Monday, January 11, 2016

Off to Olympia (with this story in my brain)

I was interviewed last Friday for a KUOW story by Ann Dornfeld on the legislative efforts to save the (former) charter schools.  It played today.  Astonishing.
It explained the two current bills in play.  One is SB 6163 by Senator Andy Billig and Senator Michael Baumgartner of Spokane; the other bill is from Senator Steve Litzow, Mullet, Fain and Hobbs, SB 6194. (House companion bill is HB 2367.)

SB 6163 would basically make school BOARDs (not districts, boards), the only authorizers for charter schools.  In the old law, school districts and the Charter Commission could both be authorizers (once a district had applied and been approved.)  In this law, the Charter Commission? Gone.

And, under the old law, there wasn't exactly a gold rush of districts who even applied to be charter authorizers.  There ended up being just one.

But, it solve both problems with the old law - elected oversight that leads to access to state education funding. (But you can imagine how polarizing this could make school board elections.)

SB 6163 is vague and kinda incoherent.  They still have a conversion clause but the mystery now is how it works.  There is no explanation that I can find.  It expands a charter contract from five years (old law) to seven years (this bill.)   No and no.

Litzow's bill would only work on the funding issue.
State Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, is co-sponsoring a bill with a different source: lottery money. The change would affect not only charters but other non-traditional public schools, such as tribal schools and the state schools for the deaf and blind.

“We are funding them out of the Opportunity Pathways, which is the account funded by the lottery," Litzow said.
This is always a big question that gets asked - doesn't lottery money go to public education (as we were all promised?)

Charters would pull an estimated $9 million a year from the lottery account, which Litzow says stands at around $150 million. It is currently limited to paying for grants, scholarships and early childhood education.

My answer is, change that so it addresses some of McCleary.

SB 6194 is basically the old law but with some new twists.  Like:
  • the chair of the state board of education is part of the Charter Commission
  • someone from OSPI is part of the Charter Commission
  • they actually took out the part about buying/leasing district property "below market value" and it's just "at market value."  I'm pretty sure that was illegal in the original law.
This will (somehow) give elected oversight to those charters okayed by the Charter Commission.  (But I don't think the state superintendent appointing someone is really "elected oversight" and the the state board of education has some members appointed by the Governor and some elected by school board directors.  Again, is that really elected oversight? Also, it's a little incestuous as the state board of ed decides what school boards can be authorizers.)

But the conversion school piece?  Still there.

And I hate to tell them but the conversion piece would likely get dragged into court.  Under no circumstances should that remain in its current state.

It also saves all the current charter schools with a clause about contracts executed in effect on December 1, 2015.

The Washington State Charter School Association only kinda likes SB 6163 (I think they fear not enough districts would authorize charters.)  They do like Litzow's bill.  State Superintendent Randy Dorn is the opposite - likes SB 6163 better than the funding bill.

I'm still confused - as a non-lawyer - but didn't the Court throw out the entire law and not just the funding section?  Hmmm.

And, there's this?
Still more bills to allow charters in Washington are expected.  
So one tidy bill to wrap up the "work" on McCleary this session and the real work is assessing multiple charter school bills?  And there you have it.

Update:  There is a House bill - 1971 by Rep. Gerry Pollet and others that seeks to limit the number of charter schools in a given district until the ones operating have shown success and has Commission members, after their initial term, then have to be appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate.


NO 1240 said...

"Still more bills to allow charters in Washington are expected."

Where are the bills to fund McCleary?

Kevin Jacka is a former Washington State Charter Commissioner. He is the superintendent of Mary Walker School District, as well. Mary Walker is a small school district north of Spokane and they seek to fund existing charter schools through Alternative Learning Experience dollars.

I contacted the MWSD and asked for documents. Their answer: You've asked for a lot of documents and we can't promise them until after March 11. Translation: We don't want to provide you with the information you want until AFTER THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION.

It should be noted that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has provided the Mary Walker School District with $2 million dollars.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks No on 1240 because you reminded me I forgot to mention. I asked for public disclosure documents from several charters (I couldn't even get info on how to ask from others). All said, "March or April." Handy I won't get the info until after the legislative session from schools that have barely been open.

seattle citizen said...

No1240 asks "where are the bills to fund McCleary?"
I ask "where are the Seattle Times editorials about McCleary?

In 24 hours, they have printed two pro-charter editorials, with nary a word about McCleary. I guess, to the Times, the needs of the 1100 are more important than the needs of the 1,000,000....

The first one, bizarrely, has four things that the Times thinks the legislature should focus on, one being charters. At end of that piece, they say there is a crisis in education funding, but they don't include it as one of their four points!

The 4 things the Legislature must tackle now — and 1 thing to sideline

The other is pure pro-charter with the usual rah-rah:

Legislature shouldn’t put charter schools on the back burner

And, as an adjunct (charters love to tout their non-union status), the Times post an op-ed in favor of breaking up the teachers unions:

Teachers should have the right to opt out of union fees

That $400,000 the Gates Foundation gave to the Seattle Times sure bought a lot of ink....

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, the Times' ed masters must have called them because that's a lot of focus in a short period of time about one issue.

Anonymous said...

Here you go, SC:

On state education funding, what’s taking so long?


Seattle Public Schools funding challenges are about more than assignments

I know this doesn't fit into your narrative but the Seattle Times has been a long time supporter of fully funding basic education (and a capital gains tax).

On another note, I can't wait for the day when the US Supreme Court strikes down the ability of public unions to demand agency fees of non-union members. Jonathan Knapp and Jesse Hagopian will have to persuade their colleagues to join and fund their activities.

Citizen Kane

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for the day that Citizens United is overturned.


Watching said...

"On another note, I can't wait for the day when the US Supreme Court strikes down the ability of public unions to demand agency fees of non-union members."

Keep "watching" Citizen Kane. One day, I promise, you will regret that hate filled comment.

Anonymous said...

Watching, do you consider the California teachers who filed the suit to be "hate filled"? I don't hate anyone. I simply believe in First Amendment free speech rights, which agency fee requirements violate.


Charlie Mas said...

So what happens if some teachers opt out of the collective bargaining unit?

Do they individually negotiate their contract? With whom? I don't see anyone in HR negotiating even twenty individual teacher contracts. Isn't it more likely that the teachers who opt out of the collective bargaining will get a take-it-or-leave-it offer from the District? And isn't it certain that the offer they get will be no better than the union contract? And isn't it likely that it will be a little bit worse?

What protections would teachers who have opted out of the collective bargaining unit have from adverse job actions? Would the district freely re-assign them? Could they be fired without due process? Remember that Washington is an employment-at-will state. Would they be entirely without protections?

Teacher Greg said...

If it does get struck down I hope that those who opt-out of the union are forced to negotiate their own pay, benefits and working conditions on their own.

I can also say that the continuous teacher bashing is really short sighted. Why would people not want a good working environment for teachers? Why would people want teachers to have bad pay and weak benefits? If you want to see what that's like all you have to do is look at the Charter schools. Charter schools have huge staff turn-over rates which benefits no one -- most of all the students.

When a starting teacher makes a little over $34K (and the new $15 minimum wage works out to $30k) who is it that you think is going to take these jobs?

Undermining unions harms the overwhelming majority of the population in the long run. These teachers are people's spouses, parents, neighbors, customers etc. and reducing their ability to attract and retain quality people makes zero sense.

I've honestly never understood the non-union mentality of fighting to tear down other people's hard fought (and minimal) gains rather than advocating that those gains should become the new universal norm. All workers should have adequate pay and benefits. All employees should have safe and healthy working environments.

Lastly, remember that the working conditions that teachers bargain for are our kids learning conditions. When unions advocate for smaller classes with their local district, or negotiate a reduction in caseload for specialists that benefits both the employee and those they are serving. Its no accident that the most of the lowest performing states (when measured on many different metrics in addition to test scores) are in non-union states.

I have little hope that the conservative Supreme Court will support the right to collect fees from those who opt-out -- but perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised. If they do strike it down it will be yet another sad day for people who have (largely) selflessly devoted themselves to a life of service.

Anonymous said...

What's happened in other fields is that the non-union employees just get whatever the union employees negotiated. It is a strategy to break the union. Employers (who support employees opting out) want to be able to say, look you don't have that many members we don't really need to give you what you want. It's divide and conquer. Ultimately all of the employees (union and non-union) lose out while the employer rules the day. Lose lose for employees. Win win for employers.

Anonymous said...

Teacher Greg:

The anti-union side has been very good at pushing the loser union employees to the front (in the same way the Reagan administration did with limo riding welfare recipients, ie "welfare queens").

Unfortunately, many of us have had teachers who should not have been in the classroom. Over 10 years and two kids, we have only had one terrible teacher, but seeing this type of teacher not get fired is enough to get some people anti-union. I really wish unions would not protect those who should not be protected. Unions are overall good things, but protecting problem employees looks bad to those outside and it harms their reputation.


Teacher Greg said...

Clementine -- I hear where you are coming from and believe me no one benefits from having "bad" teachers, but while there are people who clearly fall into that category (a very small number) they are not protected by the union as much as is often portrayed. I have witnessed first hand teachers getting fired on a nearly yearly basis. A great many more have been either pushed out or have left the profession at the insistence of people in a position of power. Granted, this does not take place over the span of one school year (when its for performance reasons, as opposed to misconduct), but just because some parents don't see it (or might not be aware of it) doesn't mean it isn't happening.

I wish the anti-union people who want to push out the non-performers also felt the same way about experimental and poorly thought out "reform" movements. There is a lot of harm being done in the name of "improving" education -- but I digress.

Also, the logic you outline is akin to me punishing an entire class due to the poor behavior of one or two students -- even elementary students will let you know (rightly) how unfair that is. It is just as unfair to use the legal system to impose the same thing.

Believe me, many administrators (and certainly the education "deformers") want to shut up the people actually doing the work. The union does a lot more to help the good teachers to speak up for the students and to advocate for classroom resources, quality curriculum, manageable workloads, roofs that don't leak, buildings that don't contain toxic mold, class sizes below 35 etc. etc. etc..

As someone on the inside I can assure you that overwhelmingly the union does vastly more good than it does harm. The media doesn't help much in getting this message across because a story about how a local bargained a reduced caseload for school psychologists doesn't sell as many papers as some trashy titillating tidbit.

Sadly, it will probably only become apparent some decades down the road when it will be too late for "I told you so's" for a great many students, teachers, people who gave up on teaching, or those who didn't even enter the profession in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Here's the best takedown on what's happening with SCOTUS and union dues. It's a landmark case. Goes beyond teachers union.

Public employee unions already refund people part of their dues if they want to opt out of anything besides the work union do (agency fees) on behalf of CBA. This is about the Court forcing states to become right to work. Unions certainly can do more on matters like reevaluating the seniority system and providing better 2way communication with members, but it's still your best bet if you want a more equal footing when it comes to workplace negotiation.

Just like the Feds are whittling away at whistle blower protection these days or you signing your rights away for mediation on every contract, agreements with big banks and corporations, we- the little people are left with no teeth. Chomp and gnaw away. We get mush. Obama, HRC, Inslee, the entire Republican Party and majority of SCOTUS and Dems will make sure we get mush and stay toothless.


seattle citizen said...

Citizen Kane, thanks for the links, but it doesn't impact my "narrative." Nice to know that while they published two pro-charter editorials in 24 hours they also published a pro-McCleary piece on 1/9 and another one in...October...but we all know where their heart is: pro-charter, anti-union, 400 large in their pocket courtesy of Gates...
My "narrative" is informed by decades of attention to Seattle education issues, and it's as plain as the nose on my face that Gates pulls the Times' strings.

Anonymous said...

"a very small number?" thats BS every school has 5-10% poor or bad teachers. I blame the universities that's producing these "bad" teachers. Others are burned out and tired of JSCEE boning them.

Reality bites

Teacher Greg said...

Reality, what's your source for that? I'm speaking from two decades in the classroom and Clementine referenced that in a decade with two kids she had one bad teacher -- that indeed seems like a small number. Perhaps you are speaking from your time as a student?

I agree that all schools (and all jobs for that matter) have people who preform at different levels, and that statistically the bottom 5-10% will score in the bottom 5-10%, where I disagree is that the bottom 10% is bad enough to just get fired every year. Furthermore, who do you think is there to replace them? Firing the lowest performing teachers, who from my experience are often in the hardest to find areas, won't ultimately change much but a name.

Again, as a teacher I can assure you that having someone not getting the job done right hurts everyone else. The union is not about keeping bad people in, and people do indeed get fired on a regular basis or pushed out through other means. The right wing narrative is not reality.