Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ed Issues This and That

 In what is the biggest story for our district (and all districts in this state) is the likely reality of the Legislature going into a Special Session to complete the budget.  

The impacts of this delay to our school districts is big and those impacts should have been considered at the start of the session.

At the beginning of the session, I said that job one was McCleary via the budget. (I was not the only person to point this out.) And yet we saw a parade of bills from all directions.  Some, like the restraint of Special Education students, were vital to get done.  But some were just not needed when so much work needed to get done - and compromise and consensus sought - on the budget.

I can't believe that our state is going to spend upwards of $300K on a Special Session to get a budget.  And, if McCleary doesn't look like it got done, what does this say to the Supreme Court?

Legislators should have all pledged, from the start, to get the budget done BEFORE anything else.

Also of interest is an op-ed in the Times that complains about the number of elected state officials (there are nine).  I hadn't realized this was an issue but drill down and it becomes all about the state superintendent of public instruction and wouldn't it be a better idea if that office was appointed by the Governor Apparently former Governor Gregoire had floated this idea in the waning days of her office. She wanted an entire Department of Education created, from early learning to higher education. 

We need to not only invest in education, we need to create a seamless, accountable system focused on students and their success.

She goes on to say that an Ed Secretary should have "full authority to oversee the entire Washington state education system with effective evidence-based, student-centered best practices." 

One thing that didn't get said is why we have multiple ed agencies in the first place nor why those agencies could not be asked to work together in a more fluid fashion. 

Operations Committee Meeting, Thursday from 4:30-6:30 pm.  Agenda.

This meeting sees a number of items to cover.  I'm not sure exactly how the Committee is to provide oversight this way.  Some items, like naming Coe's Library, I don't get if only because the Superintendent himself pulled the naming policy from tonight's Board meeting.  If the policy is to be changed, why waste time on discussion now?

Another item is "high poverty schools wireless upgrade via E-rate" (a FCC program to help high poverty schools with technology).  The mystery to me is that the Technology department has touted how all buildings are now wireless.  Is that not the case and, if it is true, why do schools need an upgrade so soon?

Another interesting item - a donation to the Athletic Program Fund.  That sounds promising. 

I also will note that the district is now consistently saying that buildings are either being built/renovated to about 25-30 years.  This is important because districts used to build to a 40-50 year cycle. 

I also saw on the Board meeting agenda tonight, under upcoming meetings is an Operations Committee/Committee of the Whole Meeting on Tuesday, May 5, 4:30-6:30 pm.  I have to wonder if the topic of high school capacity might not be the highlight given how urgent the need is to make some decisions on how to solve this problem.

Looking at the district calendar, I see only a couple more director meetings on Saturday before the end of the school year.  I have to say that with a couple of burning issues on the table - bell times, high school capacity, social studies middle school adoption - it's sad that directors are not available for parents/community to talk to about these issues.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Davis is incorrect in stating that Gov. Gregoire proposed "making the superintendent of public instruction a member of the governor’s cabinet." Placing the state superintendent of public instruction under the authority of the governor (or even the legislature) would be unconstitutional in our state. The SPI is a constitutional position and has the authority to supervise "all matters pertaining to public schools."

Gov. Gregoire proposed a cabinet-level Department of Education with a Secretary of Education. This proposal was a non-starter given the constitutional crisis it suggested. A secretary of education could not oversee the entire education system without conflicting with the constitutional authority of the SPI.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

There was discussion about this in Arizona, since the Supe is an elected position and the 2 most recent governors wanted to appoint their own sycophants (not that they probably could have been too much worse than the elected ones). There are pros and cons to both. But then you look at Utah, which has an appointed state board of ed, which then pulled some super-secret crapola and ended up appointing a horribly divisive ex-lawyer who fancies himself a school superintendent and is now in charge of the entire state and accused teachers and parents of whining like 3 year olds over funding. I'll take my elected official, thank you.

Also, I find it ironic that the legislature gets paid for not doing its job properly. If they go into special session, doesn't that mean they have not completed their assigned task in the designated time? So why do we reward this behavior? Why are there not high-stakes applied to them? If a special session takes place because the legislature has not completed its work - and in this case its because they wasted a ton of time on worthless ed bills like teacher evals ties to test scores - they should be sanctioned, and lose funds rather than gain funds. Or is accountability only for other people, like teachers?


Anonymous said...

According to my friends from Utah, WA state schools are much more rigorous and better all around.


Anonymous said...

In my book, during special sessions staff would be paid...but electeds would not. That would put an end to this lack of statesmanship - which has become an unfortunate pattern in recent years -- in short order. Wonder if this would run afoul of other laws and/or whether citizens could get it on a ballot initiative?


Anonymous said...

The problem with the "don't pay them" suggestions is that it punishes the "victims" of intransigence the same as those being unreasonable (and no, I don't believe that in legislative stand offs, both sides are necessarily equally at fault). Also, some legislators can easily handle no pay, while others cannot -- so that IF one has a situation where wealthier legislators of one party are actually the unreasonable ones, they essentially get a "free pass" (because they don't care much about the pay issues) while those being reasonable but not willing to cave to truly bad legislation are the only ones damaged. Now, depending on which side of the political spectrum one is on, one will have different views of who is reasonable, and who is not. But the fact remains, group punishment will always result in punishing some people who are NOT behaving badly for the bad behavior of others.

In my opinion, we (the voters) are getting exactly what we (as a group) voted for. It was obvious from the LAST session that having split chambers leads to deadlock, special sessions, and extra expense -- and then we went out and voted for split chambers again.

Do I like this? No. Well, maybe I should have done more in the last elections to change some close senate seats (can't vote for senators in other districts, but I could have volunteered, helped campaign, etc. -- and I didn't). Maybe others here did, and so have better cause to feel frustrated than I do. But I think that the Senate majority(republican) position of no new taxes, even in the face of the McCleary contempt order was absolutely, 100 percent predictable. And that the House majority (democrat) position that they would not continue in perpetuity to drain every other social saftety net and move funds around in short term bandaids, all to divert funds to McCleary was equally predictable. (Given that the voters set up the marijuana tax usage by initiative, and could clearly have sent that money to fund education if they had wanted to (and didn't) -- I AM surprised that the Republicans so blithely dismantled the will of the voters on that. But in hind sight, I think I was just naive -- and that was predictable as well.)


Eric B said...

I think the WA Supreme Court has the lever here. They've already been found in contempt. The next phase is penalty. If the legislature does not come up with a budget in regular session, the legislators should be remanded to the conveniently-located WA Corrections Center for a week or until the special session is called. They should then be placed on work release for the each day the legislature is in session, and required to return to the prison each evening. That would get this all solved right quick, and probably incidentally pass a bill that would improve conditions in the prison.

I'm thinking the special session would be 5 days tops.

Patrick said...

Jan, it's true that punishing the guilty also involves pain or inconvenience to the innocent, but that's also true when sentencing ordinary offenders. Their family members suffer for loss of income or support.

Anonymous said...

HP - yes, WA schools are far, far better than Utah schools, as much as we complain about ours. Theirs have been significantly underfunded and overloaded for decades. The only reason they look even half as good as they do in test scores and such is due to the predominantly white population, the church's push for educated sheeple, and the lovely statistical phenomenon known as Simpson's Paradox. The legislature there welcomes charter schools with open arms (since they are usually owned & run by relatives), and they have lowered the standards for teachers to a point where you only need a HS diploma to be a substitute, and you don't need a teaching certificate to "teach" in a charter school. In fact, the Utah State Dept of Ed advises these "teachers" to get their "teaching" job first, then after a couple of years, they can decide if they want to get their certification or just quit and be a full-time mom. Utah is also a non-union state, so their teachers have no recourse for anything job-related (working conditions, salary, class size, standards, etc.).
I have friends w/2 kids who relocated there after the husband's job was moved to Provo. Their house in Federal Way had not sold before they moved, and after a couple of months (back when economy was still recovering), they pulled the house off the market, wife and kids moved back up here to continue school in WA and he got an apartment in Provo and flew back every other weekend. They were appalled at the schools - 35-40 kids per classroom, kids much further behind academically, and way more testing than we have (not sure if they were state tests or what - she didn't elaborate). I think the teachers there are even more overworked than ours - I heard stories of them regularly having to cover classes for absent teachers during their planning times (w/out getting paid extra) because the districts try to save money on subs since they are so underfunded. My aunt took early retirement from her district in Salt Lake just days before school started a few years ago because she was set to have 34 1st graders, and the state had just yanked funding for aides for the classrooms. She decided enough was enough.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Eric, thanks for the laugh of the day. I might just steal that and tweet it.

Anonymous said...

If we fund more education - we'll just get more computers, for more students to do more SBACs and more Amplify's. We'll just get millions of more sped administrators. And, probably lots of other administrators too. As it is, the district already has an actual policy to sack sped 1-1 IAs (paid Walmart rates), so that they will have enough money to hire more sped administrators(paid bureaucrat rates) as directed by OSPI. OSPI is looking to start a new "sped committee" so that they can help even more. (NOT!) That will surely come out of "unfunded McCleary windfalls". Every time you turn around, there's plenty of money for plenty of new administrators at the Standford center. And, SPED now has 3 directors, a permanent situation. Used to be there were none, there was 1 shared with advanced learning and ELL. Special services manager or something like that.

The problem is too much money, not too little. Don't feed the beast!


Anonymous said...

Melissa - the policy pulled from the agenda last night was about plaques and name plates related to recognition of donors and such. The Coe library item is about naming the library after the two community members who did so much for the school. Completely different things.

Just sayin'