Friday, March 14, 2014

Legislatively Speaking

Well, that teacher evaluation law change - the one Arne Duncan was using as something of a blackmail stick - went down with a whimper, not a bang.  I attribute this to a couple of things. 

One, there seemed to be confusion about what the money was for and how much any district actually used (and therefore might lose). 

Two, Duncan had not given any guarantee for the waiver if the law got changed.  That made changing it suspect.

Three, as my own state senator, Jamie Pedersen wrote to me:

I hope that the federal government will appreciate that we have done significant work in this area and give our system time to bear fruit, rather than denying us the waiver and triggering the unfortunate consequences.

This speaks to the idea that Washington State HAS been ahead in a teacher evaluation law and could the DOE give it a chance?  

Four, the WEA put on a forceful show in Olympia to point out that linking test scores to teacher performance doesn't have much research to show it makes any sense.  

I think that Duncan was being a bully and it didn't work.  He has been giving waivers left and right to other states.  My prediction?  More saber-rattling from him but, in the end, he will grant the waiver. 

On McCleary - hey, no surprise - the Legislature did not move the needle.  I guess that mean in April, when the Supreme Court is expecting a report on how the Legislature plans to fulfill McCleary and fully fund public education, there will be a bit of a showdown as the two parts of our state governance tussle with each other.  From Publicola:

It's true, though, that today's mid-term budget increases spending by $155 million in an updated $33.6 billion budget.

With money from the Affordable Care Act, slightly higher than expected revenues, and a decrease in social service expenditures (eligibility was scaled back during the 2009-2011 fiscal crisis), the $155 million includes: $58 million million extra in to K-12 funding for books and supplies, $20.3 million in community health funding, and $25 million in higher ed scholarships. The legislature also kept the cap on college tuition increases.

No COLA for teachers.

Senator Andy Hill tried to put a good face on the budget saying they made "reasonable" advancements that put students first."

But Publicola counters:

But the K-12 spending is actually the red flag for what's wrong with the budget.

For starters, the "additional" money actually brings the  investment—above and beyond the baseline $15 billion—to about $1 billion—or $400 million shy of the estimated amount they needed to hit this biennium to meet the Washington State Supreme Court's McCleary decision. And they're simultaneously on the hook for about $1.9 billion extra in the 2015-2017 biennium and about $1.2 billion for the 2017-2019 biennium. Additionally, the state needs to find about $1 billion to $1.5 billion in teacher salaries. Grand total: $5 billion.

Democratic senate minority leader Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34, W. Seattle) was candid about this reality. Nagging the rest of the gang, obviously, the lady senator in the room said stridently: "There is no question we have a staggeringly large bill coming due for K-12 funding in our state in just a few short years. If we are to meet our constitutional obligation to our kids—and meet it responsibly—revenue and dedicated funding sources must be part of the conversation. ... Tough decisions await us all next year.”

It may take parents to get change for our overall revenue picture in Washington State.


Anonymous said...

Washington already has a waiver, although that waiver has been deemed 'high risk' due to the teacher evaluation issue. Duncan would have to take an even more drastic action in REVOKING our current waiver. This seems unlikely to me.

The other more likely action is that Duncan will not renew the state's waiver after this school year (2013-14). The state's current waiver expires following this school year.

Guess we'll have to wait and see.

--- swk

Unknown said...

I think this is a significant defeat for the Neoliberal education reformers. Kudos to those who educated legislators as to the implications of Federal bullying on its deeply flawed evaluation agenda.

Democrats are often as bad as Republicans when it comes to Neoliberal policies. We will not have a Democratic Party, particularly in D.C., that will be of any use in confronting economic and educational equity issues until being a Neoliberal has the same stigma as being a homophobe.

Anonymous said...

I'd say a word, too, for how badly Steve Litzow managed that process. If he had run McAuliffe's bill in the first week of the session with no amendments it probably would have passed; instead, he took his own bill, put in language that made Smarter Balanced 50% of a teacher's evaluation, and then let it sit for a month. It was stupid politics from a guy who's really in over his head.