Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Strong education reform bill passes Washington State Senate

At many points it didn't look like the Legislature was going to deliver on its promise to pass meaningful education reform this year.

But at last, it did! My faith in the system is restored.

This afternoon, ESHB 2261, a bill which puts Washington on track to building a stronger public school system that prepares all children for their future, passed the Senate on a 26-23 vote.

Roll call:
Yeas: 26 | Nays: 23

Voting Yea: Senators Berkey, Brown, Eide, Fairley, Franklin, Fraser, Hargrove, Hatfield, Haugen, Hobbs, Jarrett, Kastama, Keiser, Kline, Kohl-Welles, McAuliffe, McDermott, Murray, Oemig, Prentice, Ranker, Regala, Roach, Rockefeller, Shin, and Tom

Voting Nay: Senators Becker, Benton, Brandland, Carrell, Delvin, Hewitt, Holmquist, Honeyford, Jacobsen, Kauffman, Kilmer, King, Marr, McCaslin, Morton, Parlette, Pflug, Pridemore, Schoesler, Sheldon, Stevens, Swecker, and Zarelli
I am disappointed to report that six Democrats voted against the bill. Democrats are the party of education, the party that invests in people.

This bill was our senators' biggest opportunity in thirty years to make a difference in how Washington educates its children. The cynical among the group couldn't support the bill's "false promises," and expressed concerns about how the state would pay for better education.

In fact, the real issue is how can we afford not to?

Finding the money is definitely a big issue (huge, in fact), therefore the next step in this ongoing process is to find new funding sources. The bill sets out a work group to identify these. If we thought this first step was hard, the next one will be excruciating, but getting this sensible framework in place first is important so that citizens know what they are being asked to fund.

For now, we can be pleased that we have come this far. Since amendments were made to the bill, ESHB 2261 must go back to the House for a vote. It is so similar to the original bill, that it might be able to pass on a simple yes-no vote.

Here are a few of the bill's much-needed provisions:
  • Increased instructional hours for high school, from 1000 to 1080 per year
  • The opportunity for high school students to take 24 credits (up from 19 currently)
  • Phase-in all day kindergarten
  • Include early learning for at-risk children in the definition of basic education
  • Include highly capable education in the definition of basic education


Blogger Liv said...

None of these very expensive reforms will improve student achievement in Washington State, unfortunately. These reforms are more of the same from Olympia: centralized, bureaucratic mandates for additional programs which do not address or correct the reason for Washington's failing schools---that principals are not in charge of their budgets or staff. See the Washington Policy Center Education Reform Plan: Eight Practical Ways to Reverse the Decline of Public Education by Liv Finne.

Think about it: if we raise the $7-8 billion to pay for these programs, will these programs allow principals the power to allocate resources to the classroom to raise the effectiveness of the teachers? Will principals be able to give bonuses to hard-working teachers so as to create cultures of excellence to replace cultures of mediocrity? Will principals be able to replace ineffective teachers?

The answer to all these questions is NO. So we'll have a much more expensive system and achieve the same abysmal results.

More money is not the answer---real reform is needed so principals can be given the tools they need to improve the culture of their schools and to raise the effectiveness of teachers.

April 18, 2009 1:10 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

There's no money attached to this bill, as I think you well know, Liv. We're quite familiar with the right wing position: Demand "accountability" but withhold resources from schools. Giving principals unchecked power is not a recipe for improving our schools.

Your assertion that "principals are not in charge of their budget or staff" is also inaccurate.

If I'm not mistaken, you authored the study you're asking NPI Advocate readers to look up, and you work for the right wing Washington Policy Center.

But you didn't disclose that.

In the future, if you're going to leave a comment here promoting your own writing, please identify yourself and your employer/affiliation.

April 18, 2009 2:07 PM  
Blogger Liv said...

Andrew--I wasn't hiding anything from you. Why did you think that? How many people named "Liv" do you know?

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in some information on this subject.

Principals do not have control over their budgets or staff in Washington State. A Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee 2005 study revealed that principals in Washington State typically control less than 5% of their budgets and most have no control over the teachers assigned to their schools.

More money is not the answer, but better school management is. President Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, both support charter schools. In charter schools principals control their budgets and select the teachers for the school.

Charter school principals have the tools they need to raise outcomes for very disadvantaged children. Washington's principals lack these tools, and are reduced to being little more than building managers.

As a result, our schools seriously shortchange the most disadvantaged students and provide a mediocre education for the rest. Only 19 out of 100 manage to graduate from college with an associate degree or better, with the result that for the first time in history, public school officials are producing a generation of students who have less formal education than their parents.

I suggest you read my "Eight Practical Ways to Reverse the Decline of Public Education." You might be surprised by what you find.

April 21, 2009 6:53 PM  
Blogger Noam said...

More unfunded mandates, more pressure on teachers for "accountability" and more blame-the-victim. Just what we need! Not progressive at all, by the way.

April 29, 2009 1:51 PM  

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