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Reykdal urges legislature to increase support for WA schools

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Superintendent Chris Reykdal says the state's schools are emerging from the worst of the pandemic and urged legislators not to reduce their support for districts.

Washington’s superintendent of public instruction is urging the legislature to continue to increase its financial investment in public education.

During a virtual briefing for reporters on Monday, Chris Reykdal praised lawmakers for approving huge increases in funding for education during the 2017-18 biennium. That money was allocated to satisfy the state Supreme Court, which said Washington was falling short in its duty of providing an adequate basic education.

Reykdal says state support has begun to slip just as districts are emerging from the pandemic.

“This is not the time to go backwards, with record risk to student mental health, just as we are recovering, and as school districts find themselves in a pretty desperate position to maintain services as they lose marginal revenue," he said.

Reykdal says Washington districts have received nearly three billion dollars in federal relief money, but that will be spent within a year or two.

He's urging the state to increase the amount of money it devotes to mental health resources for school districts. He wants it to include funds to train more people to fill the demand for mental health professionals.

“The governor did include $28 million to maintain this work," he said. "I want to thank the governor, but we’re going to have to go much bigger than $28 million to sustain this. As I said, we have a workforce challenge and this is going to require investments in higher ed, K-12, counties and community-based mental health providers.”

Reykdal urged legislators to also continue to raise pay to make teaching professions more attractive to students.

“Young people often look at their choices and they think where can I have impact and where can I be respected in my work and sustain myself economically so I can imagine through to my own family, owning my own home, having my own opportunities and, ultimately, retiring with dignity? Increasingly, being an educator is a tough choice for them," he said.

Reykdal says Washington’s schools have gone through a big workforce turnover during the pandemic, collectively losing about seven thousand employees. But he says districts have used federal pandemic aid to replace most of them.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.