OLYMPIA — The state will stop spending money building classroom space for online, out-of-district students under a bill signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire today.
“The state needs to focus investments on things that make sense. When the state invests in school construction, it should invest in space for students who will actually show up in the classroom,” said Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, who sponsored the bill. “This is common-sense reform that will save $13 million this year alone and much more in the years ahead.”
Senate Bill 6002 is expected to save $13 million this year by addressing an issue caused by a surge in the number of students enrolled with school districts in Alternative Learning Experience programs, or A.L.E. students.
In some cases, these students are essentially studying at home, under direction and with an agreement from the school. They may never show up in the district's brick-and-mortar buildings, often interacting with the instructors only online. Many actually live outside the school district’s boundaries.
Recently, the State Auditor’s Office pointed out that the state’s school construction funding formula doesn't distinguish between students who sit in classrooms and learn in laboratories and students who participate online from home. The state pays its share of construction costs as if every A.L.E. student uses the district’s buildings.
SB 6002 reforms the state’s funding formula to provide construction assistance money based on the number of students physically present, and does not count A.L.E. students from other districts in that formula.
“Education is an investment that pays off for our entire state, and steps like these ensure that the state is being as effective with its limited education dollars as possible,” Kilmer said.