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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 19, 2013 at 7:23 PM

Washington Education Association and reform

Column was false

Bob Maier, chief lobbyist for the Washington Education Association, sports a "Save The Children" tie. [Alan Berner, The Seattle Times.]

Bob Maier, chief lobbyist for the Washington Education Association, sports a “Save The Children” tie. [Alan Berner, The Seattle Times.]

Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center is entitled to her opinions, but she shouldn’t make things up. [“Guest column: WEA blocked education reforms,” Opinion, July 16.]

Her claim that “the most important factor in whether students are learning is the quality of the teacher in the classroom” is false. Longstanding research confirms two things: about 75 percent of the determinants of student learning are related to out-of-school factors, and teachers are the most important in-school factor.

Are states like Florida improving public education with choice and vouchers, as she claims? I wish they were; we might learn something from them.

But the most credible analyses indicate that charters and vouchers have not moved the achievement needle. They are no better than, and frequently worse than, comparable public schools.

In cities and states across the nation — California, Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Miami — the evidence is accumulating that unregulated charter and voucher systems (the Holy Grail of market-oriented think tanks like the Washington Policy Center) are rife with nepotism, sweetheart contracts, financial mismanagement, and bonuses that would make a Wall Street banker blush.

James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable, Seattle

Fight poverty to help students

Once again, The Seattle Times has published an op-ed attacking workers. This time, it is the piece written by Liv Finne of the very conservative Washington Policy Center.

There are so many unsupported allegations in this piece it is hard to know where to begin. The most egregious is that the Washington Education Association (WEA) is against charter schools because it wants to protect its members.

The larger issue here is whether public money should be taken from public school systems to support for-profit corporations that run Charter Schools.

This is an example of the continuing assault on a public-sector union. Somehow, the writer thinks that if only they could get rid of the WEA, then all the problems with the public school system would be solved.

This ignores the evidence that a strong union that supports its membership results in higher educational achievement. Finland has one of the most successful educational systems, and they have about 75 percent union membership.

Moreover, the people of Finland, whose population is similar in size to Washington, support their school system and their teachers, rather than tearing it down and labeling it a failure, as Finne does. Excellent teachers are a very important factor in a student’s learning, but they only influence so much. The rest comes from the community and the socio-economic status of the student. Alleviating poverty would drastically improve student achievement.

Paul Granquist, Everett

Happy teachers are better educators

I have taught in elementary school settings for 40 years. There are far more able teachers than there are bad ones she would really want to replace. The “lemons” need to be weeded out, for sure, but that takes a process with a good administrator who possesses skills to see it is done respectfully to all the humans involved.

The reforms she touted would have made it possible for teachers to be fired for no reason at all. A principal could decide that the teacher didn’t “fit” in his or her school. This teacher could apply for other positions within a district, but if no one picked him or her, she or he would just be out of a job.

This is not fair. Thank goodness the WEA understands this and helped block such a reckless idea.

I want Finne to know that one thing that benefits students is having teachers who are happy, comfortable and risk-taking. These qualities would disappear quickly if a teacher believed she or he could be fired at the whim of his or her supervisor.

I want her to know that happy teachers result in educated children, for the most part. With education directors like Finne around, our happy teaching environment is quickly disappearing, and it seems this is a result of non-educators believing they know what’s best for educators and the children in their classrooms!

Robert Brown, Fircrest

Comments | More in Education, Politics | Topics: classsrooms, education, kids

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