Sunday, February 07, 2016

Of Legislative Matters

Feb. 5th was one of the key dates in the 60-day legislative session. It was the policy cut-off in the House of Origin.

Here are the next key dates:

Feb. 9th: Fiscal Cut-off in the House of Origin

Feb. 17: House of Origin Cut-off

Feb. 26th: Policy Cut-off in the Opposite House

Feb. 29th: Fiscal Cut-off in the Opposite House

March 4th: Opposite House Cut-off

March 10th: Last Day of Session

To note, Feb. 9th is this Tuesday. By then, that leaves about one month left in the session. I wouldn't say the legislature has set out a particularly ambitious session (except from their own viewpoints) but there are good things in there for public education.

These include:

- simple majority for school bond measures

- financing school facilities

- levy cliff

- high school graduation assessments requirements (SHB 2214 and HB 1855)

- of special interest to me and other public ed activists, a bill, HB 2576, to limit the amount of time any agency has to devote to fulfilling public disclosure requests

- both bills on raising the amount for school district directors compensation both passed out of committees. (SB 6459 and HB 2851)

However, that does not - in any way, despite the posturing of some - negate the lack of any real work on McCleary. That some Republicans can't even agree to the terms of the one bill (HB 2366) (SB 6195) that came out of the Governor's work group (they want to push the timeline further out), should tell you something about their commitment to the work.

My belief is that there are those who want to dally and delay as long as possible. Both sides agree it will be a heavy lift and there is no single source of existing money for McCleary. We all get that but honestly, where's there's a will, there's a way. It would appear that some are quite myopic on this point.

Here's a great legislative wrap-up from WSSDA (Washington State School Directors Association.)

 To keep track of what is heard and voted out of committee this coming week, check out the daily agendas for the House Appropriations and Capital Budget; and the Senate Ways and Means committees. To catch Floor action, check out their agendas (House / Senate) or you can watch live (or recorded) Per the only charter school bill that made it out of committee, SB 6194, the companion bill, HB 2367, will be heard in the House this week.  They are identical.

Via Rep. Chad Magendanz: Just finished scheduling Week 6 for the House Education Committee, and we now have a hearing scheduled for this Senate companion of my charter fix bill (SB 6194). It's on Friday, Feb. 19th at 1:30pm in House Hearing Room A. During that meeting, we’ll also be hearing another fairly contentious bill, the constitutional amendment to allow simple majority for school bonds (HJR 4210). Each will have 55 minutes.

What is curious is that I was at the Senate hearing when SB 6194 was heard. There was also a competing bill - SB 6193 - that was heard. Both had public support but the fix seems to be in for 6194. What's the main difference? SB 6193 made school boards the sole authorizer for charter schools while 6194 still has the Charter Commission and school boards as authorizers but gets funding from the Opportunity Fund.

Both are/were unconstitutional. It defies comprehension why - if charter supporters want charters -that they cannot write a clean charter bill. Neither bill includes the State Superintendent of Public Instruction - per the constitution - and so, if they want to meet up in court again, they will get their wish. SB6194 puts the State Superintendent on the Charter Commission and presumably, that's their "elected oversight" for the superintendent.

But Randy Dorn, our current superintendent, told me that there would be no way a superintendent could go to those all-day meetings (even if once a month.) He said he would send a surrogate. The minute you do that, it's an appointed person via an elected official and we're back to the same place we were with the last charter law. And remember that politics behind the scenes? Well, it appears the gloves are coming off. From the PI: "Behind the scenes, they (the WEA) know there needs to be a fix," said Lisa McFarlane, state director of Democrats for Education Reform. 
"If the Democrats don't get on board with this, they're going to get rolled over," Michael Orbino, chairman of Summit Public Schools Washington, said on a panel at Roanoke. Orbino, a self described liberal voter, is a Bryant backer. 
I'm not sure WEA knows anything of the sort. The "fix" for the current students of former charter schools to stay in their "schools" is done. (FYI, I'm going to have a multi-part series about that issue and the ridiculous machinations that went on.)

As for a "fix" for a charter school law, again, write a clean, constitutional bill and it would be much harder to argue against.

And that statement from Mr. Orbino of Summit charter schools, well, that's quite the throwdown from someone in a tenuous position. Unless, of course, you know you had a lot of money behind you that could arm-twist politicians.

Fortunately, Speaker Chopp and the Governor are not likely to hear that siren call. If either did, I'd be surprised.

What is also of note was the Friday night firing of the Transportation Secretary, Lynn Peterson, along party lines in the Senate. The majority would not allow a delay of even two weeks to get information on specifics and clearly, the majority was unhappy with her performance. When the Governor's press aide, Jaime Smith, tried to talk to a senator, Senator Schoesler, about the reasons for the move, he said Ms. Peterson was "a racist." He later said sorry, he said that in the "scrum" of the debate. Since when does a grown person in an elected position go around called another official a name of that kind? If he can't control himself, HE needs to go. The Governor's statement:
“Senate Republicans today took an action wholly unfitting of the expectations of the people of this state.
“They engaged in a politically-motivated attack on an eminently qualified woman.
“As disappointing as this display of partisan politics is to me, I am even more deeply and personally offended by Senator Schoesler’s unfounded, scurrilous and outrageous outburst that Secretary Peterson is a racist. This personal insult, uttered in the Senate chambers, is simply inexcusable and not worthy of his position as a leader in the Senate.
“Lynn Peterson has led the most successful effort in years to promote opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses by pushing hard to make sure that women- and minority-owned businesses get a fair chance to compete for transportation projects.
“We can only wonder what the Senate Republicans’ next politically motivated attack will be.”
Then yesterday, the Washington Secretary of Corrections, Dan Pacholke, in the job just four months resigned. From KUOW:
Pacholke's abrupt announcement also comes in the midst of two ongoing investigations into the accidental early release of about 3,000 inmates over a 13-year period--a mistake that has been attributed to a computer programming error.

In a statement Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee said he was sorry to see Pacholke's 33 years with the Department of Corrections end in this manner and fired a verbal volley at Republicans.
Pacholke, 55, had not yet been confirmed by the state Senate and was not in charge of the agency in 2012 when the computer mistake was first discovered. His annual salary as prison head was $165,000.
In an email to Senate Law and Justice Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, Pacholke was even more blunt.

"I notify you now of my resignation. I hope it helps meet your need for blood," Pacholke wrote. "I hope it gives you fodder for the press and fulfills your political needs so you can let this agency, our agency, heal."
This shake-up leaves three of the state's largest and most high profile agencies without permanent leaders just as Inslee heads into a re-election year--and in the midst of a highly partisan, 60-day session when lawmakers are under pressure to act to get out of contempt of court over school funding.
The final shot that we should all be paying attention to?
Of Inslee's remaining cabinet members, several have yet to be confirmed by the Washington Senate. Via Twitter on Friday Republican state Senator Michael Baumgartner suggested his caucus might not be done turning down gubernatorial appointments, writing, "Shape up, Do your job ... Or more heads are going to roll."
Maybe this kind of bullying and battering is what voters in some districts want but it's certainly no way to run a state government. And maybe, some who are elected office don't realize that the "more heads are going to roll" can go both ways.
I can't wait to hear what the Supreme Court will be saying come March 10th.


NO 1240 said...

Bill Gates was instrumental in putting the unconstitutional I 1240 on the ballot. First, he provided funding to hire individuals to collect signatures. Then, Bill Gates and other millionaire/billionaires were instrumental in funding an $11M campaign to pass I 1240 and they did so with less than a 1% margin.

The Supreme Court declared I 1240 and the state should have cut funding to charter schools. As per usual, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation used their dollars to do an end-run around our democratic process.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided millions of dollars to launder public dollars to charter schools through a small school district- Mary Walker School District- located north of Spokane. Dora Taylor captures the story:

The Supreme Court indicated that community members must have access to a local and elected board. Charter schools will be funded-with taxpayer dollars -and communities do not have the ability to vote for members of the Mary Walker School District.

Two school districts refused to go along with Randy Dorn's funding scheme. Individuals in Highline School District hired an attorney to fight Highline's Inter-local agreement with the Mary Walker School District. The citizen's attorney argued Highline's school board and district were in violation of the Supreme Court decision.

Special thanks to our local bloggers- Melissa Westbrook and Dora Taylor. But for these individuals, this story would have been swept under the rug.

Anonymous said...

If you think calling someone a "racist" in Olympia is scurrilous, you're being played. Worse things get said. Way worse get done. Dems are mad. Blindsided? No. Inattention? Yes. This is politics. A very good ethics bill went down with both parties' support. Get righteous about that.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Voter, you are right on the last point about that ethics bill and I note that Senator Carlyle was the sponsor and tried very hard to get consensus.

As for worse things, yes, I'm sure there are worse things. But calling a public official a racist in a public place - that can land you in court.