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Bill would redefine education in Washington state

A major education bill was pushed forward on Monday with the passage of House Bill 2261.

The bill, co-sponsored by State Rep. Skip Priest (R-Federal Way), still needs to be signed by the governor to take effect.

"I am extremely pleased," Priest said. "It's an extremely important next step."

Changes brought forth by the bill would not begin to take place until 2011.

The bill redefines "basic education" and the funding that the state puts into the public schools system.

Priest has spoken out along with the Federal Way School District that the state needs to fully fund education, echoing Superintendent Tom Murphy's words that funding education in the "paramount duty" of the state.

"We are pleased with the passage of house bill 2261," Deputy Supt. Mark Davidson said. "It's a step forward for K-12 education throughout the state. We appreciate the leadership shown by the state. It will take some time to know what this means for Federal Way schools."

The bill would:

• Phase in funding for a high schoolers to achieve 24 credits and attend six classes per day.

• Establish early learning for at-risk children (all day kindergarten for high poverty schools) and transportation, putting them under the definition of "basic education."

• Create a transparent funding system so that everyone, including the public, understands how the state supports basic education.

• Create work groups to make recommendations on how to best spend local levy funds, how teachers are hired and compensated, and how to phase in early learning.

• Require the Board of Education to create a comprehensive system for improvements targeted at challenged schools and districts that have not made enough improvements on their own.

• Assign the Professional Educator Standards Board to create performance standards for teachers.

This will mean more funding for public schools. The bill will protect more funding under the "basic education" label, meaning that lawmakers cannot cut that funding.

"This will help students in Federal Way," Priest said. "Federal Way represents all the challenges in the state with its 107 languages, 53 percent free and reduced lunch and its mobility. All these issues must be addressed...We need to have a blueprint for educational funding to ensure we meet that goal and not only help Federal Way students, but students across the state."

The bill stipulates that the Legislature continue to look at the issue of basic education, and that a fully implemented and redefined program be in place and funded by 2018.

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