Saturday, February 23, 2008

Teacher COLA to Full-Day Kindergarten: I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! I DRINK IT UP!

So on Wednesday the great news comes through that the House supplemental budget has a 1% COLA increase for teachers, on top of the 3.9% we get from I-732, and many districts will also receive an additional .7% catch-up to match the grandfathered districts. Oh happy day! Caloo, Calay!

But then the other shoe dropped, and I read that the additional COLA was going to happen because the roll-out of full-day Kindergarten in more districts was being postponed.

And that's not the way it should be.

I was part of the lobby team for the WEA this year. I sat with Senators and Representatives and explained to them that the COLA was important. I took a tip and didn't refer to it as the Dino cuts, because they weren't. I worked hard to sell that proposal--all of us in Olympia did--but I wasn't representing the product I thought I was.

These are the moments that make us as a Union look terrible. "Didjya hear what the God damn teachers did? They cut kindergarten for poor kids so they could get a raise! Have they no shame?!"

It looks like we're standing on the backs of the neediest kids so that we can reach up and grab more money, and that's unconscionable. After fighting hard to get full-day kindergarten going last session we put a stop to it this session for the sake of a few dollars more, and that's shameful. It looks like we put the dollars ahead of the kids in the most egregious manner imaginable, and that's embarrassing.

The thing is, this is still a mistake that can be rectified. The Senate releases their budget here in a few days, and my hope is that they'll keep the full-day K phase-in the way it is AND enhance the COLA a bit. Money's tight, sure, but it's doable, and that's what I hope our lobbyists will be suggesting.

Appearances matter. We still have time to come out of this looking good.

Check out the most recent This Week in Olympia for more information.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Feel the Union Love

A University in Michigan tosses out their union, the AAUP. This probably isn't because of the failing auto industry.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

John Merrow and Jim Webb on the GI Bill

If you use ITunes, subscribing to the John Merrow Education Podcast (see here) is a great way to spend your time. I've praised their work before, and the newest posting where they interview Senator Jim Webb on what the GI Bill means for our veterans is a brilliant program.

Man, I love podcasts. I wish Terry Bergeson and the EFF would pick up the pace.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mr. Grant Goes (back) To (the state capital of) Washington

Our second WEA lobby day was Monday (for info about the first, see here), and it was another good time. I was able to meet with Don Barlow and Alex Wood, stopped by and chatted with the aides for Bob Morton, Bob Sump, and Joel Kretz, and had a very nice conversation with my friend in the Republican caucus.

Both of our class size bills died in their house of origin. HB2458 made it out of the Education Committee before failing to get a hearing in Appropriations; SB6376 suffered a similar fate in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. In the legislative conferences I had I tried to play up the construction angle (i.e., "Sure it's really expensive, but $200 million of that is infrastructure and jobs!"), but I pretty well knew that there was no chance a bill with a price tag like that was going to see the light of day.

People higher up the food chain than I think that we still have a shot at getting a COLA catch-up. I'm not entirely sure--if the revenue forecast due on Friday isn't good, then I think the odds are really slim--but there's always hope.

If you ever have a chance to do lobbying work, it's a kick in the pants. Seeing the process up close is educational, and it's invigorating to go and speak on behalf of a bill that you believe in. I look forward to doing more of it next year.

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Let Me Tell You About Your Genitalia

The nurse came up to me yesterday with a sheepish look on her face.

"Ryan, I'm sorry, but you're the only male staff member left in the building. Would you be OK with teaching the unit on puberty and sex to the 5th grade boys?"

Oh, Christ. I knew this day would come. After our male psychologist and male principal left, and the one other male teacher in the building followed close behind, it was only a matter of time.

I considered drawing on my first grade experience and teaching the kids with Petey the Penis Puppet, but the Title teacher pointed out that could have the potential to scar the kids for life, so I guess I'll play it straight-up direct instruction.

It should give me a fun blog story to tell, at least.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Carnival of Email #3: Yet Another Freakin' Snow Day Edition

We lost our seventh day of school today. At this rate I'll need to ready lesson plans for the 4th of July.

So, to pass the time, here's another installment of the Carnival of Things in My Email Box. Enjoy!


The RIAA is getting slapped again for the way they find students to sue for file sharing. Whenever I read a story about the RIAA I'm always reminded of one of my favorite Onion stories, Kid Rock Starves to Death.

Professors have it better than your average schoolteachers. You can get a sense of that from reading this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education where one recent PhD in Economics talks about his hiring process.

One of the difficulties I have getting content onto the blog is that I don't make writing a priority. It's with the best of intentions--being a father and a husband always should come first, after all--but I really liked what I read here about appointment writing. The column is written by a professor at Eastern Washington University, so you know it must be good.

The description of this audio clip from NPR says it all:

Matt Miller has a radical but simple proposal to improve the nation's public schools: federalize funding to eliminate disparities in per-pupil funding between poor and affluent communities. He also proposes a single set of federal standards for math, science and reading, instead of letting each state set its own standards. Scott Simon speaks with Miller, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
It's an impossible, unconstitutional idea, but isn't that the way it usually goes for the fun ones?

The above link came from the Edutopia newsletter, which is easily the most multimedia of all the newsletters that fill my email box. It's a definite recommend for anyone interested in schools.

A study out of Arizona State University says that the "dropout trajectory" can start as early as kindergarten. I'm not sure that what they're saying here is new--we've long known what the correlates of dropping out are--but the way they're saying it is certainly eye-opening.

Out of Cincinatti, the usual editorial on how gifted kids are often overlooked in the schools. I think that if we want to encourage excellence we need to fund excellence; the state of funding for gifted and talented programs is abysmal.

The Association of Washington School Principals does a very nice job with their online newsletter. It's great for anyone interested in school leadership in Washington State.

Democrats like No Child Left Behind too. Given that Ted Kennedy has signed on with the Obama campaign, it seems reasonable to suggest that there wouldn't be a whole lot of change in the law should be be elected president.

Education Week's On Special Education blog is a very well-written look at both special ed and gifted education. Their Digital Directions insert has an interesting audio interview with Chip Kimball, the new superintendent of the Lake Washington School District, who used to be the district's CIO.

Back down to Arizona, where they're spending tens of thousands of recruit kindergarteners. Hooray for the free market?

The Washington Post looks at the movement to extend the school day and year as a way to increase student learning. To me it's a question of mandates--there's no way to teach everything that needs to be taught in a 6 hour day, so either give me more time or tell me what not to teach.

At the Chronicle of Higher Ed they're bemoaning the loss of the loveable eccentric on our University campuses. Support the cause--be weird!


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Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Teacher Petitions the Legislature

This year I was selected to be a part of the Legislative Action Team (LAT) for the council, based on participating in the WEA-PAC meetings and my interest in politics. The LAT team is there to go to Olympia and talk with the legislators from our area, and they were thrilled when they found out that I live in the 7th legislative district, because they’re not known as being the easiest guys to lobby about education. We went over two Wednesdays ago for our first lobby day; some thoughts from the trip:

*As I was going through security they flagged my bag; I had forgotten the new rule about the toothpaste tubes having to be 3.4 ounces or smaller, so my brand new tube of Crest ended up in the garbage. It had to, or the terrorists would have won.

*Drowned my sorrows with a $6 rum and coke from the airport bar while we waited for the plane to load. Looking back, I’m pissed at myself for spending $6 on a mixed drink.

*The flight over to Sea-Tac was good. We ate dinner at an Asian restaurant in Federal Way, then made our way down to the Governor Hotel in Olympia. I wandered down the street to buy newspapers and crashed for the night.

*Up bright and early the next morning. Planning time with all the other LAT members to hear again what the priorities for the session are (compensation, class size), and then we were sent forth to do good.

*There’s one fat-ass teacher in this world who’s really let himself go, because the walk up the hill from the hotel to the capital building had me winded.

*Growing up in Rochester, and being so close to Olympia all my life, I didn’t really appreciate just how beautiful and incredible the capitol is. When you go inside you’re amazed all over again. What a great building!

*Our first stop was the Senate hearing building to hear testimony on SB6376. Just as I signed in the porter closed the door and sent us down the hall to an overflow room where we could listen to the hearing over the loudspeaker. My name was read into the record as being in favor of the bill, so now I’m an insider.

*After that we were kind of looking around at each other, because the first lobby appointment anyone in the group had wasn’t until 12:15, and our piece of the Senate hearing from above was over by 8:20. We decided to go and scope our where our appointments would be, so it was off to the John L. O’Brien (JLOB) building.

*There’s Representative Sump’s office. There’s Representative Kretz’s office. There’s the House Republican Caucus staffers office, which matters for reasons I’ll get into later. Huh. Here we are.

*So we consult our handy legislative guide and see that Senator Morton’s office is “INB 115.” That certainly has to be the Insurance Building, so across the campus we go.

*Thank you, Mario, but our princess is in another castle! INB stands for Irving Newhouse Building, but instead of going over there we decided to head back to the Capitol Building and stop in on our friend Chris Marr. He was in committee, and his aide was visiting with a group of high school kids lobbying about recess, so we hung out and checked out the pictures on the wall until she was done.

*Back to the JLOB. The others in my party go to check in with Representative Ahearn; I step in to the aforementioned staffer office to meet with a friend who has a great handle on school policy here in Washington State. We chatted for a bit, then he was nice enough to walk me over to the Capital.

“I’m sort of persona non gratis with the WEA, you know,” he tells me, “because of the WEA-PAC lawsuit.”

“Hey, you’re aces with me!” I say, and then I get back with my group.

“Who was that? Wait…I know who that was. Where do you know him from?”

I felt rather like Alex Rodriguez when he came back to Seattle the first time.

*We waited outside the Senate chamber for a bit, then we actually got to go out onto the Senate floor (not the main part, mind you—the side, under the balcony) and talk with Senator Marr. He’s a great guy with a really keen mind for the issues; I’m happy to have been able to work with him the last year or so. I’m so new at this that being that close to the floor was still a heck of a thrill.

*Lunch break. I went over to Senator Morton’s office and left a note for him about SB6199, which would have mandated that mail-in ballots be postage paid. Sadly, Senator Morton’s aide told me that he was withdrawing the bill because the county election officers were worried about how to pay for it. That’s a shame—I really liked that idea.

*My continuing mission to find a copy of OSPI’s budget and a list of the people they have personal service contracts with hit an annoying snag when I realized that the OSPI building was one block over from my hotel, and that I could have gone over there first thing in the morning. Next visit, then.

*As I’m getting in an elevator I notice some yahoo standing in the hall with a 10-gallon cowboy hat. “Look at that guy!” I think to myself, until I look closer and realize it’s my cousin, who’s the lead lobbyist for the Cattlemen’s Association. Hi, Jack!

*1:00 has come, and it’s time for me to sit down with Representative Kretz. Showtime. This is the big one. The very fate of the public schools depends on what I say right now. No pressure.

*Truly, no pressure. Rep. Kretz is a very nice guy who asked a ton of questions about our proposals. He’s also great on farm issues, and as the husband of a dairy farmer that gave us a good connection. He talked about how being fiscally conservative meant that he often had to vote against bills that he liked because of their cost, and I appreciate that viewpoint as well. I look forward to seeing him again in the future.

*And that was that. I wasn’t able to get together with Senator Morton or Representative Sump, but I did have meetings with Senator Marr and Representative Kretz, along with the lead policy analyst for the House Republican Caucus. It felt really good to participate in the process on that level, and I look forward to doing it again.

*The day was beautiful. I’ve got a super picture on my cell phone of the Capitol with a crystal blue sky behind it. The temperature was in the upper thirties or low forties, which felt like spring to someone from Spokane. The flight back was similarly gorgeous. Just a great day to be alive.

And that’s my lobbying report.

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Diner Dash II was 1000 Times Easier Than the Original


A guy who spends too much time on his cell phone because his wife keeps ignoring his obvious hints to buy him a DS

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Oh, Janae....

So back in those halcyon days of the Simple Majority initiative, Sen. Janae Holmquist said that we should vote against it because it was the state's job to fund basic education.

And yet, here she is voting against SB6376, which would lower class size in grades K through 3, because it's too expensive.

Oh Janae. When it comes to education, what do you stand for?

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A Neat Video from Ed in 08

I was looking around for a place to compare the candidates on education and happened across Ed in 08's website, where they have a very entertaining video looking at the state of United States education compared to the rest of the world. It's well worth your three minutes:

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The Guy Who Blogs at I Thought a Think is an Idiot

Just beating you to the punch. ;-)


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Anyone Who Cares About Education and Doesn't Vote for Mitt Romney is an Idiot

Third Rail~!

One more interesting tidbit from this week's Education Gadfly is their look at how the new Governor of Massachusetts is planning to change with the state academic standards, which have been highly rated in the past. In fact, nearly every report you read will have Massachusetts up near the top in every education metric.

That being true, should teachers support Mitt Romney for president? I mean, sure, he supports charter schools, wants to give home schoolers a tax credit, and is a big proponent of merit pay, but he's also gotten results. Or is giving him credit for success in Massachusetts more than he deserves, because of how the state operates as a whole?

As far as I can see there's no one left in the contest who has the education record that Romney does; does that matter?

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Jonathon Kozol is an Idiot

Sez the Gadfly:

Gadfly was still a bit groggy from the holidays when this fine piece about Jonathan Kozol appeared in the Weekly Standard. The article traces Kozol's development, from failed novelist (an excerpt of his book Fume of Poppies: "The white of her belly was lovely and gay. The fire beat at us."), to teacher in an affluent Boston suburb, to Communist sympathizer, to angry old man. It's a sad story, really, about someone who has talents but simply squandered them, preferring to rail against private schools and those many decent people he perceives to be racists than to actually help improve the squalid state of inner-city classrooms.
Education Next agrees, as does the Weekly Standard.

As a good Dem Kozol should probably be speaking right to me, but the one book of his that I did try to read (Shame of a Nation) seemed like an awful lot of fluff and very little substance.

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Garrison Keillor is an Idiot

So I read his commentary in the Chicago Tribune, and this statement is dumb on many, many levels:

There is much evidence that teaching phonics really works, especially with kids with learning disabilities, a growing constituency. But because phonics is associated with behaviorism and with conservatives, and because the Current Occupant has spoken on the subject, my fellow liberals are opposed.
Really, Garrison? Show me any Democratic platform that rails explicitly against the teaching of phonics. Show me any speech by any elected Democrat where they've stood tall and said, "Because George Bush likes phonics, we don't! Nyah!"

And Garrison, friend: the reading wars are over. Phonics and whole language both have their place in the classroom, and in most schools that's what you're seeing. Whole language still has its rabbis (Regie Routman being one of the most prominent), but any teacher will tell you that phonics has more than earned its place at the table. Why else would all those Lake Wobegon kids be above average? It's good phonics instruction, natch.

(via the Education Gadfly)

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