VANCOUVER, WASH. - A bill that would give cash awards to Washington high schools that reduce their dropout rate would cost as much as $4.8 million a year, but the primary sponsor said the state’s financial situation should not prevent meaningful education reform, a newspaper reported Friday.
The bill cleared the House on a 54-42 vote on Wednesday and got mixed reviews in the House Education and Ways and Means committees because of its price tag.
Legislative staff members estimate the cash awards could total $4.8 million a year, but the bill states no awards would be given until money is appropriated, the Columbian newspaper reported.
The Office of Financial Management said as many as 340 high schools around the state might qualify for awards ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 depending on their success in reducing dropout rates. Individual schools would get 90 percent of the cash bonuses, with 10 percent going to school districts.
The bill introduced by Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, is nicknamed PASS for “Pay for Actual Student Success.”
Probst said it’s time to try new approaches to improving education.
“There are two schools of thought playing out in this budget debate,” he said. “Some people say, keep doing everything the same but do less of it. I think that’s the wrong approach. When you’re in an economic crisis, that is the critical time to find new ways of doing business and making meaningful reform.”
About 73.5 percent of Washington students in the class of 2009 graduated with high school diplomas within four years of entering high school.
Probst cites a 2007 study that says taxpayers save an estimated $10,500 in public expense yearly for each student who is prevented from dropping out of high school.
He said his bill is based on a successful program in the state’s community colleges that “paid for results rather than seat time.”
He said the program increased student retention by 10 percent each year in the first two years of its existence.
“When I saw that successful model, I said, let’s apply that to our high schools and increase our completion rate,” he said.
The measure still must clear the Senate and make it into the final House-Senate budget bill.