After Gov. Jay Inslee nudged Washington's school districts to reopen buildings, he asked lawmakers for $400 million to mitigate what's become known as learning loss while not knowing how much students have fallen behind.
(TNS) — The day after Gov.
As part of his 2021-23 budget request, Inslee said he will use that money to "address learning loss due to the pandemic and increase equitable student supports so all students can get back on track and achieve their full potential."
Specifically, that means expanding tutoring and enrichment programs. The money, the budget documents said, could pay for school districts to add more instructional time before or after the school day, or expand learning to include some time during the summer.
Inslee is also asking for $79 million to support residential broadband connections so that more families can engage with online learning. In addition, he's asking for $32 million to boost elementary school counselors, an acknowledgment of the additional struggle the state's youngest students are facing.
He presented these ideas as part of his bigger proposal for helping
"Our educators have been working so hard in this remote learning environment," Inslee said at a Thursday press conference. "They have been incredibly innovative and amazingly dedicated to their students. But we have to realize that this situation has created challenges, that many students have had a learning loss because of this pandemic."
There's little specific information about how
So to get a feel for what schools would have to contend with, Inslee turned to Challenge Seattle, a group that represents 20 Seattle-area business leaders and the Washington Roundtable, a statewide business group. The organizations — as well as the
The report relied on national research, case studies of school systems that had shut down and interviews with educators, students and other
The report also acknowledged the uneven effects of the pandemic: It cited a national survey that estimated that a majority of low-income districts saw half of their students attending 50% of the time or less. And according to a
To stop learning loss, the report recommended an emphasis on connectivity and engagement and a quick return to in-person learning — with safety measures. Once students are back in school, the report said, districts should work to understand where students are in their learning, create individualized learning plans, and try to catch them back up through multiple strategies, including the soliciting of volunteer tutoring.
The report stopped short of saying who or how would be in charge of making sure that actually happens across
"The ideas that they have offered up to be considered are not new. They've been around," said former
When asked, she said it's on the governor, the state superintendent and individual school districts, parents and community members to make sure this actually happens. "I don't see there's an easy quick guarantee way," she said. "We're going to have to refuse to fail."
Parents will play a big role, said
In this moment, he described "a higher pressure point on returning not to the new normal" but to "transform and reimagine public education."
The budget proposal reflects Inslee's ideas; ultimately, the legislature sets the state budget.
One legislator noted that the proposal doesn't provide relief for school districts who might face financial problems due to drops in enrollment.
"Our budget is pretty well balanced on paper, but that's largely because the maintenance level forecast is assuming that we don't do anything about solving the problem that districts have right now with their loss of enrollment," said Sen.
The state's September enrollment numbers showed a 2.82% dip overall, with 14% of the decreases concentrated in kindergarten. Pedersen said he's worried that if school districts have less money because of their enrollment, they might have fewer teachers at a time when the system could see an influx of kindergartners or first graders.
"If we don't do something, they're going to have this huge squeeze," he said. "I don't mean to minimize the importance of making up for the learning loss, but it's like Maslow's hierarchy of needs: You're going to have to staunch the bleeding first before making up for lost ground."
Some of Inslee's learning loss remedies might depend on districts' renegotiating contracts with teachers unions — but the leader of the state teachers union did not support the budget proposal.
"The governor's budget falls short of the already inadequate status quo by not adjusting the funding formulae for enrollment and transportation,"
Inslee's proposal also includes a request for help for the ailing child care sector, in the form of a $29 million, four-year health care insurance premium sponsorship for child care employees who work in licensed centers. He also asked for $9 million to expand broadband access for licensed child care centers, and $64 million to expand state-subsidized child care access for low-income families. That money would reduce monthly co-payments by half for 8,600 families through the Working Connects Child Care program; the program's income limit would increase by 10%, allowing 4,900 more people to participate.
He is also requesting $23 million to expand career-connected learning, including the creation of a new pre-apprenticeship program for high school students in
His budget also includes requests for $3.1 million more to support the special education safety net, $75,000 for a special education family liaison and $4 million in climate science education.
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