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