By the end of the summer, most parents across Washington State can expect to receive letters from their school district explaining that their children’s school is failing because “not every child has passed state reading and math tests.” School districts must also inform parents with children who receive federal Title 1 funding that, due to the failing status of their children’s school, they “have a right to transfer their children to more successful schools.”
The letters are the direct consequence of Democrats in the state legislature bending to the will (and money) of the union lobbyists at the Washington Education Association (WEA) and blocking a bill that would have implemented a requirement from the U.S. Department of Education that “teachers be evaluated, in part, by their students’ performance on tests.” Even worse, Washington State school districts also lost control of $40 million in federal funding for underprivileged students.
The State Senate bill that would have secured the funding by meeting the federal teacher evaluation requirement seemingly had enough support from both sides of the aisle to pass, despite the WEA’s vigorous arm-twisting of Democrats who depend on its campaign cash. Sens. Sens. Steve Litzow (R) and Rosemary McAuliffe (D) struck a practical deal—a straight-forward bill to meet a straight-forward requirement.
However, even after she went as far as to publically support the use of test scores as a part (just a “part”) of teacher evaluations and introduce the agreed upon legislation, McAuliffe folded under the pressure of the WEA (which throughout 2013 was helping her retire a significant campaign debt to herself ). Ultimately, McAuliffe voted against her own bill, taking enough Democrat votes with her to cost the state $40 million in funds.
In the end, it is the actions one of Jay Inslee’s biggest donors (the WEA put $1 million donor toward his 2012 campaign effort) that cost Washington State control of $40 million and resulted in need to have letters of schools’ failure sent to parents. The WEA, and the legislative Democrats whose dependence on the powerful teachers’ union for campaign contributions made them too afraid to cross it, showed clearly that they care little for the children in the classroom – it’s all about the adults.
The WEA remains unapologetic and out-of-touch regarding the problems it is causing our state. One union representative told lawmakers that they should not worry about the possible loss of control over nearly $40 million because school districts have a “huge amount of money.” That, after the McClearly decision.
About one month ago, Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn sent a request to the Department of Education asking that most schools in Washington State be exempt from having to send letters of school failure to parents. The Department of Education denied his request, a response Dorn apparently expected. According to the Seattle Times, Assistant Secretary Deborah Delisle “wrote that the letters will give parents other useful information, such as why their school is judged as sub par, what it is doing to raise achievement, and how parents can get involved.”
An additional piece of useful information for parents to receive is the truth behind why they are receiving a letter that their children’s school is failing. Dorn thoroughly summarized the debacle of the situation when he said, “Unfortunately the teacher’s union felt it was more important to protect their members than agree to that change and pressured the Legislature not to act.”