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‘Transformative’ changes for Washington schools? Top educator pitching new policies

OLYMPIA, Wash. — We’re in the middle of summer, but the state’s top superintendent is already talking about back-to-school plans — and he’s pitching long-term policy and budget changes.

In the first of nine announcements on Tuesday, Chris Reykdal, the Washington superintendent of public instruction, recommended reallocating how money from timber is used when it comes to new K-12 construction.

The money is typically generated in rural communities but primarily provided to large school districts, like in King and Pierce counties.

The top superintendent said that needs to change. He suggests that money is kept in rural counties, and Reykdal says more is coming that will “transform” Washington schools.

Of course, families all have different worries and challenges when it comes to school.

“I hate my school; I want to cry,” said Ricky, a Renton middle schooler.

Ricky’s mom, Celia Avalos, said there is “a lot of bullying” in his school and that “even the principal doesn’t want to hear the parents.”

“I’m a little afraid of what’s going to be happening in the future,” said Bernard Johnston, a parent and substitute teacher. “No more shutdowns,” he added.

Reykdal is pitching big plans to revamp education in Washington.

“If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got. Right now, those are pretty darn good schools, but I want to be the best,” Reykdal said.

The changes, many of which will need to be approved by lawmakers, will affect both policy and budget.

“We are talking about significant transformation of our schools that puts our students at the center of our decisions,” Reykdal said.

Some of the recommended changes will impact dual credit, early learning and access to meals, though Reykdal did not go into detail on Monday about what specifically will change with those topics.

The first announcement that deals with timber harvesting from state trust lands specifically calls for reallocating funding from the K–12 Common School Trust. In his plan, “a portion of revenues from timber harvested in the rural communities —which currently are primarily provided to school districts in urban communities — would be retained within the communities that generate the dollars,” a press release said. Reykdal also proposes that “the state reallocate a portion of the funds to support forest health and preservation.”

The state superintendent said only 0.7% of capital expenditures for K-12 schools are funded through timber revenue.

These proposed changes are something legislators will consider in the upcoming legislative session.