Last week, Washington State took a step closer toward regaining a federal education waiver that would mean control of nearly $40 million in federal funds—directed toward disadvantaged students—for local school districts. It would also mean that 92.5 percent of Washington schools considered “failing” would no longer have to set aside a portion of their Title 1 funds (most of which have gone unused) to pay for transportation if students transferred to another school. Rather, school districts could again put these needed funds to good use in helping struggling students.
The bill passed despite the Washington Education Association (WEA), once again, placing its considerable weight behind lobbying to defeat it. During the 2014 legislative session, the WEA managed to persuade key state Senate Democrats (some of whom had even sponsored the legislation) to back out of a bi-partisan agreement to implement the small change of replacing the word “shall” to “must” in state law regarding the use of statewide academic test scores as a factor in the teacher-evaluation system.
It’s now up to the Democrat-controlled state House to pass the bill and ensure Washington students do not continue to bear the consequences of Democrats’ failure to stand up to WEA pressure. The Seattle Times’ editorial board urges the state House to pass the bill—and not to let the millions in campaign contributions from the WEA influence them—in a recent piece.
The editorial board begins by pointing out the consequences of school districts losing control of $40 million in “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) funds. The Seattle Times,
“• For the Tacoma School District, 17 educators were lost.
- In Wapato, it meant half a year of not providing intervention services for struggling students — services that have helped the district’s high school graduation rate rise dramatically.
- In the Franklin Pierce School District, south of Tacoma, the district couldn’t hire four new learning specialists to work one-on-one with students and professional development for teachers was cut.
- In Seattle, schools lost access to $1.3 million for services to bring kids up to proficient levels of math and reading.”
The Seattle Times points out that “all eyes” are now on Democrat House Speaker Frank Chopp and Democrat House Education Committee chairwoman, Sharon Tomiko Santos. It also points out that Tomiko Santos “reliably aligns with the Washington Education Association, which is fighting the effort”—a factor the Times urges Democrats not to let cloud their better judgment. The Seattle Times,
“Tomiko Santos did not hold a hearing on the bill, but should act on the Senate’s version. The full House should have a chance to vote on the bill.
“Opponents argue that test scores are an inadequate tool for judging teacher performance. The proposed bill, however, gives districts wide flexibility on how to incorporate test scores into performance evaluations and only applies to teachers who teach subjects and grades that require state tests. Districts including Tacoma and Seattle already use test scores in assessing teachers.
“Most educators and lawmakers, state and federal, agree that reforming NCLB is the best solution, but that could take years to happen.
“In the meantime, the House should take a cue from the Senate and give the teacher-evaluations bill full consideration instead of letting political ideologies and alliances come before the needs of students.”
Here’s hoping the Democrat-controlled state House acts reasonably and considers what’s best for students, not what’s best for the WEA. Unfortunately, given the WEA’s determination to get its way at the expense of children and Democrats’ willingness to do the union’s bidding, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where students are actually placed before special interests in the state House. After all, the WEA doesn’t pump millions of dollars into Democrat campaigns for nothing.