Monday, May 14, 2007

The WEA Legislative Report Card

The new issue of WE Magazine has the WEA’s take on how the legislature did with various issues during the last session. Their view:

Adequate school funding: C-

Eh. What the legislature provided falls short of the Conley Report and even Governor Gregoire’s own Washington Learns study, but it’s also undeniable that this legislature pumped $13.53 into K-12; see This Week in Olympia from the Washington Association of School Administrators for more details. My complaint about adequate school funding I’ll get to later.

Salaries: B-

A 3.7% COLA this year, a probable 2.8% next year, and an additional .6% each year for teachers in the majority of the districts in the state that weren’t grandfathered in when the state went to a single salary schedule. The complaint that many districts have is that the COLA only covers state-funded employees; if your position is funded by levy or federal funds, the district has to cover your raise through local monies, they say.

K-3 Class Size: D+

Asinine. OK, the legislature not codifying the 17:1 ratio that the WEA has pushed for hurts, but you can’t ignore the good they did in raising the I728 money from $375 to $450 dollars.

Health Benefits: C-

The WEA’s point is that the 3.5% increase to health benefits probably won’t cover the increasing cost of health care, but I think that’s a national problem more than it is a legislative one.

It’s also one of the most sensitive issues out there. Our superintendent has made some preliminary inquiries into looking into the state health plan through the PEBB, but when you even hint at touching the insurance people go nuts, and for cause. I don’t know how to solve this one, but it’s going to be a bigger and bigger issue as time goes on.

All-Day K: B-

The WEA had pushed for a 6 year phase-in instead of 10, but a) that’s a lot of money in a hurry b) the facilities might not be there yet for many districts, so time is a gift and c) let’s get some good evidence about whether Full-Day K works before we sink money into it statewide.

Pensions/Gainsharing: D

Apparently we don’t believe in Fs, because if any one area deserved it this is the one. Lisa Brown might be an economist, but she’s certainly no friend of anyone who wants to retire from teaching.

And let’s be blunt—the WEA gets an F here, too. We went into the session trumpeting a true rule of 85; we’ve come out with the retirement age being lowered to 62 and not much else. New employees can now choose between TRS 2 and TRS 3, but those of us who didn’t get to choose and were placed in TRS3 automatically get nothing....

Two Year Faculty Equity and Increments: A-

....and that’s why I’m going to go teach at Spokane Falls next year.

National Board Bonuses: A-

I’ll give them a little credit for letting a dissenting voice into the magazine, because later in the issue there’s a letter from a Dwayne Brecto of Grandview wondering why the WEA has pushed the National Board program so hard. There’s $5,000 here just for getting the certificate and another $5,000 possible if you teach in a high-need school, but is it worth it for the state? Why is the Union pushing so hard for bonuses that only benefit a select few?

ESA Salary Credit: B+

Math WASL: Incomplete

This one’s already been run through the media pretty thoroughly, with the Governor “refusing to punish kids for the failures of the system” and delaying the graduation requirement for 5 more years. A cynic might suggest that we’ll be fighting this same battle 5 years from now.


The text from the magazine:

Substitute Senate Joint Memorial 8011 urges Congress, the president and Gov. Chris Gregoire to work together to improve and fully fund ESEA, the so-called No Child Left Behind act.

Consider that for a moment. A purely symbolic act that will likely go nowhere gets an A, but raising the I728 money gets a D+. Hooray for fluff, and to hell with substance. That's not a good thing.

Sex Ed: A

You can get the full story on this bill here, here, or here. The rather funny thing is that the magazine put this one under the heading of “Improving Student Achievement.”

Simple Majority: A

Yep! It was a process, and the process isn’t over, but getting the simple majority through to a vote of the people is a big, big deal.

ESP Positions: A

Eh. The state has lowered the funding ratio for paras from 1 for every 60 students to 1:59, at a cost of nearly $26 million dollars, but does it go far enough?

Education Funding Review: B

Oh, hell no. F, F, a 1000 times F. I can’t remember the name of the legislator who listed the name of all the different funding studies that had come and gone in the years he’d been in the legislature (Schoesler, maybe, out of Ritzville?), but the idea that we need another funding study is just insane. How will this one be any different than the last one, or the one before, or the one before?

Four Year Colleges and Universities: B
Apprenticeships: A

Union Free Speech: A

House Bill 2079 clarifies an ambiguous law governing the free-speech rights of educators. The bill defines “use,” clarifying that when labor organizations spend money on elections, the revenues from other sources beyond agency fees collected must exceed the cost of those political expenditures.

If that’s the clarification, I’d hate to see the confusion. Oy vey.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Health benefits.
You hit the nail on the head. However, I've seen WEA whipsaw policymakers by fighting tooth and nail for the public to absorb the skyrocketing costs of health benefits without reducing services--only to fight the next year because those evil capitalists stiffed teachers on their last pay raise.

NB Cert
Again, I agree. I think NEA/AFT see NB cert as removing pressure for performance pay. I also think they are behind the creation of it. Finally, if we ever were to get a federal certification (which would serve NEA and AFT well), then this would be the obvious precursor. Maybe I'm suspicious but it explains the fervor with which this thing gets pushed.

Sex Ed.
Where is their rhetoric on local control, classroom professionals having a say in their content and unfunded mandates?

Ed funding review.
Yep. Punting--plain and simple.


2:59 PM  
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6:54 AM  

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