The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2005 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Taking advantage of a $1.6 billion increase in the state’s projected revenues, Washington’s Democratic-led legislature boosted overall state spending for the biennial budget covering the 2006 and 2007 fiscal years by $522 million, to a two-year total of more than $27 billion.
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The supplemental budget, signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire on March 31, provides nearly $96 million for programs for K-12 schools, including funding to help students who are struggling to meet the state’s academic standards. Total K-12 spending for the biennium will rise by $188.5 million to about $11.8 billion, or an increase of nearly 2 percent.
Lawmakers focused on students who were in the 10th grade during the 2005-06 school year. They are the first class in the state that must pass the 10th grade version of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL, to graduate.
The legislature appropriated $28.5 million to start Promoting Academic Success, a program to help students who have failed one or more 10th grade WASL assessments in reading, writing, or mathematics. Districts will also share $900,000 for summer school, classes on Saturdays or outside of regular school hours, skills or test-preparation seminars, and tutoring to improve performance on the WASL.
Lawmakers also backed the governor’s plan to consolidate many early-learning projects scattered among several state agencies into a newly created Department of Early Learning.
The budget includes new funding to help districts meet the higher costs for diesel fuel, natural gas, and heating oil, and to help districts initiate school breakfast programs for low-income students.
Lawmakers also directed the state superintendent’s office to develop four forms of a WASL alternative for students who fail the 10th grade exam twice, with some alternatives available for the class of 2008 to begin using by next spring.
A version of this article appeared in the June 07, 2006 edition of Education Week