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‘Listening tour’ and the future of education in WA

Dozens turned out to hear State Senators Rosemary McAuliffe (D-District 1) and Eric Oemig (D-District 45) speak Thursday night at the Federal Way Public Academy as part of the Education Reform Listening Tour. - Kyra Low/The Mirror
Dozens turned out to hear State Senators Rosemary McAuliffe (D-District 1) and Eric Oemig (D-District 45) speak Thursday night at the Federal Way Public Academy as part of the Education Reform Listening Tour.
— image credit: Kyra Low/The Mirror

Dozens turned out to hear State Senators Rosemary McAuliffe (D-District 1) and Eric Oemig (D-District 45) speak Thursday night at the Federal Way Public Academy as part of the Education Reform Listening Tour.

McAuliffe and Oemig are both members of the Quality Education Committee.

Also in attendance, although listening and not answering questions, were State Sen. Tracey Eide and State Rep. Skip Priest of District 30 (Federal Way area).

The main topic was House Bill 2261, which passed last session.

HB 2261 is an attempt to overhaul the definition of Basic Education — that is the part of public schooling that the state pays for.

HB 2261 would include paying for all-day kindergarten and early learning for low-income students. The bill begins to address the shortfall in funding and how to better fund schools in the future. It would also pay for what is called CORE 24, which would increase the credits required to graduate from 19 to 24. It would mean the state would pay for six periods a day.

The bill was sponsored by Priest, who represents the Federal Way area.

"It's a process, it's not a final answer," McAuliffe said. "2261 is a hope for the future."

The tour was an outlet for the lawmakers to hear the concerns that citizens have over education.

For more than an hour, questions were asked and answered, with everyone from district officials, parents, teachers and even people from out of district coming up to the microphone about myriad topics — from technology funding to class sizes and the achievement gap.

One of the biggest concerns of the night was funding for future changes and even the changes already passed.

Former school board member and current Federal Way Judge Dave Larson asked whether the Legislature would end up again with unconstitutional funding.

"It's a moral issue independent of the Supreme Court ruling," he said.

"We did a budget in a historical downfall," Oemig said. "Some of K-12 funding was discretionary; 2261 will make it undiscretionary. We've built in some time bombs ... things locals were already funding, we're bringing back in."

However, the funding issue remained a hot topic once it was breached.

"You're the ones in charge, you're the lawmakers," resident Mark Laurel said. "If you say you can't find the money because it's too hard, that's not going to cut it for me."

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