Saturday, December 05, 2009

WEWEE #4: Synthesis and Evaluation

Dear Lord, but was this ever a busy week on the legislative front. It was Assembly Days over in Olympia, when the members of the state House and Senate get together to hear what's up for the coming session in January, and the many, many committee meetings meant that the discussion of education policy was moving along fast and furious.

Item #1: The Quality Education Council. The final report that is supposed to be delivered to the legislature is coming together, and the televised meetings on TVW last week were pretty interesting viewing. Coverage from the League of Education voters here (Day 1) and here (Day 2).

The piece that got the most attention came right at the very end, when Sen. Joe Zarelli offered an amendment aimed squarely at collective bargaining:

Examine transferring local collective bargaining to the state, including all matters pertaining to compensation, benefits, and employment terms and conditions.
.....and now you've got the WEA gearing up hardcore to get that removed. The discussion happened during the Basic Ed Finance Task Force meetings, too--I remember having a conversation with Skip Priest about it that year--but it withered on the vine there. I'm fairly confident it won't get any traction here, either, but it sounds like the budget situation is making everyone a little bit nuts, so it's hard to say.

The pieces that I'd push you into reading from the QEC website:
  • The discussion document that Rep. Priest and Rep. Sullivan put together guided the discussion, and much like with the Basic Ed Finance Task Force you can bet that the final product will look much like what they have here. It morphs into the revised document (courtesy of the WEA; the QEC hasn't officially posted it yet, that I can see).

  • The Achievement Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee issued their recommendations as well, which I find particularly interesting if only for this:

    The AGOAC recommends that implementing instructional coaches be further investigated. The Committee questions the effectiveness of instructional coaches in increasing student achievement and closing the achievement gap. Data is needed to justify continued funding for this strategy. If this element is funded, the state needs to provide research-based guidelines for effective implementation.
    So what's the deal? Mentors and instructional coaches were two of the higher-ranked items put forward by the National Board Certified teachers during their policy symposium.

  • Lastly, and read this one again after the Governor's budget comes out, the Funding Formula Working Group put out their final report as well. I personally think that this is the make-or-break piece of the whole QEC--whether the financing comes together or not--and all the proposals in the world aren't going to add up to a warm bucket of spit until the revenue situation gets turned around.
Watch it all on TV Washington; it's worth your time.

(Aside: Randy Dorn had some thoughts, too.)

Item #2: The State Budget. At one point a few weeks ago the terror-inducing news was that the majority of the state budget was off limits to cuts because of either federal law or state commitments, leaving about $9 billion that could be touched. In that amount you'll find things like levy equalization, what's left of I-728, and the basic health plan. During the Ways and Means Committee meetings, though, we found out that the amount of money that could be touched was actually much less: only $7.7 billion out of the $31.4 billion budgeted for the bienium.

That's.......not good.

Coverage from the LEV here, Senator Lisa Brown here, the Washington State Budget and Policy Center here, and Publicola here. The EFF refers back to their 105 Days, 105 Ways project, which is worth a read, and for the most contrarian viewpoint of all, this post from Brainstrom on how there isn't even really a funding crisis.

The Governor is set to release her budget early next week, and she's talking about tax increases so that people don't get their diseased feet cut off, but even with all the talk going on I'm not convinced that these euphamistic "revenue increases" really have a chance of passing.

In passing:

Next week: conversation on the House and Senate education committee meetings, plus the Governor's budget roll-out.

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