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Public gets opportunity to comment on I-728 funds

The White Salmon Valley School Board will hold a public meeting on April 19 to take comment on the district's plan for utilizing $223,000 under the state's K-12 Student Achievement Initiative.


The Enterprise

The White Salmon Valley School Board will hold a public meeting on Thursday, April 19, to take comment on the district's plan for utilizing $223,000 under the state's K-12 Student Achievement Initiative.

That initiative, known as I-728, was approved by 72 percent of Washington voters last November.

Beginning this fall, I-728 will provide a continuous stream of state dollars to school districts for every child enrolled in school full time.

Superintendent Dale Palmer has been overseeing development of the district's utilization plan since shortly after last fall's general election.

The spending plan includes money for five of the six areas covered under I-728, for grades K-4 and 5-12 class-size reductions (69 percent), staff development (9 percent), extended learning opportunities (6 percent) and preschool programming (16 percent).

The plan doesn't allocate money to the sixth area: school building improvements that would reduce class sizes.

The Legislature, meanwhile, has been working on its own spending plan to fund I-728's mandates.

On March 28, the Senate unveiled its proposed 2001-03 budget, which would appropriate $393 million toward meeting I-728 goals.

The Senate's version of the budget would provide $193 per student in the first year of the biennium, and $220 per student in the second. In year five the rate would increase to $465 per student.

"The amounts in the Senate budget represent the highwater marks," said Palmer.

With the legislative session winding down, the House of Representatives is expected to reveal its 2001-03 budget this week, on Thursday or Friday.

"There's speculation the House budget will provide something less than the Senate's," Palmer noted, adding, "If that happens, there will be negotiations between the House and Senate to settle the final budget."

The absence of concrete budget data hasn't hampered local planning, but it's created an air of uncertainty around the effort.

"It's extremely difficult to compile a plan for allocation of I-728 dollars when the Legislature is still in session," Palmer said. "Still, we've managed to put together a pretty specific plan that we'd like people to look at and comment on."

Public comment on the plan will be taken during the school board's April 19 meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. in the Wayne M. Henkle Middle School library.

The district's 2001-02 plan is based on an enrollment of 1,240 students and a per capita rate of $1.80. The $222,930 plan would provide:

$154,080 toward class-size reductions in grades K-4 and 5-12.

Breakdown: Each of the district's three schools would receive the equivalent of one full-time teacher.

Whitson Elementary would retain a half-time kindergarten teacher and a half-time teacher who shares a third-grade teaching position.

Henkle Middle School would add a full-time eighth-grade math teacher.

Columbia High would retain a half-time math teacher and a half-time migrant/bilingual education teacher.

Total cost for the three full-time positions, plus benefits, is $154,080.

$19,850 for staff development.

Breakdown: The district's top priority is teaching students to read. Its I-728 plan would pay for a reading specialist to hold a one-day workshop prior to the start of school to train grades 5-12 certificated staff. The plan also would pay the salaries of 5-12 classified staff to attend the workshop.

Almost $5,000 would be set aside to continue the work of the district's curriculum committees in the areas of language arts, math, social studies and science.

Teachers in grades 1-8, who will be using a new math textbook in 2001-02, will be compensated to attend a workshop on how to use the textbook.

Finally, $3,000 would be allocated to the technology committee for substitute teachers, travel and lodging expenses for two teachers from each building to attend the in-state National Conference of Computer Education.

$13,000 for extended learning opportunities.

Breakdown: Whitson would run a tutoring program for current third-graders to help them improve their reading skills prior to taking the Washington Assessment of Student Learning test next year.

Columbia High School would utilize I-728 dollars to maintain staffing for its Reading Academy 2000 reading program.

The $13,000 would cover salaries and benefits for the tutors in both programs.

$36,000 for preschool programming.

Breakdown: One of the district's goals under I-728 is to increase access to early childhood education in the White Salmon Valley. Currently only half of the children entering kindergarten have attended preschool or Head Start.

The district would hire a coordinator to work with parents, employers and agencies to encourage enrollment and decrease or eliminate waiting lists so more children can go to school before they turn 5.

The $36,000 would cover the coordinator's salary and benefits.


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