Sent to my State Representatives

The background: On the 23rd, the the 2010 supplement to the 2009-2011 omnibus budget bill went into conference, with a line item that removes support for all schools like the Whidbey Island Academy for grades K-6. This will be discussed in committee on the 26th, and probably from there go to the floor. There’s no doubt that the state is in a budget crunch, but the way to solve that is not to push kids out of the public school system.

UPDATE — I’ve now heard from two of my three State Reps/Senator, and this has been reversed in committee. So funding is restored, at least for now. Apparently they heard from quite a lot of us.

I am writing to request your support for continued funding for Alternative Learning Experience programs to be preserved in the K-6 age range in the 2010-2011 school year budget. (Agency 350, Program 021, 2010 Policy Non-Comp Changes: 1. K-6 ALE Programs)

My son is a kindergarten student in a k-5 class in an ALE program, The Whidbey Island Academy, run by the South Whidbey School District. The Whidbey Island Academy is a parent partnered program that promotes strong interaction and cooperative learning between the student, parent, and the school teacher. This promotes one of the strongest factors in determining student performance: parental involvement in the child’s learning.

This program has performed incredibly well to teach him the basis for what he will need to develop and prosper as a student and as a productive adult. In the past 6 months, he has progressed from nearly no reading skill to reading at the second grade level and beyond. His math skills have similarly progressed well into the first grade level. Some of this is due to the instruction in the classroom, and some is due to the work that we have put in as parents. His work in the classroom tracks his progress at home, so he is not spinning his wheels in school with material that he has already mastered. Each student in the class is able to work at their own level and pace. Where he is ahead of classmates, he helps them learn in the class. Likewise, the older and more advanced students help him where they are stronger. Teaching other children is a very effective learning technique. This mix of abilities and ages in his classroom is not available in the main public school system.

Cutting funding for the ALE program will drive some students to the public schools, which may not be a good fit for those children. The projected savings from cutting the ALE programs assumes that 75% of current K-6 ALE students will turn to full-time homeschooling. While driving students out of the schools and into the home does save money, it’s not good policy. In fact, it is in direct contradiction to the recent State Supreme Court decision which states in part:

“This court is left with no doubt that under the state’s current financing system the state is failing in its constitutional duty to make ample for provision for the education of all children.”

Either way, it will be harder for these students to get the sort of customized instruction and support that they need to excel. This is not the sort of penny wise, pound foolish action that we should promote.

Please restore funding for K-6 Alternative Learning Experience programs in the 2010-2011 school year.

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