February 21, 2013 Print

Regulating Education Options?

Senate Bill 5794 was heard February 20th, and it tightens the noose slightly on the creative alternative learning programs operating around the state.

I testified with concerns, and you can see the video here.

First, I’m not sure I see what problem this bill is trying to solve.

The entire population of students selecting alternative learning (including alternative high schools) is 3.8%.

The only tragic problem I see related to alternative learning programs is that the state legislature has decided that children in families choosing this option are mandated to receive no more than 85% of the funds—thus services—that other children receive.

Now here are some other more interesting percentages that need attention:

25% of students do not graduate on time

19% of students drop out

31% of students in third grade don’t even have a “basic” reading ability

19% of students in tenth grade don’t have a basic reading ability

9% of students are not fluent in English, and one fifth of these made no progress on learning English in 2010-11.

I’d be curious to know what percentage of students have suffered personal harm or property damage at schools, but we don’t even keep track of that.

I do appreciate that this bill:

  • Appears to treat online programs separately from alternative learning programs
  • Recognizes that in some cases the classroom staff-student ratios do not make sense

My main concern is how the legislation appears to limit education options for families.

Section 4 (a)(ii)  and Section 5 (2)(a)(iii) of the bill a appear to require that from now on, instruction may only be delivered by those who are certificated and employed by the district.

Would the bill prohibit contracting with non-district employees and non-certificated educators like those employed in Skills Centers, Community Colleges, special education specialists or others selected by local school boards to provide instruction?

Similarly, would instruction which is delivered digitally like Kahn Academy, colleges offering free courses  (including the UW) be prohibited?

Districts--especially small districts--should be allowed to utilize outside instructional experts to enhance their offerings when adding to payroll is not possible.

The lobbyist for the Washington Education Association found this to be the most exciting part of the bill. She had this to say:

“Online learning kind of blossomed in our state. No one was really paying attention and all of a sudden we have a robust online learning experience going on. And so we’ve tried over the last few years to figure out how to regulate that. . . .

“We appreciate that it calls out for certificated teachers. We strongly supported in the past that that be Washington certificated teachers”

The turf protectionism for employees seems to be the highest priority.


Jami Lund

Senior Policy Analyst

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