State Superintendent Chris Reykdal Presents 2021-2023 Budget Priorities
To introduce his budget priorities for the upcoming legislative session, Superintendent Chris Reykdal wrote in a letter to Governor Inslee:
“COVID-19 has laid bare glaring systemic inequities that have long existed in K–12 education. Public safety has necessitated a more fluid and flexible education landscape, with access to broadband service and internet-connected devices at the center of student learning. Unaffordability of broadband service has become a barrier to a child’s ability to even enter a classroom, further widening existing opportunity gaps.
These crises are not new, but it is with a sense of urgency that I put forward a vision of education in the state of Washington that acknowledges the fundamental role of K–12 education in the lives of all Washingtonians, backed by the funding needed to build, maintain, and leverage such a system.”
Superintendent Reykdal’s budget priorities center on furthering the progress made on closing opportunity gaps, supporting the whole child, providing students with graduation pathways that align with their unique interests, supporting students with disabilities, and ensuring all students learn in facilities that are safe and effective.
“For the past four years, we have been on a steady path of transformation in our state,” Reykdal said. “I know our policymakers have tough decisions ahead of them this session as the state grapples with a financial crisis caused by the impacts of the virus.”
“However, the needs of our students and educators can’t wait,” Reykdal continued. “Every proposal I’ve put forward was considered deeply against the essential needs of our students, educators, and our shared future. We must continue our momentum in building a more equitable, productive, and resilient public education system that meets the demands of our students today.”
A summary of the Superintendent’s proposals is below.
Investing in Learning Devices and Connectivity
Ensuring students have learning devices and internet connectivity is necessary to meet both the urgent needs of teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the long-term trends toward online homework and home-based learning.
The Superintendent’s request would provide funds for school districts to purchase and maintain learning devices and wifi hotspots for students who need them. The request also includes funds for residential broadband connectivity for students’ families, and broadband connectivity for child care providers serving school-aged children to ensure students can engage in school-based learning in their facilities.
Supporting the Safety and Social-Emotional Needs of All Students
To close opportunity gaps, many school districts across the state have implemented a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). MTSS is a research-based method of identifying students who need additional mental, social, emotional, or behavioral support and responding to those needs. The Superintendent requests funding to support statewide development of an MTSS framework, providing all districts access to training and assistance.
In addition, the Superintendent proposes funding to further the progress made on updating the state’s basic education funding model, which holds staffing values at a level based largely on a study done nearly 50 years ago.
“Our students come to school today with more mental, social, and emotional needs than we’ve seen before,” Reykdal said. “Our schools need more counselors, nurses, social workers, principals, and other support staff to provide students with the support they need.”
Further Developing Graduation Pathways that Serve All Students
As the needs of our economy shift and the skill demands for both college degree based and technical skill focused careers change, the traditional content taught in Algebra II, the most frequently used course for a student’s third credit of math, does not suit the graduation pathway of all students.
The Superintendent’s proposal would strengthen math pathways by modernizing Algebra II to provide all students with the opportunity to develop diverse foundational skills for modern careers, such as statistics, quantitative reasoning, and mathematical modeling.
Supporting Students with Disabilities and Their Families
Positive outcomes occur for all students when students with disabilities learn in the same classrooms as their non-disabled peers. Unfortunately, Washington state is among the 10 least inclusive states in the U.S. The Superintendent’s proposal would extend a current initiative to provide professional development to educators on inclusionary practices.
In addition, Superintendent Reykdal requests funding to increase statewide capacity to support families, educators, and communities in navigating our special education system.
Providing Safe and Effective School Facilities for All Students
As students and staff prepare to return to their buildings when safe, the Superintendent proposes the Legislature provide funds for grants to assist small school districts in preserving buildings; seismic retrofits of buildings deemed high-risk; modernizing skill centers and science, technology, and engineering classrooms; and for elementary schools to have the space needed to meet class-size ratios.