Local schools could lose budget flexibility

April 29, 2014

By Ari Cetron

The Issaquah School District is likely to lose some flexibility in budgeting next year.

State officials announced April 24 that Washington would lose a waiver it has been receiving from the federal government which allowed the state flexibility under portions of the No Child Left Behind law.

Under the law, 100 percent of students need to be at their grade level standard in both reading and math by this year. For the past few years, the federal government has granted more than 40 states waivers from the requirement.

In exchange, the states needed to implement a series of reforms endorsed by the Obama administration.

One of those reforms is a requirement to use student test scores on statewide tests as part of teacher evaluations. While the idea had traction in the Republican-led state Senate, the state teacher’s union and their allies in the Democratic-led state House of Representatives squashed it.

Districts across the state and locally are grappling with the fallout.

One of the most immediate consequences is that next year, districts are likely to lose discretion on how to spend a portion of the federal funding they receive.

Next year, districts will need to set aside 20 percent of the federal Title I funding they receive to pay for outside tutoring of students at failing schools or transportation costs for busing those students to schools which are not failing.

Districts do not lose the money; they lose flexibility in how to spend it.

In the Issaquah district, the amount is $102,400.

However, the rule only really applies to schools called Title I schools — schools where at least 35 percent of students are from low-income families.

It applies to Apollo, Briarwood, Clark, Issaquah Valley, Maple Hills and Sunset elementary schools.

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