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Office of Governor Gary Locke
Contact:  Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136
Alt Contact:  Kim Schmanke, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 360-725-6015

Gov. Gary Locke Signs Key Education Legislation into Law

Gov. Gary Locke today signed key education bills into law. The bills formed the core of the governor’s education package – his top priority this legislative session. The bill signing took place at Highland Middle School in Bellevue.

“This is a landmark day for education reform in our state,” Locke said. “I commend the Legislature for working in bi-partisan fashion to pass this legislation. Together, we are improving education for the students across our great state.

“We want the best for our kids. We want them all to succeed. We are taking action and giving our kids the tomorrow they deserve,” Locke said.

Locke was joined today by Rep. Dave Quall, D-Mount Vernon; Rep. Joe McDermott, D-Seattle; Sen. Stephen Johnson, R-Kent; other legislators; Terry Bergeson, state superintendent of public instruction; Bellevue Schools Superintendent Mike Riley; student body representatives from Highland Middle School; and representatives from several education stakeholder groups.

The governor said the bills would:
· Clarify and refine – for students, teachers and parents – the state’s tough, new graduation requirements that take effect in 2008;
· Better target Learning Assistance Program (LAP) money to struggling students and school districts that need it most;
· Provide stability for school district budgets through changes to state restrictions on local levy authority;
· Develop charter schools focused on helping underachieving students meet the state’s high academic standards; and
· Expand the state’s Alternative Route Certification Program.

Quall, chair of the House Education Committee and sponsor of the charter legislation, said, “These education bills signed all have a common element: helping the underserved and disadvantaged students of our state. It was our goal to address the achievement gap with the Learning Assistance Program, multiple retakes and alternative assessments for the WASL, greater flexibility for levy funding and an innovative approach to learning with charter schools. I am proud of all of these bills.”

WASL Changes

Third Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2195, which Locke requested, reduces the number of subjects to be tested on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) and passed for high school graduation. Beginning in 2008, only reading, writing and mathematics will be required testing. Science will be added in 2010.

The legislation eliminates the current WASL exam for listening as well as proposed WASL testing for social studies, arts, health and fitness. The legislation assures that school districts will continue to assess students’ knowledge of these other subjects. The new law also allows for multiple retakes and the development of alternative assessments.

Locke first proposed these changes to the WASL nearly two years ago. “The refined WASL will reinforce our state’s high academic standards. It will also better prepare students to meet or exceed those standards, and provide teachers and parents with a roadmap of exactly what is expected of students, and when,” he said.

McDermott sponsored the WASL reform legislation on the governor’s behalf. “The WASL is no longer a one-shot deal: pass and you graduate, fail and you don’t. This legislation offers a solution to students: retake opportunities,” McDermott said. “Not everybody performs at their best in a traditional, No. 2 pencil, sweaty-palms testing scenario. This bill allows for alternative ways of measuring the achievement of our standards.”

LAP Reform

Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5877, which Locke requested, focuses on best practices to support struggling students through LAP. It provides greater program accountability and stabilizes allocations to school districts that need the most help.

“We can’t wait for students to fail before their districts receive LAP money,” Locke said. “This legislation will get LAP funding to school districts that need it the most, and keep it there.”

Levy Base Adjustments

SSB 6211 authorizes the collection of the full amount of voter-approved school levies by adjusting school districts’ levy authority for calendar years 2005 through 2007. During this time, districts’ maximum levy authority will be calculated as if the district received the funding promised under Initiatives 732 and 728. This provides stability for school funding and avoids a double-hit to district budgets from reduced state funding.

“We must give school districts every tool possible to help their schools grow and improve,” Locke said.

Sen. Don Carlson, R-Vancouver, sponsored the levy legislation. “This bill addresses a key school funding problem, and will help voters keep their faith in schools by knowing that districts can receive the full funding that voters approved,” Carlson said. “In addition, this bill provides for the opportunity to increase the levy base and provides for per-student allocations based on levy equalization.”

Charter Schools

E2SHB 2295 authorizes the development of charter schools within the public school system. The bill allows school districts to convert some existing schools to charters or to provide for the development of new schools. The focus is on helping struggling students meet state standards.

The legislation limits the number of new schools to 45 for six years in which charters are authorized to be created – five schools each year for the first three years and 10 each year for the last three years.

“I have always been interested in innovation directed toward improving student performance,” Locke said. “We need to do everything we can to help struggling students meet our high academic standards.”

Johnson is chair of the Senate Education Committee and sponsored the Senate version of the charter legislation. “The passage of charter legislation is an important step toward increasing parental choice in our K-12 system,” Johnson said. “The first charters in Washington, targeted to help students who are educationally disadvantaged, will help us close the achievement gap in our state.”

Alternative Route Certification

SSB 6245 expands the state’s Alternative Route Certification Program. The program provides opportunities for individuals to get state teacher certification acknowledging their experiences in the private sector or in educational roles not requiring a certificate. The focus is on recruiting individuals who are interested in teaching in subject matter shortage areas such as math, science and special education.

This legislation allows individuals holding conditional teaching certificates or emergency substitute certificates to participate in the program so they may become fully state certificated teachers. Those individuals must complete a full summer session at a state university and then a full school-year mentorship in a participating school district.

Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, sponsored this legislation, and provided an example of teachers who would benefit from it. “I know the fine art teachers in the Vancouver School District join with me in extending my thanks to the governor for signing this bill,” Zarelli said. “This action will help encourage and maintain the high-quality teachers we’ve all come to enjoy.”

Bergeson thanked the governor and Legislature for their action on all the education legislation. “I am relieved and grateful for the vote of confidence legislators have given the hard work invested these past 11 years by parents, students, teachers, educators and business and community leaders as we’ve refocused our education efforts on the skills essential to being a successful citizen of the 21st century,” Bergeson said.

“This has been our top legislative priority for several years. Now we can move forward with the assurance that we will have a fair and equitable system for implementing the graduation requirements,” she said.

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