Saturday, January 10, 2009

You Know What's Fun? Reading the State Budget!

Happy the Budget Deer Loves Substitute House Bill 1128!

No, really! You can download the last one here; zip ahead to section 5 and you'll get to the stuff that matters most to us, regarding education funding. It's 57 pages of numbers, and I think that given the state of the budget that's where the opportunity lies. For example, take this from page 149:

Within the amounts provided in this subsection, the superintendent shall recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of four students who have demonstrated a strong understanding of the civics essential learning requirements to receive the Daniel J. Evans civic education award. The students selected for the award must demonstrate understanding through completion of at least one of the classroom-based civics assessment models developed by the superintendent of public instruction, and through leadership in the civic life of their communities. The superintendent shall select two students from eastern Washington and two students from western Washington to receive the award, and shall notify the governor and legislature of the names of the recipients.
Sounds like a nice enough program, surely, but given that we've got a $6 billion dollar hole to fill the question that we should be asking about every single thing we do is pretty simple:

Is it worth it?

I'm not sure where I first heard the phrase "Christmas tree items" to descrive those pieces that are added into a budget that pay for certain pet programs; they're hung on to the main body, like ornaments on a Christmas tree. Our education budget last time had a wide variety of those items, and they all should be run through the same filter: were they worth it?

  • $1,895,000 to operate the State Board of Education
  • $2,000,000 for operating costs for the Professional Educator Standards Board
  • $7,558,000 to fund alternative routes to teacher certification
  • $555,000 for litigation fees surrounding various lawsuits
  • $600,000 to replace of the apportionment system
  • $156,000 "to provide direct services and support to schools around an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to instruction in conservation, natural resources, sustainability, and human adaptation to the environment."
  • $2,563,000 "for the creation of a statewide data base of longitudinal student information."
  • $650,000 "for comprehensive cultural competence and anti-bias education programs for educators and students."
  • $100,000 "to promote the financial literacy of students." As an aside, they're about to get a hell of a lesson on what overspending can do!
  • $270,000 to implement a bill "regarding educational data and data systems."
  • $228,000 for the "legislative youth advisory council."
  • $193,000 for "children and families of incarcerated parents."
  • $55,000 for the "Washington college bound scholarship."
  • $49,000 "regarding providing medically and scientifically accurate sexual health education in schools."
  • $45,000 for food allergy guidelines.
  • $84,000 "to support a program to recognize the work of outstanding classified staff in school districts throughout the state." That's enough to pay for 2 or 3 classified employees.
  • $194,000 "to support a full-time director of skills centers within the office of the superintendent of public instruction."
  • $1,030,000 to pay for two studies from the NWREL about ELL and the "k-3 demonstration projects."
  • $200,000 for a study from WSU on school bullying.
  • $5,082,000 for a "school nursing corp" based out of the ESDs.
  • $192,000 for the School Safety Center at OSPI.
....and that's just the first 8 pages. It adds up to $23,699,000. Not all of it is discretionary--I'm pretty sure that the state Constitution mandates we have a State Board of Education--but is there potential for them (and the PESB) to do things as leanly as possible for a couple of years? The big things out of the State Board lately have been the new accountability matrix and Core 24; let's not do those, and not spend any more money on them, and see what happens.

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