Monday, February 4, 2013

An unfortunate future . . .

As much as I would like to move away from posts about the happenings in Olympia, it becomes more and more difficult when I read articles like the one in today's Seattle Times.

‘Battle royale’ on schools expected in Legislature

Three weeks into the legislative session, lawmakers appear divided on the key issue of improving schools. With the Senate focused on reform and the House focused on funding, observers are predicting a “battle royale” of negotiations.

The article does a nice job of capturing the differences between the House and Senate and the sideline role being played thus far by Governor Inslee as it relates to education bills.  Reading the article once again leaves me deeply concerned with the potential for compromises to the new reforms currently being discussed and those slated for a future hearing  The strategy is one of putting the bills in motion and then at the end of the session forcing through some of them as a condition to agreeing on a final budget. 

Three weeks into the session, lawmakers and education advocates say the dynamics could add up to complicated negotiations in which change-minded senators demand new policies in exchange for new funding.

“Clearly, both parties are positioning right now for a showdown that will probably take place at the very end of the session,” said Rick Chisa, a spokesman for the Public School Employees of Washington. “It’ll come down to a battle royale between Democrats and Republicans over how much money to put in and what the other side will get in return.”

What are some of those reforms?

The positioning started in earnest last week in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, where Republicans introduced bills that would grade every school, create a state-run district for low-performing schools and give principals the ability to refuse teachers assigned to their building, among other ideas. . . . Eight controversial measures have been introduced, including bills to give bonuses to math and science teachers; to make student test scores a bigger part of teacher evaluations; and to prohibit most third-graders from advancing to fourth grade until they pass the state reading test.

As Chisa said above, I fear another session where we find out after the fact that new reform legislation has been agreed to because a budget was not possible without it.  The more measures that make it through the Senate the more leverage they will have to implement these measures in May or June or whenever the session comes to a close.  Though engaging in the political debate is not something that I enjoy, I choose to engage this year because of what I see as the potential for even more uncertainty when what we need is greater stability and I encourage you to consider the role that you will play.  Though much of the focus has been on how much money will this session generate to meet the funding requirements of the McCleary decision, I see these bills as having the potential for greater harm to our work than less dollars to implement the reforms already in place.

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