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April 10, 2013 at 12:15 PM
House Democrats set the high bar for state spending in a proposed budget released Wednesday that would raise roughly $1.3 billion in additional tax revenue and plow the same amount into K-12 education to comply with a state Supreme Court mandate.
Overall, the House proposal would spend about $34.5 billion. By comparison, Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed a $34.4 billion spending plan and Senate Republicans, $33.3 billion. The GOP budget is the only one that does not include additional money from taxes.
The House Democrats’ proposal is similar to Inslee’s in the mix of tax breaks it would close, including repealing tax exemptions for bottled water and the sales tax exemption for people living outside the state.
April 9, 2013 at 5:18 PM
OLYMPIA — If you’ve been following Gov. Jay Inslee’s position on a Republican proposal to grade all public schools A-F, we’ll excuse you for being a little confused.
The gist of the debate: Schools are already evaluated in adjective form in the state’s achievement index, but some say the adjectives (exemplary, very good, good, fair and struggling) are not clear enough.
Inslee said during last fall’s campaign he wanted to increase public accountability by giving all schools a letter grade based on student performance and other factors.
But last week, Inslee told some lawmakers he opposed a proposal to do just that, Senate Bill 5328. His spokesman told me that the idea needed to be studied more, and his chief of staff said the governor’s goal of accountability might be achieved without a letter grade.
On Tuesday, the governor added more details in a meeting with three reporters who have been covering the issue.
Inslee said he would sign a school grading bill this session — if it meets some conditions.
First, the governor said, each school shouldn’t receive one A-F grade but five of them, based on different factors — progress in closing the achievement gap, scores on state tests, school performance relative to similar schools, graduation rates and college and career readiness.
Parents should weigh those grades themselves, Inslee said.
The system must acknowledge differences in student learning, including English language learners, students with disabilities, poverty and demographic situations, the governor said.
The grading system must be created with stakeholder input, he said.
And it must come with funding for schools that get low marks, he said.
Inslee said he conveyed those parameters to lawmakers in an email and face-to-face meeting this morning.
In fact, the governor said he’s been clearly communicating with lawmakers on the issue for awhile. He insisted to the reporters that “I don’t feel like I changed a position here. I feel like I’ve been consistent in wanting to have a meaningful system done right, not just any ol’ thing you slap an A-F on.”
Inslee said he hasn’t been as clear with the media.
Here’s what he said in response to my question about his lack of specificity:
“We have not been as specific with you, or any of the other writers here at the table, or anybody else with the public media, 1st Amendment empire…Had I not had a few other things on my plate, we would’ve provided more clarity. I wish we had given you more clarity earlier.”
March 14, 2013 at 3:28 PM
OLYMPIA — State House Republicans unveiled an education budget proposal Thursday that would increase K-12 spending by $556 million without raising taxes over the next two years.
The budget would dedicate $817 million to respond to a state Supreme Court order to increase basic education funding, including by expanding full-day kindergarten, reducing class sizes in kindergarten through third grade and increasing class time. But it would simultaneously remove $347 million, mostly by continuing the suspension of Initiative 732, a 2000 measure that mandates annual cost-of-living raises for teachers.
The budget proposal also calls for an additional $86 million for policy changes.
To get the extra money into education — and address a now roughly $1.3 billion budget shortfall — House Republicans would accept Medicaid expansion paid for by the federal government, continue the suspension of family leave for state employees and make other cuts to the Department of Health and Social Services.
The budget also would find about $100 million in government “efficiencies” through a 2 percent cut to state agencies, would make about $200 million in budget transfers and would net about $80 million by eliminating a tax break for telecommunications companies.
House GOP budget writer Gary Alexander called it a “balanced approach.”
“I’m convinced that when we finish up in 105 days, we can balance this budget with reforms, resizing and reduction without new tax increases,” Alexander, R-Olympia, said at a news conference.
The budget has little chance of becoming law, as Republicans are at a 43-to-55 minority in the House. But it offers a window into the thinking of the GOP, which runs the state Senate.
Senate Republicans have been reluctant to say how much more money they want to dedicate to education, so far only offering a window of between $500 million and $1.5 billion.
Many Democrats, especially in the House, believe the court order mandates additional spending as high as $1.7 billion.
In a statement, House Democratic budget-writer Ross Hunter criticized Alexander’s proposal, in part by noting the proposal would barely set anything aside for reserves.
“My initial reaction is that this proposal is more like a press release than a budget,” said Hunter, D-Medina. “Budgets require you to make decisions about balancing competing demands – this document does not do that.”
March 6, 2013 at 12:56 PM
OLYMPIA — The state Senate narrowly approved two contentious education policy bills Wednesday after a heated debate.
The bills, to give A-F letter grades to schools and to give principals a veto in teacher placements, are top Republican priorities but are strongly opposed by Democrats.
The letter grades passed 26-23, while the principal veto passed 27-22 — both largely along party lines. State Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, opposed the first bill but supported the second.
The bills, each sponsored by Senate education Chairman Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, will now head to the Democrat-run House, where passage is far less likely.
Senate Bill 5328, the grading bill, is touted as a way to give parents more information and pressure schools to improve. Opponents view it as a dangerous oversimplification.
Senate Bill 5242, the teacher-placement bill, is meant to giving principals more power and prevent poor-performing teachers from being passed from school to school. Opponents say it would making arbitrary personnel moves easier.
Before the final vote, Democrats proposed several amendments to each bill. When those failed, they spoke repeatedly against the proposals.
“Giving letters makes great headlines,” said state Sen. Nathan Schlicher, D-Gig Harbor, on the first bill. “It doesn’t actually make great policy.”
“What are we doing here?” asked state Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma, on the second bill. “What are we doing here? This is inbalancing the relationship between teachers and their supervisors.”
Echoing a Democratic refrain, Conway added he’s “not willing to support reform bills until we fund our schools.”
State Sen. Steve Hobbs, one of the four Democrats who voted for the bills, said policy changes and funding increases can be achieved.
Republicans said accountability for schools is key.
“We live in a country where anyone willing to work, anyone willing to make sacrifices, can rise from failure and achieve success,” said state Sen. John Smith, R-Colville. “And measuring that success is one of the most victorious and empowering things that a culture can do.”
More floor votes on education policy bills are expected this afternoon.
March 6, 2013 at 10:50 AM
Officials announced the nine members of the state’s new charter-school commission on Wednesday, taking the next step in setting up a structure for the just-approved independent, but public schools.
The members, three each appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and state House speaker, will manage and oversee the state’s first 40 charters, which were approved in November. The members will serve four-year terms.
They are: Doreen Cato of Ocean Shores, Chris Martin of Spokane, Steve Sundquist of Seattle, Kevin Jacka of Springdale, Cindi Williams of Bellevue, Larry Wright of Sammamish, Trish Millines Dziko of Vashon, Dr. Margrit McGuire of Seattle and Dave Quall of Mount Vernon.
To Seattle residents, the most recognizable name will be Sundquist, a Seattle School Board president who lost a tight re-election race to Marty McLaren in 2011.
The others bring a variety of experiences:
Cato is the executive director of the United Way of Grays Harbor; Martin runs the gifted learning program Prodigy Northwest; Jacka is superintendent of the Mary Walker School District in northeast Washington; Williams has worked for the U.S. Department of Education and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Wright is managing director of the Bellevue Arts Museum; Dziko is founder of the science education-focused Technology Access Foundation; McGuire is director of teacher education at Seattle University; and Quall is a former Democratic chairman of the state House Education Committee.
January 30, 2013 at 8:54 PM
OLYMPIA — A state Senate committee heard testimony Wednesday about a trio of bills that would shake up public education in Washington state.
The bills, a mix of specific policies and broader accountability measures, were the first significant education measures introduced this session by Republican lawmakers, who — for the first time in many years — control an education committee .
In a two-hour hearing, the measure received praise from those advocating change, while some some teachers-union and school officials mostly criticized them.
Senate Bill 5237 would prohibit most third graders from advancing to fourth grade until they pass the state reading test; Senate Bill 5328 would give a letter grade to all schools and reward the ‘A’ earners; and Senate Bill 5329 would group schools that score the lowest on standardized tests into a special school district run by the state.
“We’re failing 18,000 kids a year, and they are disproportionately poor children of color,” said committee chairman Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, referring to the number of students who fail to graduate high school each year. “We have to do something.”
Supporters described the measures as common-sense approaches that would spur improvements by holding schools more accountable and giving more information to parents.
“We grade our students. Why not grade our schools?” said Dave Powell, a lobbyist for Stand for Children. “Honestly, what are we afraid of?”
Opponents said the bills were rife were logistical problems and would rely too much on test scores.
Marie Sullivan of the Washington State School Directors Association, a group representing school board members, said bills ”shaming and blaming schools” would be counterproductive.
Most of all, opponents argued that a recent state Supreme Court decision mandates that lawmakers more fully fund education — before seeking to reform it.
“It needs to be a two-way accountability system, and it’s your turn,” said Wendy Rader-Konofalsk, a teachers union lobbyist.
January 28, 2013 at 1:31 PM
This post has been updated to reflect a pending amendment to the bill and to include a comment from House education committee Chairwoman Sharon Tomiko Santos.
Republicans in the state Senate introduced a bill Monday morning that would assign a letter grade — A, B, C, D or F — to each public school based on the performance of its students on standardized test and other measures.
Schools that earn “A” grades would be eligible for teacher bonuses and get more control over the money the state allocates to them.
The original version of the bill would exempt charter schools and alternative schools from the grading unless they opt in. But the sponsors have since introduced an amended version that would include charters and alternative schools in all cases.
Senate Bill 5328 would peg most of the grade to an accountability index of test scores, achievement gaps and more, developed by the state board of education and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. High schools also would be graded by graduation rate, SAT scores and AP course participation.
The bill is sponsored by Senate education Chairman Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island.
State Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, a Enumclaw Republican who serves as ranking member on the House education committee, discussed the idea this weekend at an annual Republican Party conference.
“We need parents at home to understand what their school is doing,” Dahlquist told attendees at the Roanoke Conference. “I want parents to know, hey, my school is a C- but the school across the way is a B+. What are they doing different? I want it to be driven at the grassroots level, I want them to be questioning, and I want improvement to happen there.”
The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate on Wednesday.
The chairwoman of the House education committee, Sharon Tomiko Santos, said she hasn’t yet read the bill.
“At this point, I will be keeping an open mind,” said Santos, D-Seattle. “I look forward to the discussion we’ll be having when the bill is heard in the Education Committee.”
January 28, 2013 at 7:00 AM
With the session in full-swing, Washington state legislators will consider bills on issues from wolves to elections – and everything in between. Here’s a look at this week’s big topics:
Senators will look at several bills regarding worker compensation throughout the week. Today, the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor will hold a public hearing regarding Senate Bill 5159, which would repeal the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act. It was enacted in 2007 and is scheduled to go into effect in 2015. The act would provide benefits of up to $250 per week to workers who are unable to perform their customary work because they are on family leave. SB 5159 is sponsored by Sen. John Braun, R-Centrailia, and has the support of 10 other Majority Caucus Coalition members.
Also on Monday, the committee will hold hearings on Senate Bill 5128, sponsored by Sen. Janea Holmquist-Newbry, R-Moses Lake, that would make changes to the workers compensation system, and on Senate Bill 5275, also sponsored by Holmquist-Newbry, that would allow employers to pay their employees a training wage as low as 75 percent of minimum wage during a specified period.
Representatives will consider multiple K-12 bills this week in the House Education Committee, as legislators attempt to comply with the McCleary decision made last year by the Washington Supreme Court. The committee will hold hearings on three different bills on Thursday: House Bill 1252, House Bill 1304 and House Bill 1283.
HB 1252, sponsored by Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, would establish an online professional development program for K-12 teachers to use free of charge. HB 1304, sponsored by Rep. Mark Hargrove, R-Covington, would allow certain private K-12 schools to offer online-only education. HB 1283 would lower the age of compulsory school attendance from 8 years old to 6 years old.
October 25, 2012 at 3:34 PM
Gov. Chris Gregoire on Thursday dismissed claims by both gubernatorial candidates that they can put more money into education without increasing taxes.
The governor said in the past that new taxes would be needed, but took time Thursday to dismantle proposals that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee and his Republican opponent Rob McKenna have made.
For example, Gregoire said, streamlining government using the “lean management” principles Inslee has discussed will not free up enough money for education. The governor said she’s already gone that route as a way for state agencies to meet growing demand.
She notes state budget cuts have already eliminated thousands of state jobs, yet the population and need for services keeps growing. Lean management, she said, is a way of “coping with the dramatic cuts” and will not be a way to pay for education.
Gregoire, who has endorsed Inslee, also said the next governor is unlikely to close significant tax breaks, which both candidates have talked about as a way to raise money.
The governor noted she talked about closing tax breaks when she first ran for governor and got almost nowhere. Closing tax breaks requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate, which is nearly impossible, she said. Plus, “You will always find a constituency that will say … you’re going to eliminate jobs” if a tax break is eliminated.
She took aim at McKenna’s proposal to fund education by limiting non-education spending to 6 percent increases per biennium. McKenna has said capping non-education spending will shift a growing share of the state budget to schools.
Gregoire said the next governor can’t simply shut the doors to prisons or health care services if they reach their budget cap. “That’s a nice hypothetical. You need to understand as governor you don’t have that much discretion over the budget. When your caseload is what it is, you must fill it,” she said.
The governor said she will have some kind of proposal to raise money in her budget that will be released later this year. The state Department of Revenue is working on several proposals, she said, and no decision has been made.
“I would be remiss to sit here and do nothing about education. I have to, as part of my budget, put forward how I am going to solve what is approximately $1 billion (in additional funding) for the next biennium in K-12 education,” she said.
When asked how she felt about both gubernatorial candidates making budget claims that she considers unworkable, Gregoire noted the date and time she will leave office. “On Jan. 16 at 12:01, welcome to my world.”
September 21, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Teachers United, a two-year-old organization of about 250 teachers, announced Friday that it supports bringing charter schools to Washington state.
In a prepared release, Chris Eide, the group’s executive director, said the decision to support Initiative 1240 was based largely on research done by a committee of 17 teachers.
The group said its committee members were originally split on whether to support the ballot measure, but after studying the issues and visiting charter schools in other states, they decided that charters would benefit Washington state. The group also polled its membership, and said 77 percent support the initiative.
Despite that support, the group has concerns about how the initiative would play out in this state. If the initiative passes, they said they hope, among other things, that the state would give priority to schools that serve at-risk students, that charter schools would have teachers with a mix of seniority, that charter schools and school districts would cooperate, and that charter schools would provide information about their attrition rates, graduation rates, teacher turnover and more.
Teachers United, which has received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said its members belong to teachers unions. It works to involve teachers in education policy debates.
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