize funding for the rigorous learning standards adopted by Washington and nearly every other state. Education revenue should be inextricably linked to reform.