In the midst of another school year during the COVID-19 pandemic, education leaders, board members and superintendents from across Southwest Washington came together virtually for the annual ESD 112 Legislative Forum.
Held on December 3, over Zoom for the second year in a row, the forum was attended by seven legislators and one legislative staffer, along with dozens of school superintendents, school board members and other education representatives.
Several school superintendents, including leaders from Battle Ground, Camas, Castle Rock, Kelso, Ridgefield, Vancouver, Wahkiakum and Washougal School Districts presented on behalf of small, medium and large school districts across the six-county ESD 112 region.
Education leaders shared successes, including the positive impact the return of in-person learning has had on students, the emergence of school virtual academies, and the record number of students participating extra-curricular activities, following cancellations last year.
Among the challenges shared with legislators: extreme staffing shortages in schools, an increase in the need for student behavioral interventions as they return to the classroom, enrollment declines, funding inconsistencies across districts, and political issues bleeding into school board meetings.
Top education priorities, developed collaboratively among school superintendents from across ESD 112, include:
Continue enrollment stabilization funding into the 2021-22 school year to provide adequate funding for school districts to meet their contractual obligations amid uncertainty in enrollment and subsequent funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fully fund a simpler and more transparent transportation funding formula, which would reduce transportation funding reliance from local levies.
Special Education Funding
Special education is a basic education responsibility and thus we implore the state to fully fund the education of our most vulnerable students.
School Nurse Funding
Provide additional funding to increase nursing staff ratios in schools.
Support a Simple Majority for School District Capital Projects
Support a simple majority requirement for the passing of school district capital projects and remove the super majority requirement.
The full list of priorities and proposed solutions may be found here.