Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Web winners!

Many legislatures have good web sites to help people connect with lawmakers and vice versa, but only Washington state can boast that we have the best state legislative web site in the nation.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has just announced that Washington is the 2010 winner of the coveted Online Democracy Award, which is presented annually to the legislature, legislative chamber or caucus whose website stands above all others “for making democracy user-friendly."

We don’t want to be accused of bragging about this latest coup, so we’ll let the national experts do it for us. Here is what the NCSL says about why Washington has the best state legislative web site of them all:
“The Washington Legislature’s website won for providing extensive information that is simple to find and understand, for its easy and accurate search function, downloadable web services, and for student pages geared to different grade levels.
Some of the other notable winning features of the website include:
  • Detailed explanations on web pages about available functions and features.
  • Voluminous reports and data.
  • Print and Spanish versions of web pages.
  • Site accessibility and prominent information related to the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
    Deputy Chief Clerk Bernard Dean spoke for the entire House when he responded to Washington’s triumph by saying: “Earlier, we received accolades from for having one of the best legislative websites in the country, but this award is even more gratifying since it comes from our peers in other states.”

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Washington's race to the top is not really over

    Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced the semi-finalists in President Obama's Race to the Top competitive grant program.

    Of the 35 states competing for grant money, Washington wasn't one selected to continue to the final round. But that doesn't mean legislators are finished working on the reforms already set in motion before the Race was even announced.

    A committed, bi-partisan group of legislators worked hard the past two legislative sessions to pass the most comprehensive changes to our education system in more than 30 years, and the group tasked with following through on those changes will continue to do so, with or without Race funding.

    It's worth noting that despite Washington's actions on many of the selection criteria (including adopting common standards and turning around low-performing schools), a significant number of points were awarded to states who have or are willing to launch charter schools. Washington voters have repeatedly rejected this approach, though our K-12 system currently operates numerous innovative schools such as Aviation High School in Des Moines, Tacoma School of the Arts, and more than a dozen skills centers.

    You can read the joint statement from Governor Gregoire and Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, and see coverage of the announcement here and here.

    Two-thirds of states anticipate double-digit budget holes in 2012

    Governor Gregoire's calls for ideas to transform Washington's budget have so far brought in more than 1600 comments and ideas.

    These efforts are part of a strategy for dealing with the fallout of the national recession - fallout that left us with a $12 billion hole in the last budget cycle and that forecasters predict will keep us another $3 billion behind when legislators reconvene in January to craft the 2011-13 budget.

    Well, as is said and as we've pointed out before, misery loves company. As reported by Stateline, The National Conference of State Legislatures just released a state budget update saying:
    Nearly half of states reported fiscal 2011 gaps at 10 percent or more of their general fund budgets. The states with the largest gaps were Nevada (45 percent), New Jersey (28 percent), Arizona (27 percent), Maine (26 percent) and North Carolina (25 percent). Two-thirds of states already forecast another round of double-digit budget gaps for fiscal 2012.
    The Stateline article also points out that the two views in Congress about extending the FMAP money so many states are waiting on. It's worth a quick read.