Union’s defeat of teacher evaluation bill leads to loss of NCLB Waiver

April 24, 2014

We all want Washington state to be first in education, but not like this.  Today Washington became the first state in the nation to lose its waiver under the No Child Left Behind Act.

U.S. Department of Education officials had long warned state leaders this would happen if the 2014 Legislature failed to include student performance on state standardized tests as one factor in teacher evaluations.

A bill that met the federal requirement, SB 5246, was introduced in Olympia earlier this year.  The bill enjoyed broad bi-partisan support; nearly all Republicans were for it, and many Democrats said they would vote for it too.

The WEA, the state’s powerful teachers’ union, strongly opposes rewarding teachers based on merit and union executives vowed to take any step necessary to stop the bill.  Unfortunately for Washington school children, they succeeded.  By late afternoon on February 18th the union had persuaded several Democratic senators to vote against their own teacher evaluation bill, and the measure went down by a vote of 28 to 19.

A veteran reporter described this as “one of the strangest scenes in recent memory.” One Republican senator, noting her communities would lose $3.1 million said, “Letting that money go was just a smack in the face of those kids...”

That vote is why we are where we are today.  As promised, Obama Administration officials revoked Washington’s No Child Left Behind waiver, leaving school districts with a loss of control over 20% of their federal Title I funds, or about $40 million.

There is a silver lining.  Losing the waiver will revive a federal program that provides money for parents to: 1) pay for transportation to send their child to a better school; or 2) provide $1,500 in private tutoring for struggling students.

The program, called Supplemental Educational Services, allows low-income parents to choose among 142 state-approved private and public tutors. Public school families have had this benefit in the recent past.  In 2011-12 the program served 16,972 kids across Washington, using family-choice vouchers totaling $18.2 million.

By killing the teacher evaluation bill in February, WEA union executives, no doubt unintentionally, have brought a form of school choice to Washington.  Thousands of low-income families will be able to use federal education funding to get help for their children.




The Sky is not Falling

"There is a silver lining. Losing the waiver will revive a federal program that provides money for parents to: 1) pay for transportation to send their child to a better school; or 2) provide $1,500 in private tutoring for struggling students."

No, under NCLB, that's exactly what the money IS to be used for and that's what some districts currently use it for (feel free to call Seattle Schools or Tacoma Schools and ask).

Also to note, many parents and community members were against the bill in the Legislature to use student test scores because there is no validity to using them.

What Duncan just rolled the dice on is that it is possible for, say in Seattle, 95% of the schools could be declared "failing" under NCLB. Which, of course, is not true and laughable. Parents and taxpayers will realize the weakness of NCLB when they see that.

When 42 states have a waiver from a federal law (as is true under NCLB), it's not much of a law. That Obama and Duncan could not get Congress to review/renew NCLB should tell you something about the need for it at all.

Liv Finne is Correct

Melissa -- Liv Finne is correct that now that the Flexibility Waiver is lost, the state of WA no longer has "flexibility" to spend Title 1 NCLB/ESEA funds, and must return to how the NCLB law and regulations say they must be spent. This is primarily on transportation to other schools and for outside (or private) tutoring.

It is disingenuous to say that using state test scores, even a teensy tiny bit, as PART of an evaluation of a teacher or a principal is bad because "there is no validity", when these exact same test scores are being used to evaluate the performance of schools that these SAME principal, teachers and school districts tout: The Achievement Awards.

So tell me again how its okay to use scores to tell parents and the public how well a school is doing, to which the WEA certainly does NOT object, but when it comes time to use these scores even as a small part, it is anathema and suddenly it is all about validity? See the hypocrisy through the trees. Everyone thinks its fine to use test scores to show how the kids are doing so we can rate their schools, but it is not okay to use scores to see how the kids are doing when we try to rate the adults teaching in those schools and in charge of those schools? That is a ridiculous proposition. Yes, I mean that literally, a position worthy of ridicule.

And Melissa, 42 states obtained a waiver from the repercussions of NCLB because it was states and school directors who were whining about having the accountability provisions of NCLB kick in. In the previous reauthorization of the ESEA, NCLB's precursor the IASA (Improving America's Schools Act) in 1994 under President Clinton, the law contained the SAME 100% proficiency rates, but yet no one complained one bit on how impossible that law was.

And yes, it absolutely IS true that so many schools are failing. But don't blame the Feds. States were never under any obligation to apply for and agree to the terms of a federal grant, which the ESEA/NCLB absolutely is. The rule is: If you don't want to comply with the terms of the grant in order to receive the federal money of NCLB, then simply don't apply for the money, and don't make signed sworn assurances to the Feds at the USDOE that you promise you WILL comply. In other words, opt out if the grant program's terms and conditions are so unfair.

Very nice

There goes another WEA barrier to school choice...

Perhaps the WEA should realize MERIT PAY is not so bad after all. The defeat of I-884 10 years ago was just the beginning, just the beginning of changing the debate on education spending in our state.

Keep doing what you do Liv.