Washington school districts lose control over funding

YAKIMA, Wash. --- Administrators are reacting to the possibility that schools across the Yakima Valley could lose millions of dollars in federal money. That's after the feds decided Washington isn't doing enough to comply with the No Child Left Behind law.

"It's wrong," said Jaime Trujillo.

Jaime's son is a student in the East Valley School District. He thinks taking the decision-making out of Title I spending isn't benefiting anyone.

"It does hurt the kids, of course," said Jaime. "It might seem they're not hurting right now, but in the long run, they're the ones that will pay the price."

All Washington schools that use Title I funding will have to face a cut to current programs they have in effect. Title I is focused on math and reading programs for students who might not meet state standards.

Yakima's superintendent says she has seen growth in schools thanks to the extra money from the feds.

"We could target the funds where we knew they needed to go, make some radical changes and really do an amazing job, and not to be able to do that this year is disappointing," said Elaine Beraza.

The money doesn't go away, but the control of it does. The reason that's being taken away is because Washington isn't in line with the No Child Left Behind standards. The primary issue is that Washington doesn't use student test scores to evaluate teachers.

Lawmakers didn't act to change that in the last session. State Rep. Norm Johnson feels the blame falls on Olympia.

"We absolutely made a mistake," said Johnson. "I mean, any time you punish schools and children, that's a mistake in my opinion."

He says lawmakers were under pressure from the teachers' union, the Washington Education Association. The WEA does not support No Child Left Behind.

In a statement, WEA spokesperson Rich Wood said, "Federal bureaucrats were trying to coerce our state into adopting a flawed education policy that didn't help Washington's children."

Yakima will try to focus on the positive.

"We continue to work for kids, and we figure out how we're going to find other funds," said Beraza.

Local schools are already creating the budget for the next school year without control of 20 percent of the usual funding. That ranges from $250,000 to more than $1 million for some local districts.