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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

PTSA Legislative Roundtable

I attended the Seattle Council PTSA Legislative Roundtable last night at Eckstein Middle School. It was slow to get started as the legistlators were late in coming. There were about 50 people from around the Puget Sound area. We mostly networked and talked while we waited. I get the impression that there is consensus on the idea that former Mayor Rice should step in as superintendent.

The sheet passed out listed the WSPTA 2006 legislative Assembly voting results. Out of about 21 topics, the ones that got the most votes were:

1. K-12 Education Funding
2. Math and Science
3. Simple Majority
4. Reduction of Class Size
5. School Recess

(The last one puzzled me. I know it's an issue in other parts of the country but I hadn't heard anything about it in Washington state.)

Other top ten issues; student supports, sex ofender registration, Washington state tax system, highly capable programs and tie between assessment system improvements/special ed funding.

The legislators who attended were Jamie Petersen, newly elected from the 43rd district, Helen Sommers of the 36th district, Al O'Brien from district 1 and Ruth Kagi from the 32nd district. Each legislator spoke briefly. Helen Sommers had spent the last day and a half at the Washington Learns rollout. She spoke of Governor Gregoire's passion and of the strong outlines of the program. Ruth Kagi said she was the chair of the early learning committee and was committed to the ideas in Washington Learns around that issue. Al O'Brien's focus is crime and prisons so he basically was saying that's where kids may end up if we don't have a good educational system (he also spoke a lot about sexual predators which was somewhat disturbing).

They were asked some questions. Amy Hagopian, a former School Board member, asked whether they believed school board members should be appointed and would they support the Ed Murray bill. Helen Summers said she had heard from her constiuents a lot of unhappiness with the Seattle School Board. However, she said she would be against appointing school board members. She said most boards are 5 members and thought Seattle's should be the same. (How that would make it better, I'm not sure.) Jamie Petersen said he was not prepared to take a position (he is barely a legislator). He also said at one point that he could not understand a Board member who would stand in a lawsuit against the district.

I opined that I had heard that Bill Gates had advocated innovations in education like charter schools. I told them that while I admire Mr. Gates that he was only one Washington voter and that the majority of Washington voters had voted, 3 times, against charters. (They all started nodding right away when they saw where I was going; I think they get what the voters said.) Helen Sommers said he mentioned all kinds of innovation with charters being one of them.

There was a discussion about legislators from Eastern Washington who did not want to vote to fund schools properly. But they all agreed that they felt there was an excellent chance of simple majority for levies would pass this session.

We then divided into groups according to legislator. A group of about 7 sat with Jamie Petersen. We talked about the Board, paying for Washington Learns, whether if the Viaduct became a tunnel or street option, would more people live downtown and whether that would generate a need for a school to serve children who call downtown home, the levies, the Seattle Times and their opposition to the Board. Jamie also said he felt that the tax system in our state probably needed to be looked at.

It was a thoughtful group of well-spoken people.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought the Al O'Brien focus on sexual predators was to note that something like 6 mothers in Redmond in combination with the national conservative press frenzy and the Republication delegation in Olympia drove the legislative focus last session, resulting in passage of a bill that will cost $50MM/year - which he noted makes that money unavailable for K-12 education funding or anything else, and which he said could probably have been accomplished for less money without the special interest pressure.