Senate Passes SAGE Program Revamp Bill

The state Senate has approved and sent to the state Assembly a bill (Senate Bill 32) that would make significant changes to the state class-size reduction program known as the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education, or SAGE, Program. The bill, which was the product of a Legislative Council Study Committee, passed on a 31-2 vote.  An Assembly companion version of the bill was the subject of a hearing today in the Assembly Education Committee.

Under current law, the SAGE program provides state categorical aid funding to schools that agree to maintain small class sizes in grades K-3 and meet other statutory requirements. Participating schools enter into 5-year contracts with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and receive funding for each eligible, low-income student in a K-3 grade level classroom that meets a 18:1 or 30:2 student-teacher ratio and other requirements. SAGE contracts may be renewed for additional five-year terms

The new program outlined by Senate Bill 32 would allows a school to meet its obligations under the contract by using one of three strategies, or a combination of these strategies: (1) one-to-one tutoring provided by a licensed teacher; (2) instructional coaching for teachers provided by a licensed teacher; or (3) maintaining 18:1 or 30:2 classroom ratios and providing professional development on small group instruction.  School districts and schools that are currently participating in SAGE will be eligible to participate in the new program.

School districts and schools may use funds for class-size reduction; however, the new program does not condition funding on maintaining an 18:1 or 30:2 ratio in every classroom in all participating grade levels.

Unlike the current SAGE program, the new program requires a participating school to create performance goals, including reduction of the achievement gap between low-income students in that school and students in the same grade and subject statewide, and requires school boards to review implementation and progress toward achieving performance objectives in each participating school every semester.

Senate Bill 32 prohibits the DPI from entering into any new SAGE contracts or renewing any existing SAGE contracts. Under the bill, school districts that currently participate in SAGE are eligible to sign contracts under the new program to take effect after their current SAGE contracts expire.

As amended, Senate Bill 32 allows the DPI to offer a one-year extension on existing SAGE contracts set to expire at the end of the current 2014-15 school year. The amendment allows DPI and school boards that signed or renewed five-year SAGE contracts in the 2010-11 school year that are set to expire shortly (about 83 percent of existing SAGE contracts) to agree to extend the contract for one year under existing terms.

During the 2013-14 school year, 425 schools in 205 school districts received SAGE funding.

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