Whidbey News-Times


Oak Harbor schools advocate for legislative priorities

By NATHAN WHALEN Whidbey News-Times Staff reporter
December 29, 2012 · Updated 2:27 PM

State Rep. Norma Smith talks with Oak Harbor School District Superintendent Rick Schulte before a meeting Tuesday where school officials advocated for their legislative priorities. / Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor school officials are hoping to see a delay in regulations that could interfere with career and technical classes at the high school.

School board members met with State Rep. Norma Smith recently to discuss legislative priorities for the upcoming session.

Those priorities include delaying regulations that could affect career and technical education, the proper funding of schools and compensation.

School officials are concerned proposed changes to graduation requirements will reduce the number of electives students could take for career and technical education, arts and band classes.

The proposed requirements, known as Core 24, increases the number of credits students have to complete in order to graduate, but school officials are concerned that additional requirements will reduce the number of electives students are able to take.

Career and technical education is a topic Smith advocates. It readies students to enter the workforce.

“It’s about thousands of jobs in this state that go unfilled because these kids are unprepared,” Smith said during the meeting.

School officials often are quick to highlight the high school’s career and technical program, which was a major part of the high school’s remodel that took place years ago. The high school offers classes in such areas as culinary arts, auto repair, computer aided drafting and robotics.

Schulte said after the meeting that he would like to see work on the new requirements delayed and the money and resources could be moved to more pressing matters.

The school board and staff attending the meeting also advocated for improving compensation. Schulte noted staff would like to see the 1.9 percent pay cut restored and said the legislature has to stop suspending I-732, which requires cost of living increases for teachers. It has done that for four years and will continue for the next two.

Schulte and the school board are also advocating for the legislature to make progress complying with the McCleary decision, a Washington State Supreme Court ruling that said the state hasn’t been fully funding education.

According to a letter the school district gave to state reps Dave Hayes and Norma Smith along with State Sen. Barbara Bailey, the school district outlined details the legislature needed to meet requirements set forth by the McCleary decision.

Those details include continuing or replacing the current Local Effort Assistance, which is a pot of money for school districts with low levy amounts; providing sufficient and equitable salaries for school district staff; and improving staffing models.

The school district is also advocating eliminating unfunded mandates and underfunded mandates, which include delaying implementation of the principal teacher evaluation system; simplifying the state achievement index so every parent can easily understand it; providing necessary support to implement new graduation requirements and cleaning up the health benefits system.  The late December meeting with Rep. Smith was the last of three meetings the school board held with the area’s legislative delegation prior to the upcoming session.

The board met with Representative-elect Dave Hayes and Senator-elect Barbara Bailey earlier in the month.


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