Breaking news: Reform-minded Senator Litzow (R-Mercer Island) and Senator Tom (D-Bellevue) just introduced a bill to reward excellence in the schools. It is SB 5901, available here. I am reading through it now. Here is what the bill does that jumps out at me:
Yesterday the State Board of Education announced the school districts which have expressed interest in allowing students in their communities access to charter schools.
There are 12 districts: Battle Ground School District, Eastmont School District, Kent School District, Peninsula School District, Sequim School District, Sunnyside School District, Bellevue School District, Highline School District, Naselle School District, Port Townsend School District, Spokane School District and Tacoma School District.
Executives at the Washington Education Association union (WEA) on Friday issued a hard-hitting email leveled against six bipartisan education reform leaders in the state Senate, two Democrats and four Republicans. WEA executives claim these lawmakers are “shirking their duty” to provide amply for the education of children living within the borders of our state, as the constitution requires.
Last week, Brooke Beresh, mother of a 1st grade student at John Hay Elementary in Seattle, told the House Education Committee that parents are hungry for easy-to-understand information about their schools. The House Education Committee was considering ESSB 5328, which would officially assign letter grades to schools based on the State Achievement Index.
As reported in Crosscut, last Saturday Senator Rodney Tom (D-Bellevue) told constituents there is no reason to invest money in increased teacher salaries. He pointed to a statistical study of the state teachers’ salary structure and graduation rates which shows no correlation between the two.
Government insiders know that a common way to undermine a new program is for its opponents to manage it. The opponents are then in a good position to hamper the program's success or to encourage its failure.
The authors of Initiative 1240, the voter-approved charter school laws, were well aware of this danger. For that reason they included a direction regarding the Charter School Commission under Section 208, now RCW 28A.710.070(3), which says:
I’ve received some comments about my blog post of yesterday that referred to grading schools A through F as “Governor Inslee’s proposal.” Last year, then-candidate Inslee proposed grading schools A through F.
This morning the Senate passed SB 5328, which would create a pilot program to implement Governor Inslee’s A through F school grading proposal by giving letter grades to schools in five school districts. School grades would be based on the State Achievement Index and on schools’ progress toward improvement. The bill passed 26 to 23.
As many of my readers know, I have been closely following the behind-the-scenes efforts by charter school opponents to undo voter-passed Initiative 1240 and stop charter schools from opening in our state. In the latest round, executives at the Washington Education Association union, League of Women Voters and El Centro de la Raza are seeking a lawsuit to overturn the Initiative and prevent any children in Washington from attending a charter school.
There’s a lot of buzz about Senator Litzow’s bill, SB 5328, to implement a state ranking system to give A through F letter grades to public schools, so families and taxpayers can know where their local school stands.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom (D-Bellevue), spoke eloquently today on education reform and presented encouraging ideas for change. After noting that the large increases in education spending over the last eight years have resulted in flat graduation rates and a widening opportunity gap, Senator Tom said:
"We don't want to come back to parents, students, and others saying, 'We failed you for another eight years because all we did was put more money into the system.' It is not about money..."
Peter Callaghan has an insightful article in the Tacoma News Tribune on the state of education reform today. Interestingly, Callaghan notes that at first Democratic governors led efforts to challenge the status quo of mediocre public schools back in the 1980s. Yet today, as reactionary unions remain the primary obstacle to reform, the most exciting education ideas are now coming from coalitions of concerned people from the center and the center right.