Monday, March 24, 2014

Laws, political posturing, and our work . . .

As I reflect on the content of my posts over the last few months I can't help but be saddened by the number related to waivers, common core fighting, and the McCleary decision.  It reinforces for me the influence that policy makers have on our work and once again leaves me wondering who has their ear and is influencing their decision making.  Though I am not completely aligned with those that believe the goal of large foundations and their leaders such as Bill Gates and like-minded CEO's is to destroy public education, some of their positions and advocacy leaves the door open for me to reconsider.

Given that, I have two possibilities for sharing this evening.  One is on waivers and the difficulty the federal department now faces with deciding how to punish our state for failing to mandate use of state test scores in teacher evaluation or an editorial on the lack of response shown by legislators to the Supreme Court funding mandate under the McCleary decision.  I'll probably at some time do both because of their importance to our work so tonight it will be funding.

In a recent editorial in The Columbian the paper cautions state lawmakers to take note of Supreme Court actions in Kansas and New Jersey related to funding mandates where the Court's have prevailed in forcing action.

As the Legislature's short 2014 session drew to a close recently, news from the heartland served as a reminder that lawmakers' work is not yet finished for this year. By April 30, as instructed by the state Supreme Court, legislators must devise an adequate, specific year-by-year plan for funding K-12 education.

As the court has written in a finger-wag to lawmakers: "We have no wish to be forced into entering specific funding directives to the state, or, as some state high courts have done, holding the Legislature in contempt of court. But, it is incumbent upon the state to demonstrate … concrete action."

I had forgotten about the April 30th timeline for a plan to close the gap to fully fund by 2018 that will takes billions in new revenue.  In the recently ended short session legislators added about $60 million, hardly a dent in this large and imposing gap.  From personal experience this year in conversations with legislators and from what I read I know that there are those that believe the Court has no authority to mandate budget expenditures and are feeling no tension to comply with the Court's order as I blogged about in this post from January of this year.

The editorial suggests that law makers may want to rethink this stand given what recently took place in Kansas where the Court has once again forced the legislature into action and with comments such as this from a former State Supreme Court Justice.

" Former Chief Justice Gerry Alexander said, "If I were the Legislature, I would take it seriously. I think the court laid down the gauntlet, and I think they will have to follow through. Otherwise their decision seems sort of meaningless — 'We want you to abide by the Constitution, but we're not going to do anything if you don't."

I'll be watching for the report at the end of April and wonder once again with the divisions in Olympia how the two houses will be able to reach agreement on what to include in a report.  Having a specific plan for achieving full funding of public education seems an even greater stretch since they can't agree on the dollar amount gap and revenue source to close it.  The editorial closes with a statement capturing the chose in front of our state legislators.

1 comment:

John said...

I suppose the frustrating thing for me is the shifting argument. Hearing legislators talk about the validity of the court taking the actions they have seems like a ruse to shift voters focus from the real issue: the state is grossly underfunding education. We are in the situation we are because of the lack of attention to the needs of our public school system. When I hear legislators touting how this last session prioritized education, my frustration grows, as does a general feeling of hopelessness. I simply am out of ideas and hope that the court has real teeth in this.

The executive director of WASA, Dr. Bill Keim has an excellent graphic and editorial to compare Washington with two other states (Massachusetts and Alabama) and the national average. It is well worth the read: