In a typical year, Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction would seek advice from its top experts when crafting budget requests for state lawmakers to consider.
This year, however, as the Legislature appeared to finally satisfy a 6-year-old Supreme Court order to fully fund basic education, state schools chief Chris Reykdal wants to hear from teachers, students, parents and interested taxpayers about what other school priorities the state should fund.
Education Lab is a Seattle Times project that spotlights promising approaches to persistent challenges in public education. It is produced in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network and is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
On Wednesday, Reykdal’s office opened an online survey that asks respondents to rank the budget priorities he’ll advance in next year’s legislative session. The list includes after-school- and summer-learning programs, support for students with special needs, smaller class sizes, safer schools and incentives to recruit and retain classroom teachers.
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The survey also offers an open-ended section that respondents can fill with any other priorities that Reykdal should include in his 2019-21 budget request.
“Prior to me being here, (OSPI) built budget requests based on the program and policy leads who do have a good pulse on what’s going on,” said Reykdal, who took over the agency in early 2017. “But I think the process has been completely void of public input, and that’s something we wanted to close.”
After the survey closes June 8, OSPI will begin a second round in the summer to ask residents to rank the most popular priorities from the first round.
“We won’t even begin drafting budget items until this thing completely closes and we have a better sense of where things are,” Reykdal said.
OSPI translated the survey into the 10 languages including English: Khmer, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, traditional Chinese and Vietnamese.
By late Wednesday, about 1,400 people had completed the survey, mostly in English, according to Reykdal.
“We really built this with a robust sense of trying to do analytics,” he said.
“If there’s something so different in the Yakima Valley than the Olympic Peninsula, we want to know what’s driving that.”