Senate education reformers act to improve classroom instruction
Over the weekend, the Senate Majority Coalition, in negotiations with the House Democrats over the budget, continued to push for ending the “Dance of the Lemons”; the practice of force-placing bad teachers from school to school, which I’ve written about here, here, and here.
The Senate voted on Sunday to end force-placement of teachers and provide for teacher assignments by the mutual consent of the principal and teacher. Senators voted 26-15 to pass SB 5242. The bill has been slightly modified to apply only to districts which have not made progress with academic achievement/opportunity gaps, and also includes a referendum clause to require a public vote before the new policy goes into effect.
The state’s top leaders on education reform, Senators Litzow (R-Mercer Island), Dammeier (R-Puyallup), Tom (D-Bellevue), know parents and the public want this common-sense reform. In a recent poll, 85% of respondents support allowing school principals to place an effective teacher in every classroom.
House Majority leader Pat Sullivan (D-Covington) is now in a corner. The Democrats don’t want the public to have a chance to vote on this. They are concerned that voters will actually pass this reform, angering the state’s powerful teachers’ union. Today The Seattle Times reports:
Given the intense opposition to the Republican proposals, Democrats have even begun discussing the prospect of passing a budget that includes no new tax revenue. Sullivan said that option was more likely than it was a month ago, but he wasn’t ready to say that’s what they will do.
Why are House Democrats so committed to continuing the Dance of the Lemons? Because the influential Washington Education Association union is dead set against giving school principals a say in who teaches in the schools. As shown in recent years, the union remains the primary obstacle to education reform in Washington schools. This opposition was dramatically demonstrated last year by the union’s strident fight against the popular charter school initiative.
Negotiations between Senate reformers and House Democrats are ongoing. I’ll continue to follow progress on this bill.