OLYMPIA – The state will no longer spend money building classroom space for online, out-of-district students under a bill approved by the Legislature and sent to the governor Thursday.
“Especially in tough economic times, we need to spend our tax dollars wisely. Building classrooms for students who will never show up in them just doesn’t make sense,” said Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, who sponsored the bill. “With this reform, we’re making sure we provide funds to build schools for kids who will actually be there.”
Senate Bill 6002 is expected to save as much as $13 million this year alone 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.
“These are the type of common sense reforms our state needs to undertake to ensure taxpayers’ dollars are spent efficiently and effectively. This reform will save more than $13 million in this year and much more in the years ahead,” Kilmer said.
The House passed the bill Thursday and had already been approved by the Senate. It is now headed to the governor’s desk for her signature.
Information provided by the office of Derek Kilmer.