Serving Franklin County, WA

Sen. Schoesler: Schools should keep testing

Comments follow Reykdal's plan to end standardized assessments

RITZVILLE – A local lawmaker is taking issue with educational moves being pushed by the state superintendent of public education.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, who represents areas of Franklin County as part of the 9th Legislative District, said last week that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal's plans to end standardized testing and reallocate timber revenues would be detrimental to education.

Reykdal unveiled his plans for ending standardized testing during the state Board of Education meeting in Spokane.

According to Reykdal, the tests "means nothing."

Reykdal said he is "trying to figure out if I have the authority to exit us (from testing) on my own, or if that needs something else."

The possible unilateral move concerns Schoesler, who represents the 9th Legislative District, including Adams County and Ritzville.

"In just over the past two years, student learning in Washington has been severely disrupted due to COVID-19, which caused so many of our students to fall behind," Schoesler said. "And now Superintendent Reykdal, the top elected education official in our state, wants to cancel state testing of students? The Legislature should decide on whether to keep such testing in place.

"Getting rid of these tests would be a disservice to students and parents. We need student assessment of learning more than ever to see how students are doing and where they need to improve."

Schoesler noted standardized test scores give parents and others a look into how well a student is doing academically. Moreover, universities routinely use the scores as a factor in admissions.

"These tests have been conducted so that we have objective measures for reading, writing and math. How can we know if Washington students can read, write and do math at their grade level if we don't assess them," he said.

"Parents and taxpayers deserve to know if their children can read, write and do math at grade level, as well as how their children and their schools compare with other students and schools. If we eliminate these state tests, how else will we assess how well students are learning?"

Reallocating funds

Schoesler is also taking issue with Reykdal's plan to shift timber trust revenues away from school construction to fund forest health programs.

Under current state law, timber harvests on public-owned lands managed by the state Department of Natural Resources, help fund construction of schools statewide.

Reykdal is calling for some of those funds retained in the K-12 Common School Trust to be reallocated to local forest health programs instead of being used for school construction.

Reykdal said that while he wants to move harvest school funds to forest health, revenues from harvests in rural communities would stay local.

"We should be investing this revenue within the communities where it's generated and using a portion of the dollars to support forest health and preservation," he said.

The superintendent said he plans to push for legislation to move the funds beginning in the 2023-25 biennial budget.

Schoesler won't likely be among the plans proponents.

The senator noted that the funds help build schools in all communities.

"While I appreciate Superintendent Reykdal's concern about long-term funding of school construction projects in Washington communities, I'm concerned how it would impact rural school districts, as well as some urban districts" said Schoesler, the Senate Republican leader on the Senate capital budget. "It is important to know that some rural areas, such as Franklin County, have no timber harvests. Pasco, located in Franklin County, has been one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state."

With timber harvests decreasing and Reykdal's push to incentivize construction for rural school districts that consolidate, Schoesler said rural schools will suffer, too.

Rather than move school construction funds to forest health initiatives – which are not under Reykdal's or the state Department of Education's authority – Schoesler said the superintendent should work on making school construction more cost efficient.

"Unfortunately, Superintendent Reykdal once again is not sufficiently addressing our concerns about seismic and tsunami problems facing some school districts," Schoesler said.

Author Bio

Roger Harnack, Publisher

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Roger Harnack is the co-owner/publisher of Free Press Publishing. Having grown up Benton City, Roger is an award-winning journalist, photographer, editor and publisher. He's one of only two editorial/commentary writers from Washington state to ever receive the international Golden Quill. Roger is dedicated to the preservation of local media, and the voice it retains for Eastern Washington.


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