Sunday, June 08, 2014

Let's Start the Summer Right by Making Fun of the Freedom Foundation


The lead:  Freedom Foundation Urges Candidates to Reject Union Money!

The quote:  “I can’t imagine anything more despicable than stealing someone’s own money to elect a candidate he or she opposes,” said Freedom Foundation CEO Tom McCabe.

The "research":  UnFree Speech: Most Washington Unions Fund Political Campaigns with Compelled Dues

The problem:  Max Nelson, Freedom Foundation labor analyst, seems to think that the WEA only had $153,000 in voluntary contributions.  This would be interesting, because that would mean that each of the 30,000+ members of WEA-PAC was only paying $5 a year, when it's really $27.

How'd he screw that up?  By getting way too cute with the "Advanced" tab on the PDC website.  Instead of simply looking up WEA-PAC numbers for 2012 at this link (where it shows almost $750,000 in small contributions) he mucked around in a detailed view that almost understates the case that he's trying to make because Max confused the WEA and the WEA-PAC.

Wait, what?  In 2012 alone WEA-PAC spent $2.5 million dollars, most of it focused on the McKenna vs. Inslee contest.  Max ignores that money to focus on what the WEA gave to WEA-PAC for office space ("Overhead") and a secretary ("Employee Services").  His line on the WEA casts doubt on $672,000 when there's a $3.7 million dollar story one PAC over.  How you write about WEA political spending without writing about WEA-PAC is beyond me.

So when the Freedom Foundation tells politicians not to take WEA money because it's tainted....?  The correct response is that it's WEA-PAC money, backed by tens of thousands of members, and that the Freedom Foundation got the facts wrong.

Read more here, if any.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Education Year-End Awards for Washington State



The Hulk Hogan Heel Turn Award:  
Senator Rosemary McAuliffe

Late in the summer the federal Department of Education, which has been absolutely hostile to teachers without an ounce of push-back from the NEA or AFT, told Washington State that we needed to "strengthen" our evaluation laws or else we'd lose our waiver from the most pernicious effects of No Child Left Behind.  This caused Superintendent Dorn to go slightly mad and grow Olympia's worst mustache:



......but it also guaranteed the eventuality that there would be legislation this upcoming session to mandate that student test scores were a part of a teacher's evaluation, never mind that the tests are changing RIGHT NOW along with our adoption of Common Core standards.

So, who was going to do the dirty, disgusting deed, destined to damn them to the WEA forever?  Rodney Tom, who's been gung-ho about this idea for years?  Steve Litzow?  Bruce Dammeier?


That would be State Senator Rosemary McAuliffe (D-Bothell), on whom the WEA spent about $125,000 to help beat back primary challenger Guy Palumbo and beat down general election opponent Dawn McCravey during a really hot 2012 contest.  Stand for Children spent more than $200,000 trying to defeat McAuliffe with some of the most negative mailings you'd ever hope to see, and a year later she's on TV in a segment with Stand for Children talking about her shiny new evaluation bill.

The policy is stupid--an angle that Publicola missed--but the politics is just insane.  This is someone who is nominally the teacher's best friend, the kind of politician we point to when signing people up for WEA-PAC, an award winner, someone we doorbelled for, someone we've made TV ads about:



....and the payoff is a kick in the teeth when Senator Tom shepherds this bill through with a big grin and a thank you to someone who really should have known better.  The state is going to bend over backwards to implement a bad idea at the behest of a lousy federal administration, and there's no good reason why.  Pbbbbbbt to you, Rosemary.

The "I Really Hate the Reykdal Family!" Award: 
Representative Cathy Dahlquist

It started on Valentine's Day when Kim Reykdal, a counselor for the Olympia School District, went to the Education Appropriations Subcommittee as part of a panel to give one of those perfectly innocuous "We have a meeting scheduled, let's put something on the agenda!" presentations that happen throughout the session.

After giving her spiel the committee chair opened things up for questions, leading to this eyebrow-raiser from Rep. Dahlquist:

"I have children, they're juniors and seniors in high school, and I can tell you that they went K-12 without ever really seeing a counselor.....It's very difficult for some of us to see the value (of counselors) for those kids who are just regular kids."

That's right--regular kids wouldn't ever need to access a school counselor.  This is a former president of the Enumclaw School Board talking, folks.

11 days later Rep. Chris Reykdal goes to that same committee to speak on behalf of a bill he prime-sponsored on paying kids to work in agriculture programs, where he is promptly met by Rep. Dahlquist asking some of the most bizarre questions ever posed during a committee hearing--the fun starts at about the 10 minute mark:


 HB1276 did eventually pass the House 89-8, only to die a lonely death in the Senate.  The vote on final passage created the odd partnership of Matt Shea and Reuven Carlyle being 2 of the 8 to vote no; Rep. Dahlquist was one of the many, many yes votes.  Whoddathunkit?

The "Can We Blame Obamacare for This? No? Crap." Award:
The Washington Education Association 
and Premera Blue Cross

It's perfectly swell to have your name attached to things.  I, for example, have a classroom.  It's a nice classroom, with windows and everything, and when people say, "That's Mr. Grant's room!" I'm more than happy to agree and take ownership, because it doesn't actively hurt me to say, "Yep, that's mine!"

On the other hand, if my classroom featured a portal to Hell at the back of cubby #7, faucets that ran red with blood, and a whiteboard that screamed whenever you tried to write on it, I would disavow that room and seek to hang my shingle somewhere else.

That's my entirely appropriate lead-in to the fact that there's a WEA-Premera health insurance plan, and this September if your benefits coordinator looked grumpy it was probably because everything about that plan sucked ass this fall.  Things were in a giant state of flux anyhow because of changes mandated by the legislature, and when on-line enrollment got added onto that the system basically collapsed.  If this was just Blue Cross, or just Premera, they'd take all the heat.  When it's WEA-Premera, though, it makes my union look foolish.

The "I Spoke Truth to Power, Power Told Me to Fuck Myself" Award:  
The Washington State School Directors Association

If you read this, you probably also read the Legislative Update put out by the Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA).  Their February 24th update (since edited!) was a dandy as it talked about some of the reform-minded legislation that was still alive at the time, namely retaining 3rd graders and giving schools letter grades:
This legislation is part of a national push for model legislation supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council.  Bill sponsor:  Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup.

This legislation is part of a national push for model legislation supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council.  Bill sponsor:  Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island.
 Now, if you're Steve Litzow, and you like to make a show of being moderate, you'd just as soon not have yourself linked to ALEC, even if it's glaringly obvious that the bill THAT YOU FILED has language cribbed from Jeb Bush's Florida and being pushed around the country.  So maybe you make a phone call, or you have Rodney make a phone call, and you say, "Hey, remember how in previous years we had a proposal to make membership in WSSDA optional?  Fuck you, that's back."  So the next day you backpedal like an NFL cornerback with this:
In the February 24 Legislative Update, references were made linking bills in the Les Misérables list and their sponsors to “model legislation proposed by the national organization American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).” This link between bills and ALEC model legislation is incorrect, and WSSDA sincerely apologizes for the error.
That's the way Olympia works--hell, my union had to apologize for leaving a flaming bag of doody on Steve Hobbs' doorstep--but I think it also goes to show you that, despite all prostrations to the contrary, the Majority Coalition Caucus wasn't really all that interested in being different than the Democrats were when they had power.  And speaking of people who didn't handle power well......

The Peter Principle in Action Award:  
State Senator Steve Litzow

It's been eminently clear that one of the big reasons--perhaps the biggest reason--that Rodney Tom switched parties was because he really, really hates Rosemary McAuliffe, and that's what made Senator Litzow the chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.

He simply wasn't ready for the job.

The good Senator tries to wear a big grin with his bipartisan bona fides, but his committee kept crapping out some of the most anti-teacher, anti-education legislation that has ever been countenanced in this state.  What's notable is that of the 16 education-related bills that Senator Litzow prime sponsored this year, exactly 1 went on to be signed by the Governor, and even that was only after it was completely overhauled by the House.

Senator Tom (R-Medina) is promising that education reform will again be a hot issue during this short 60 day session coming up, which is going to once again put Senator Litzow in a prime position, but it's not easy being the tip of the spear when you're dull.



The Education Person of the Year Award:  
Randy Parr

I've had more false starts on this section than I've had on anything I've ever written, and it's because of the level of respect I have for the guy in question.

I thought first about trying the "Lobbyists are like lawyers, everyone hates them until you need a good one!" line of thinking, but that kept leading me to "Randy Parr is just like Thurgood Marshall," and I don't know that he'd appreciate that.

Similarly, I thought about comparing him to some of the other lobbying professionals I've come to know from hours of watching TVW--"Say what you will about Randy, but he's got a better haircut than the guy from the Association of Washington Cities!"--but that's a joke that works for about 5 people in the world.

Instead, I'm going to go with regrets.  As a local president I get asked sometimes just what the point of WEA membership is.  It costs a ton of money, after all, and my members don't always see the tangible benefits linked to that big outlay every month.  I wish that I could show all of them this piece of video:



.....and make them understand that when our retirement plans were under attack, it was Randy Parr of our lobby staff who gave some of the best testimony I've ever seen and won the argument for us.  When there have been technical committees looking at the formulas for salary, retirement, or student funding, it was our budget lobbyist Randy Parr who had to get into it up to his neck to maneuver through all the numbers and come out the other side with legislation that was good for our schools.  We've got an outstanding Government Relations office that often toils in anonymity, but I will loudly sing their praises to anyone at anytime, and Randy has been a big part of that.

This year, Randy retired.  My hope for him is that he's sitting by the side of a lake somewhere with absolutely no thought of politics, because he's earned that.  The work that Randy Parr did for all of us for years improved the life of every public school employee in the state--even those who are represented by a different union, or no union at all--and I thank him for it.

Read more here, if any.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Because Research is Haaaaaaaaaard

In August I did a post about some terribly slanted research from the Washington Policy Center.  I never really expected to hear anything about it again, but lo and behold the inimitable Mrs. Finne has provided an update:
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction contacted me today, November 21, 2013, with additional information about Duty Root 61. The staff  explain that, in addition to public employees who are paid to work for unions, Duty Root 61 could include teachers on paid administrative leave because they are under investigation.  Here is the official definition:  "Duty Root 061:  Certificated on Leave - An individual on paid certificated leave from the district other than normal vacation leave or normal paid sick leave. Includes union representatives."

OSPI staff say they do not know how many employees are on paid certificated leave because they are working for unions or because they are under investigation, so a breakdown of the 60 people I report here is not possible without contacting each individual on the list.
Yeah, I'm calling shenanigans.

When that post first showed up in my Facebook feed it didn't take me 10 minutes to Google some of the most obvious discrepancies on the list (Mabton with a full time president? Really?) and find out that Liv's initial assertion--"New research by Washington Policy Center shows public education funds are being diverted from school budgets to pay the salaries and benefits of executives at private labor union"--was being built on a foundation of shifting sands.  She's at least amended the web page--but not the printed report--to show that there's more than a little gray here, but the whole "is not possible without contacting each individual on the list" is just silly when you consider that this whole contretemps began with data that was reported by the school districts to OSPI....

....so why not just ask the school districts?  There's only 39 of them, and they're all listed in the school directory, so why not take the research to the obvious conclusion?  This isn't a difficult bit of action research to do, and it could be interesting data to have what with the legislative session three short weeks way--go for it, Liv.  It might be edifying.


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Monday, December 23, 2013

I've Spent the Last Four Months Doing Nothing but Reading BuzzFeed Posts

When the guy from Duck Dynasty gets in trouble for saying stupid things about how blacks had it better before the Civil Rights movement, Conservatives be like:






But when Joe Fitzgibbon says something stupid about Arizona, they're all:





Meanwhile the rest of the world is pretty much:




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Friday, August 09, 2013

The Other Side of the Magazine Coin

A couple of years ago I poked a small bit of fun at Seattle Business when they had an unfortunate bit of timing where the CEO featured on the cover turned out to be a bit of a crook.

The karma is balanced out by this month's issue of Fast Company, which ended up with Jeff Bezos on the cover a week after he bought the Washington Post.  That's happy serendipity!

Read more here, if any.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

That's The Exact Wrong Reason

I was that grouch.


My former state senator, Bob Morton, was as solid a Republican as you could ever hope to find.  Even in his 80s, when I met him, he still cut an imposing figure in his cowboy boots, and the love that he had for the 7th Legislative District was clear.  He also was known for asking some tough questions (and signing his name to legislation) regarding alternative education (ALE), particularly on-line classes, and it's an opinion that he came by honestly from his perspective as a former school board member.


The school districts in the 7th didn't help.  I could write 10 posts about the corruption in Valley, but I think this excerpt from the Colville Statesman-Examiner, about the sudden retirement and return to the classroom of Kettle Falls Superintendent Phil Goodnight, gives you a pretty clear insight into a certain strain of thought that administrators up here have:

Goodnight said the Kettle Falls School District Board of Directors also undertook some bold financial moves during the economic downturn and approved the Columbia Virtual Academy at Kettle Falls to compete for student enrollment across the state.

"The financial benefits from CVA allowed the district to keep teachers for local students," Goodnight explained.  "Last year, all of our students passed their high stakes math test rquired for graduation."

The thing is, ALE isn't supposed to be a cash machine used to prop up other areas in the district, but that's how a lot of administrators used it, and that's why the push-back from the legislature is completely understandable.  When you also consider that the majority of on-line programs are terrible, you could make a very reasoned case that these administrators were playing with students lives in order to keep their reserve funds healthy.

Read more here, if any.

Friday, August 02, 2013

I Think That TPEP Has Gone Beyond Its Original Charge


.......or their twitter account got hacked.  This would also explain the phishing email I got from them.

Read more here, if any.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Liv Finne Shames Herself Again; Facebook Doesn't Care

Still the #3 image when you search for Liv Finne on Google!


What frustrates me about Liv is that she is purposefully lazy in what she does, but at the end of the day she knows she doesn't really have to be accurate because accuracy doesn't really matter to what she's trying to accomplish.

Her newest "research" with the Washington Policy Center's name attached to it is prima facie ridiculous, but I've seen at least three conservative people on Facebook--people that I have an awful lot of respect for--repeat it as a verifiable truth, and that's maddening.  I think, unfortunately, that it gives some of them a conclusion that they really want to believe, but this isn't research, and the fact that it's given any sort of credence is a pretty powerful statement about just how dishonest the debate around school reform has gotten.  I'm not going to bother to fisk the whole diatribe, but here's the money paragraph:
In 2012-13, Washington school districts report they paid salaries and benefits to private outside labor organizations for the equivalent of 60 full-time positions, enough to provide full teaching staff for two elementary schools. The funds were diverted through a budgeted account called “Duty Code 61, Suffix 0, Certificated on Leave.” Union executives received an average of $68,783 each per year in public education funds, or about $7,000 more than the average pay of teachers who worked in Washington public school classrooms during the 2012-13 school year.
 That would certainly be a scandal.  That would also be a clear violation of state law as a gift of public funds, so if this is real (spoiler: it isn't), Liv should be filing formal complaints against every single one of those school districts for violating state law.  She's got them dead to rights!

Here's why Liv isn't beating a path to the courthouse door:  she herself knows that she's full of shit, because she made this same mistake three years ago in an attack against Mary Lindquist.  It was pointed out to her nicely in the comments section (lost, unfortunately, when the blog moved over) and far less nicely by me here on this blog that the money that school districts pay out for full-time release union presidents is reimbursed by the unions they're elected to lead.  There is no giveaway of tax dollars here--that would be illegal, and do you really think that school district superintendents would allow it to happen?

I was polite enough to call it a lie of omission back then, but when the lie has been pointed out and is repeated again it's more than appropriate to just call it intentional.  Liv repeats it because it scores the points that she wants to score, which is perfectly fine, but it certainly isn't "research" in any acceptable sense of the word.

Then there's the chart at the bottom of her post, where Liv names names and calls out those 60 full-time union positions.  Let's talk about some of those names:

*She says that Mabton, with less than 900 students, has a full time union president.  The guy on her list was arrested in May of 2012 for theft, and resigned in September.  Liv should know better than to use the preliminary S275 data to make a chart like this, but research is haaaaaaaard.
*Kirstin Nicholson is, in fact, the president of the Central Kitsap EA, but given that she's one (1) person I doubt that she's really released as three (3) FTE employees.  For Christ's sake, Liv, you didn't notice that when you published the chart?
*Tacoma must have one hell of a union, because they apparently have 11 different union officers on full time release, which would be a neat trick when places like Seattle, Spokane, and Kent only have 1.
*And one of those 11 is a principal, who is by definition not a WEA member.  The $115,000 salary is a bit of a tell in that regard, something I would expect an education expert like Liv to pick up on.  Through the magic of Google here's an article about when she got in trouble for cussing at kids.

So we don't really know how many of the people on that list are union leave.  Because Liv couldn't be arsed to do the basic fundamentals of fact checking and proof reading, her entire "research" is flawed.  This would fail most college classes, but apparently it's A-OK for the Washington Policy Center, and that's regrettable.

I may disagree on policy with the Freedom Foundation, but they're at least thorough.  We may have different conclusions, but I can at least look at the material they put out and see how they got there.  Plus, I respect Trent England's beard.

The Washington Policy Center, though, is a joke on education reform. This is an absolute, provable certainty, and it's never going to get any better.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Trent England Briefly Flirts With Being Hippy Progressive

Damnit, Trent, you were so close!
New York City has a vast public school system immersed in political correctness and enmeshed in union power. This means it is easy to complain even against a good teacher. In fact, The Rubber Room suggests that students use complaints against teachers they simply dislike.
 YES!  You see, this is why due process and just cause matter!  It's a fundamental matter of fairness, and if a group with the conservative bona fides of the Freedom Foundation can see that there may just be h.....
This also means it is hard to fire a truly bad teacher.

What to do? The politicians found a way out - one that does not upset the union or even force the bureaucracy to make decisions. The “rubber room” is actually a series of offices maintained by the school system where teachers are “reassigned” to sit at a desk all day … and do nothing.
OK, maybe I was a bit quick in sending that gift subscription to Worker's World over to the Olympia office, but we haven't gone full Pinkerton yet.  I mean, of course the union would be upset if its members were being treated unfairly, and it's good to see Trent acknowledging those concerns instead of pejoratively trying to spin this into a story about lazy labor.  Wait:
For the bureaucracy, it was a perfect solution since it protected the powerful while only hurting taxpayers and workers. The taxpayers had no idea this was happening. The teachers should be grateful to still collect a paycheck.
For the union, it was also a grand bargain. No one forced them to spend money actually representing teachers in disputes. And as long as they keep teachers on the payroll - still plugged into “The Matrix” - the union still gets its power in money and numbers.



So, after acknowledging in the open that some of these teachers are perfectly innocent, the good Mr. England then proceeded to ignore that and make this about union money and power.  Not unexpected, sure, but we were close to a breakthrough.

For a different perspective on Rubber Rooms, try the now dead blog Rubber Room Reality.

Read more here, if any.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

State Takeover of Struggling School Districts Not Going Well for New Jersey

The article from Education Week is here, though I think you have to be a subscriber to read it.

This is a sleeping issue in Washington State right now--Senator Litzow had initially proposed a robust state takeover of "failing" school districts through Senate Bill 5329, but by the time it worked its way through the legislative process it was a much different proposition.  My feeling is that it takes a certain level of arrogance to say that OSPI will care more about the kids in a school or district than the people who actually live in that community, and that's a message that cries of "Technical know-how!" and "Best practices!" will never be able to overcome.

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Saturday, June 08, 2013

A Thought on Being 32nd Out of 36th

One of Senator Tom's favorite things to point out about education reform in Washington State is to first invoke President Obama--since they're both Democrats, dontchyaknow--and then say:

"We're an education reform backwater.  On the Race to the Top we placed 32nd out of 36 states--that shows that we're just not keeping up!"

There's a reasonable discussion to be had about the assumption that Race to the Top was worth winning--probably not, but all the same.  What's lost in the statistic, though, is that second round of Race to the Top occurred in 2010, meaning that we've had the 2011, 2012, and 2013 legislative sessions in the intervening time, along with action by the State Board of Education, the Professional Educator Standards Board, and a couple of other oversight groups.  They've certainly done some work--notably TPEP, and the passage of Charter Schools.

So the think I thought last night, as I was lying in bed:  If the Race to the Top competition was happening right now, how would we do?

For fun, try out this spreadsheet from the federal Department of Education.  It's the detailed score reports for all 36 states that applied during that round of Race to the Top, and you've got to go waaaaay to the right to see Washington.  Our overall score, 291, was well below the national average (390), and also far away from the score of the lowest state that qualified for the second round that year (Kentucky, with 412 points).

Why did we stink?

The obvious answer was Charter Schools, though I disputed that at the time.  There were 40 points available in the area of "Ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charter schools and other innovative schools"; we received one single, lonely point.

Now, though, we've got a charter school law that is ranked third best in the country.  Because it's my blog, I'm going to go ahead and give us the 38 points that Colorado (the 4th best charter school law in the country) earned on that section, for an overall increase of 37 points.  Score!

Another area that we took a bath on was "Improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance."  That area had 58 possible points; the average of all the states was 42 points earned; we had 20.  Since then we've passed the laws that have lead to the Teacher/Principal Evaluation Project, which directly addresses notions like "Using evaluations to inform key decisions" and "Developing evaluation systems."  Marzano and Danielson are now more understood as evaluative 
frameworks than they are as actual living people, and those systems are certainly rigorous and used to "inform key decisions", as requested in RttT.

We've certainly done enough and changed enough to justify raising that score of 20 up to at least the average score, 42.  That's a 22 point increase, and with those two steps alone we've gone up 59 points.

Another improvement, for Race to the Top purposes at least?  We've adopted the Common Core State Standards.  Because we hadn't at the time, we lost 15 of the 40 points possible in "Standards and Assessments--Adopting Standards."  Restore those 15 points, and we're up 74 points from where we were at the beginning.

25 more points would have us at the national average for this particular measure, and I'm willing you could find them with a deep fisking of the changes made to certification ("Linking student and teacher data to preparation programs"),  or finding those areas where CEDRS would get us more points ("Making data accessible"), or God willing "Making education funding a priority".  Under the Race to the Top scoring, we're at least average RIGHT NOW.

So why keep belittling what we've already done, the way that Senator Tom persists in doing?  Because none of this is really about school improvement--rather, it's about hitting the teachers in this state as hard as he can every chance he gets, because Rodney Tom doesn't believe in public education.

Read more here, if any.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Oh, Liv

It was a single parent, which is a tad embarrassing since Stand for Children had put out an all-call for people to come down and testify, and when Stand's own lead guy (Dave Powell) couldn't be arsed to testify on behalf of the bill, and when even rock-solid reformers like Rep. Magendanz are asking tough questions about the bill, the bill's a dead parrot.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Poor Form, Liv


No, I'm not talking about the wonderful planted article in the Washington State Wire where they didn't note that you had applied for the Charter Commission and not been selected, which seems like it would have been a relevant fact to know about someone who was then slagging on people who had been selected.

Nor am I talking about this one where you yourself failed to mention that, like me, you weren't selected for the Charter School Commission.

I'm just rather surprised that someone who dislikes teacher unionism wouldn't have picked up on the fact that Springdale/Mary Walker is one of the largest unorganized locals in all of Eastern Washington.  There is no WEA presence there.  Hasn't been in quite some time.  Springdale also has this beautifully incestuous relationship with Valley through their Padeia High School co-op, and Valley has been exploiting every fucking loophole in the book one of the leaders in on-line education for years now.  They're also mostly unorganized.

I think you're raging against your own people.

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Sunday, March 03, 2013

FREEEEEDOM! Except for state employees, they can go screw.


I don't understand this point of view, at all.

A couple of years ago my District went to the employees with an idea to change dental plans.  I thought that, all things considered, it was a fairly moderate proposal.  They met with everyone in my building, certificated and classified, and presented.

They left running with their asses firmly held in their hands, because any time you talk about changing benefits people get really, really antsy.

That was a good 8 years ago.  Last year there was the proposal to move all school employees into one pool, an idea which only passed in the dead of night at the last day of the session, embarrassing the PSE of Washington in the process, which was the single best organizing tool that the WEA has ever been handed since I've been involved.

Point is, people get really, really touchy about their health benefits.  They should.  They're a big deal.  The notion that Senator Tom is putting out with this bill, that these new programs should be pushed down from administrators onto their underlings because it's the administrators who know best, is ridiculous.

There is nothing that will make employee wellness programs fail faster than leaving out the employees when you design them.

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She's Not the One Who Jumps Out at Me

The Freedom Foundation is concerned that a former union leader is applying for a school board seat in Issaquah that was vacated by friend of Ed Reform Chad Magendanz when he left to serve in the legislature.

Me, I look at the bio of the applicant who proudly lists her time with the Issaquah PTA and the League of Education Voters and get just as much of a pause.  Some of the worst ideas that the PTA has dealt with in recent years have started in Issaquah.

If you'll excuse me, I need to go meddle in a school board election in Vader now.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Personal and Confidential to Shannon Campion: When You Can't Even Bring Yourself to Say "F Schools", the Bill Stinks

Post update:  You can watch the video here.  King5, your embedding stinks.





I still miss Up Front with Robert Mak, but these segments that King5 has been putting out are pretty good so far.

This week the lead interview is with Shannon Campion, the executive director of Stand for Children, who doesn't do a good job.  First, when talking about Litzow's school grading bill she talks about "getting extra support to C and D schools", but can't bring herself to go all the way to the bottom of the scale, which proves to my satisfaction that even though Stand has been bleating on their Facebook page all weekend about how this is a bi-partisan proposal, they know that those grades are stigmatizing.  She also gets noticeably flustered when she gets asked about the oversight role that OSPI could have when it comes to Charter Schools, which makes one think that Superintendent Dorn just might have a point.

In the second half Austin Jenkins did a nice job with the differences between the House and Senate right now.  It's good video.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

This Week in Olympia: You Can Watch Committee Hearings Live While You Eat Your Dinner!

http://static.tvfanatic.com/images/gallery/the-boys-gather-round-leonard.jpg

It's going to be a busy week as policy committees work to pass out bills before the arbitrary deadline to get them to the budget committees.  Most every day has a 5:00, 5:30, or 6:00 hearing scheduled, meaning that the Brotherhood will be busy later than usual.

Monday:  There are no 8:00 committee hearings, probably to give west side legislators a chance to drive down after a holiday weekend at home, and only the Senate has a slate of morning meetings with nothing that jumps out as related to education.

At 1:30 the Senate K-12 Committee is meeting to discuss a bill to allow private schools to also offer on-line programs, and an idea for Required Action Districts that is co-sponsored by 4 of the 5 Democrats on the committee and none of the Republicans.  The 3:30 Senate Ways and Means Committee meeting has been cancelled, but over in House Appropriations they'll be hearing a bill about voters pamphlets for primary elections, and at 6:00 the Senate Governmental Operations Committee will be having a late executive session where the chair will hopefully apologize to Sheriff Knezovich for the dumb, dumb things she said.

Anyhooo.....

Tuesday:  8:00 brings a House Higher Education meeting which could be interesting because they're hearing a state version of the DREAM Act.  Expect Sound Politics and The Reagan Wing to be fully fired up.  The Senate Higher Education Committee meets in the afternoon to hear a differential tuition bill, but that one is sponsored by the Democrats so expect this proposal listed on the committee webpage to move instead.  The House Education Committee will be hearing a 23 page bill to implement the recommendations of the Achievement Opportunity Gap Commission.  It's prime sponsored by the chair of the committee hearing it, so I'd think it'd have a shot.

At 3:30 the fiscal committees start meeting; in House Appropriations they're hearing some bills that have come out of committee, including one sponsored by Rep. Magendanz about student truancy.  Tonight's late meeting at 6:00 is the House Finance Committee, where they'll be hearing the bill to impose a tax on gas refineries that has been suggested as one way to pay for the McCleary decision.  I have three different fart jokes I'd like to tell here, but this is a family blog.

Wednesday:  Nothing in the morning.  In the afternoon Senate K-12 will be hearing a good little bill to suspend some of the various programs that have been thrust down on the schools in recent years (so long, Student Learning Plans), but it would also take away the requirement that school board members join WSSDA, which has come up before and been pushed back at hard.  That could be an interesting hearing.  I also rather like this bill which cuts down on the number of fire drills, from 6 to 4, but adds to the number of lockdown drills, from 1 to 4.  That's a net loss of instructional time.

The House Higher Ed Committee also meets at 1:30.  At 3:30, the Senate Ways and Means Committee will be passing out Senator Dammeier's "Flunk ALL the 3rd Graders!" bill, as well as having a hearing on Senator Litzow's school reform proposal.  In the House, the Education Appropriations Subcommittee has a full agenda, and at 5:30 the House Education Committee is meeting with an agenda that looks a little light at this point but is guaranteed to fill up as the week goes along.

Thursday:  House Education at 8:00 with an empty agenda.  House Higher Education with a single bill to hear at 10:00.  An interesting one will happen in the Senate Governmental Operations Committee at 10:00 when they hear a bill to allow a simple majority vote for school bond issues, which would be huge.  At 1:30 the Senate Higher Ed has a bunch of appointments they're working through.

A bit of an oddity for the Senate Ways and Means Committee meeting at 3:30:  a bill that would exclude "Employee Wellness Programs" from those things that can be bargained; essentially, making them off-limits to the unions.  This is an issue that was just covered in the Labor Notes newsletter I read (highly recommended for anyone who cares about unions) here and here, and apparently Senator Tom is also a subscriber because he's the prime sponsor.  The sunset meeting at 5:30 is the K-12 Education Committee, and there are two bills related to gun safety in the schools that could bring out some crowds.

Friday:  Senate K-12 is meeting first thing with a blank agenda, as is House Education at 1:30.  That's pretty much it for the day.


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MoneyGrabber!

One of the Big Idea school reform bills to get attention early in the session was Senate Bill 5237, prime sponsored by Senator Bruce Dammeier of Puyallup.  He said that it was all about "the critical juncture" between 3rd and 4th grade.  He said it was about dropout prevention and improving the graduation rate.  He said it was about closing the achievement gap and putting kids on a successful path for life.  He had an ally in Stand for Children, who had to commit a classic Lie of Omission to justify their support, but Stand has proven this year more than any other that they don't really care what the reform does, as long as it's something they can call reform.

Everyone else said that this bill was absolute nonsense.  That making the MSP a high stakes test, when we're getting ready to roll out new standards related to the Common Core and the new tests that will follow, was the absolute antithesis of what kids need.  That retaining a kid who was struggling in reading, but OK in every other subject, was pedagogically unsound, and that retention in general is linked to higher drop-out rates.  The bill summary gives a nice, tidy overview of both sides of the discussion.

The result was a complete re-do, which you can see in the substitute bill that was heard in the Ways and Means Committee.  The retention piece was moved from the 3rd grade test to the 4th grade test, which isn't any better, but there's also a lot of pieces about intervention and professional development, which looked great until the financial guys came back with an $80 million dollar price tag that had the Ways and Means Committee clutching their pearls at the shock of actually having to fund stuff.

A similar bout of apoplexy occurred in the Senate K-12 Committee on Friday morning during a hearing on Senate Bill 5242, which would provide 10% bonuses for math and science teachers.....

(Secondary math and science teachers, who have at least 50% of their day as math and science, and who are deemed excellent under criteria that hasn't been written yet by the Professional Educator Standards Board.  So if you're a 5th grade science teacher, or only teach two periods a day of math, or don't meet whatever standard the PESB comes up with--sucks for you!)


....when the GOP members of the committee didn't like the cost estimate that OSPI came up with for what those bonuses would cost ($70m every two years).  Crosscut did a short story on the meeting as well.

So the Senate K-12 Committee, the new Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight, with Crazy Stevie as the chair, not only can't pass the ideas that they do like (grading schools!), they can't find the money to pay for the bonus program they want either, and those bills that do make it over to the House will be given the mercy of a quick death unless they have some sort of blessing from Sen. McAuliffe.

I've said before that Senator Litzow may not be good at his job, but I take it back--for guys like me who want to snark about education politics, he's an answered prayer.

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

An Interesting Moment from the House Education Committee: Stonier and Dahlquist Co-Author an Amendment, Stonier Speaks Against Amendment, Amendment Fails



House Bill 1252 would create some on-line professional development modules that would be accessible to staff.  It's a decent idea that would be a welcome dose of fresh air into a system of clock hours and certificate renewal that is broken in ways that never seem to get addressed.

Anyhow, Monica Stonier is a classroom teacher who was elected out of Vancouver to fill the seat that Tim Probst vacated to run against Don Benton.  She's a Democrat who was one of the WEA's priority candidates in the 2012 elections.  Cathy Dahlquist is a Republican former school board member from Enumclaw, also endorsed by the WEA, so when you hear it said that they worked on an amendment to the bill together it makes you go, "Hey, bipartisanship!"

....and then Rep. Stonier urges a no vote.  On her amendment.  And then it failed.  The bill still passed 12-8.

It's also good to hear Rep. Magendanz (R-Issaquah) acknowledging some of the issues around on-line learning.

This week is cut-off week, where bills have to pass out of their committee of origin.  That means a lot less than you'd think it would.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

This Week in Olympia: Punching Teachers is Bad

Monday:  The Senate K-12 Committee will be hearing SB5497, which makes it a case of 3rd Degree Assault to punch a teacher.  Bus drivers and their supervisors are already covered, which would be an interesting piece of legislative history to see where that came from, but this creates equal footing.  It's law that I hope isn't used often.

At the same time over in the House the Capital Budget committee will be hearing a pair of bills related to school district construction, and Reuven Carlyle's Flaming Liberal Finance Committee will be having a work session on the Joint Task Force on Education Funding.

Tuesday:  I'd guess that the House Higher Education committee will start getting more interesting as the session goes along and they'd have to take legislative action on things like differential tuition, but for now their 8:00 meeting covers non-controversial topics like letting veterans register for classes early.

At 1:30 both the Early Learning and Education Committees are meeting; I'm rather interested in the farm apprenticeship program (HB1276), which could be good for several schools here in Eastern Washington.  On the Senate side the Higher Education committee is scheduled to hear a draft bill on efficiency, which is in draft form on the committee website now.

The day ends with the House Appropriations Committee hearing a bill on differential tuition, while the Senate Ways and Means gets the first crack at one of the dumb bills that Senator Litzow got out of the K-12 Education Committee.

(Aside:  How dumb?  The fiscal note for the bill points out that the State can't direct how Title funds are spent, the way that the bill did, so expect to see amended out something that shouldn't have ever been there in the first place)

(Aside to the aside:  The Democrats did the exact same thing with federal stimulus funds two years back, so there's that)

The most important thing today is the school bonds and levies that will be voted on around the state.  Good luck to you if you have one up!

Wednesday:  One of the keynote bills of the WEA, regarding collective bargaining for Community College employees, gets a hearing in the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee at 8:00.

At 1:30 the Senate K-12 Committee will be hearing a bill to change the testing requirements and codify a lot of the Common Core work that has gone on.  At the same time the House Higher Education Committee will be hearing a pair of efficiencies bills, including the companion to the bill heard in the Senate on Tuesday.

The meeting I'll be paying the most attention to is at 3:30, when the Senate W&M Committee is holding a hearing on what the potential impact of the sequestration at the federal level could be on the state.  For a district like mine, where federal aid is a huge percentage of our budget, it would be devastating.

At the same time, the House Appropriations has a meeting scheduled to pass the differential tuition bill they're hearing on Tuesday.

Thursday:  Happy Valentine's Day!

At 8:00 the House Education committee will be hearing a bill related to on-line learning; expect one of the lobbyists from Valley to be there.  A different bill would yank your license if you lie about your WEST-B or E scores, which was legislation done by request of the Professional Educator Standards Board if memory serves me.

At 10:00 the House Higher Education committee is having a work session on "Postsecondary affordability", lead by the Economic Opportunity Institute.  They're also set to pass a bill authorizing a couple of new educational specialist degrees at Western and Central.

In the afternoon, starting at 1:30, you've got Senate Higher Education, then at 3:30 the Senate Ways and Means committee will be hearing a bill prime sponsored by Rosemary McAuliffe that would raise more money to pay for the McCleary decision.  It has no sponsors from the Majority Coalition, though, so I can't see a path for it to move forward.

Also at 3:30 the House Education Appropriations subcommittee will be holding a session on the importance of school counselors.  We lost mine at our school this year, and the absence has certainly been felt.

Friday:  In the morning Litz and the Tantrums will be playing over on the Senate side at 8:00; the most interesting bill on the agenda is their proposal to pay math and science teachers more.  They'll have to be deemed "expert" by the PESB, a group that isn't exactly known for the brevity of their work, so if this bill were law I wouldn't worry about it until well after 2020.

In the afternoon the House Education committee will be hearing an idea, prime sponsored by Brad Klippert, to make it easier for districts to look at going to a four day school week.  It's mildly interesting to see Eric Pettigrew signed on as a co-sponsor--Seattle would never, ever do this--and also look for the PSE of Washington to be out in force, because while teachers are protected from the impact of a four day week because of the salary schedule, it's devastating to bus drivers, custodians, and cafeteria workers who lose 20% of their salary.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

On the Six Hour School Day Bill: We Did This To Ourselves

Over the weekend my email box went kaboom over the coming of Senate Bill 5588, which is getting special attention because of this particular language:
 "School day" means a minimum of six instructional hours as defined in RCW 28A.150.205 each day of the school year on which pupils enrolled in the common schools of a school district are engaged in academic and career and technical instruction planned by and under the direction of the school. Late start, early release of students, or partial days resulting in less than six instructional hours is prohibited unless the release is for a full school day.

Let's start with the dumb unintended consequence first:  this bill would take away the ability for a school district to do a 2 hour late start in the event of inclement weather.  That would be a stupid loss of local control, and I'm fairly certain that's not the intent even if that's what the clear language would mean.  I expect that to be amended for clarity.

This should be a moment for a bit of introspection, though, because I think we all know how bills like this happen.  The parents of our current public school student didn't grow up with every Friday afternoon being cancelled, or every Wednesday being a late start for professional development, and they resent it when they have to pay for child care or change their schedule.  We in the system try to cover it up with platitudes about "That's a great time for parents to schedule dentist appointments!" or "The families get used to it!", but they still resent it.  I live near the intersection of three school districts, two of which run late start or early release, so I've heard the complaining first hand.

Some blame also goes to the legislature and OSPI.  When the LID days were cut, there went dedicated time for professional development.  Getting angry at school districts for trying to fill that void is a dodge of responsibility.  Similarly, when OSPI used to host their Summer Institutes around the state during the summer that was a great opportunity for school teams to get together and work on things; that was lost to budget cuts early on in this financial crisis.

The correct thing to do would be to fund the 10 LID days proposal that the State Board of Education is asking for, because that would actually solve the problem.  This bill, which is another slap at local control from people who should know better, is not the way.

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Sunday, February 03, 2013

If You're Not Prepared for Power, You End Up Like Steve Litzow

....because he's had a bad week, and it's going to get worse.

On Wednesday he held a hearing about making the reading test in 3rd grade a pass/fail proposition; this, at the exact same time that we're changing both the standards and the testing to meet the demands of the Common Core.  It's a bad idea that was copied from Florida, exactly like another one of his bills, and this did not go unnoticed by the Senate Democrats.

What Litzow has done, essentially, is picked up the gavel, pulled down his pants, and showed his butt for all the world to see, and as the  Democrats line up to kick it with aplomb you'll see those "reform" bills that do pass out of the committee be on strictly 6-5 party line votes, and I'm not sure what'll happen when Jerome Delvin leaves to go be a County Commissioner back home.  The members of the Majority Coalition will then be asked to make some absolutely terrible votes where they'll get zero Democratic support on the floor, and then those bills will die in the House.  If Washington really is an education reform backwater, the way that Senator Tom is fond of saying, it's only because Litzow's committee is working hard to set ed reform back 20 years.  Well done!

Other reading:

The Bush Foundation is reading out to the states
Corporate Interests Pay to Play

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