Washington legislators faced a choice this session: make a simple change to the state’s teacher evaluation law and require that evaluations be based in part on statewide tests, or lose control of $44 million in federal funds that go to help the neediest students.
It was an easy, simple fix. Only problem is, the Washington Education Association hates statewide tests. In fact, they oppose anything that seems even remotely related to teacher accountability.
So even though that $44 million goes toward pre-schools and after-school programs for at-risk kids, killing the evaluations fix was the teachers union’s top goal this session. After some Democrats expressed support for the legislation earlier this year, the union acted swiftly to make sure their bought-and-paid-for politicians did their bidding.
An article in Slate yesterday summed up nicely what teachers unions around the country oppose: not just testing, or charter schools, but anything that might actually bring improvement to public education. To the union, only more money, higher salaries, and smaller classes would work. From Slate:
“Charter schools are a high-profile target of these anti-reform activists, but they are also fighting against standardized testing, the new Common Core standards, teacher evaluations based on student outcomes, and reforms to teacher tenure and pay. In other words, most of the popular ideas to improve schools today.”
So, even though the Legislature (mercifully) ended its session on time yesterday, Democrats could not find the spine to stand up to the bullying from the teachers union, not with all those campaign dollars at stake. That means the WEA has providing the defining issue for this fall’s election – which party cares about educating poor children in our state.
The WEA handed that issue to Republican candidates by making Speaker Frank Chopp and all of his House Democrat minions (and Senate Democrats as well) walk the plank and refuse to support the teacher evaluation bill. That failure of will on the part of the liberals in Olympia will now result in the state losing control of over $40 million – a stupid decision, as newspapers from Yakima to Vancouver to Spokane to Tacoma to Seattle have pointed out.
And one assumes these newspapers will continue reminding voters of the Democrats’ education policy failure all the way to November. And if they don’t, perhaps their Republican opponents will.