Opinion: Governor Inslee is right to support individual tutoring to help students make up for COVID learning loss

Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center believes Washington lawmakers should now consider giving parents access to regular education funding.
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Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center believes Washington lawmakers should now consider giving parents access to regular education funding

Liv Finne
Washington Policy Center

Earlier this year Senator John Braun (R-Centralia) introduced SB 5248 to provide funding for individual tutoring to help students recover from the learning losses resulting from the COVID school shutdowns.

Liv Finne
Liv Finne

The Democratic leadership included his bill in the state budget (as Section 1517(47)(o)), passed it on a bi-partisan vote and sent it to the governor.  The Braun provision provides $27 million in state funds and $97 million in federal funds for individual student tutoring.

In researching the tutoring funding I noticed that in May Governor Inslee vetoed this provision. I contacted the Governor’s office to ask for clarification. Did the Governor intend to veto tutoring funds?

His office responded: “No,” the funding is still there. Here is what the Governor’s office said:   

“The monies are still available for one-on-one and small group instruction. This was actually first proposed by the Governor in response to COVID and remains one of his education priorities. The OSPI still has monies to spend for this purpose but it asked to prioritize spending the monies for ESSER II prior to ESSER III for this purpose to ensure that the monies will comply with federal spending deadlines, and therefore ensure the monies are still available for this purpose for another two years.” 

So funding for individual student tutoring, a policy strongly recommended by Washington Policy Center, remains in place.

Further, Governor Inslee notes it is one of his top priorities to help students recover from the learning losses caused by Washington’s extended school closures.   

The Governor’s timely action is especially good news right now. State Superintendent Chris Reykdal just released results from the Spring 2023 state tests in math and English. The results are troubling.  The findings show Washington’s public schools have failed to educate 49 percent of students adequately in English and 61 percent of students adequately in math. These low scores come after last year’s low scores, despite Reykdal asserting that students are “accelerating in their recovery.”     

One structural problem with public education is that funding is often diverted by powerful actors for their own benefit. For example, the WEA union is the most powerful lobby in Olympia, and career administrators often make over $400,000 in pay and benefits.   

State leaders must ensure this does not happen with the Braun tutoring funding. If the $124 million for tutoring were provided directly to parents, we could be confident the money would benefit students. For example, targeting the funding to families of the 59,000 tenth graders that the schools failed to educate adequately in math would provide $2,100 per student.

Other states have found that direct learning assistance to parents benefits students. Caring lawmakers in nine states have enacted Universal School Choice, giving families up to $8,400 per student to pay for private school or homeschooling. In all 32 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico provide targeted school choice.

Governor Inslee’s decision to support funding for individual tutoring is a smart policy. Now Washington lawmakers should consider giving parents access to regular education funding, so they can make the best learning decisions for their children.

Liv Finne is the director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center.


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