"I continue to support a no-new-taxes budget that streamlines state government. This approach prioritizes public safety, transportation, education and safety-net services for our vulnerable citizens. At the same time, we must fundamentally change our budget process. For example, a constitutional spending limit, a balanced budget requirement and a system in which extraordinary revenue generated in good economic times is set aside. These are just a few proposals that would prevent current budget problems from ever happening again."
1) How do you prioritize public safety AND transportation AND education AND the safety net? It's kind of an either/or deal, innit?
2) I've read all of the House Republican ideas to help the budget process. There's some good thinking there. Not a one of them can make a difference this session, though.
3) Will Rep. Skip Priest and Rep. Glen Anderson, two of the signatories to HB2261 which would remake education, back off of that bill now given the size of the deficit and the costs incumbent in that bill?
"The Yakima Valley School is hanging in the balance as the Senate proposes to close the school, while the House proposes to keep it open. Putting out our most vulnerable from a high-care facility is not the way to solve our budget problems.
The best article I've read on the Yakima Valley School is here; my own district used to have a similar facility. I think that the community-placement advocates have gotten a bit out of hand; watching the testimony at the Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing yesterday was heartwrenching as the relations of people at YVS testified as to the good it has done. The school should stay open, but again--$9,000,000,000 is a lot of money.
"Our state faces tough choices and needs budget leadership. I believe this includes restructuring state government and focusing on priorities such as education, public safety and the protection of our most vulnerable populations."
I think someone in the communications department was getting in a bit of a rut.
Watching the advocates for the Developmentally Disabled and their clients lobby to try and prevent cuts to their programs is really hard to do, especially as the father of a daughter who stands to access those kinds of services in a few years.
There is nothing good about this budget.
That said, I'm awfully surprised to see so many advocates for DD saying "Thanks!" for closing Yakima Valley School. I understand the belief that community based care is the best, but why close off an option?
"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." -- Winston Churchill
The RIF/Layoff situation statewide is getting intense. In my neck of the woods, Eastern Washington, there are 11 districts that have already committed to reducing staff next year, and I think that number could easily triple (or more!) after the Senate and House release their budgets next week. In my home district the Superintendent has told all the provisional teachers that they may not be invited back next year because of an impending million-dollar budget hole that needs to be filled.
I'm sympathetic to thoughts like those expressed at What It's Like on the Inside, where The Science Goddess questions why seniority is the be-all, end-all in deciding who stays and who goes in a budget crisis. It's an idea expanded upon by old nemesis Marguerite Roza here, but the devil is right there in the lede:
K-12 school districts that lay off personnel according to seniority cause disproportionate damage to their programs and students than if layoffs were determined on a seniority-neutral basis.
The trouble I have is that if you're going to be neutral on seniority then you're going to have to decide who stays and who goes based on other factors, and that's when things really fall apart.
Consider the state salary schedule; a teacher who is "maxed" makes $64,887 a year in base salary, while a new teacher only takes home $34,426. If you need to save $100,000 you'd have to RIF three new teachers to get over that bar, while you'd only need 2 advanced teachers. For $500,000 in savings it's 15 new teachers, but only 8 senior teachers. Clearly, there's less disruption to program if you fire the tier-I people first. But in its own way, isn't that layoff by seniority? If you go to the top of the seniority list to save money--and I absolutely believe that there are administrators in this state who would love to do that--then you're targetting the senior teachers for making more money, which is just as capricious as seniority.
This EdWeek article gets into the idea of tying teacher "effectiveness" with layoff, but that way madness lies. How do I do that for the psychologist, the PE teacher, the Math Coach, or the nurse, all of whom are in my bargaining unit? If the worst teacher in my district is the speech pathologist, a layoff isn't going to help that situation because she's also the first one to be called back into that position.
Similarly, who validates "effectiveness"? Last year when there were three teachers new to the grade level the other senior teacher and I took on most of the toughest kids so that the new folks could have a softer landing, and that's the responsible thing to do. If doing the right thing puts me in position to get fired, I'm not going to do the right thing any more.
Layoff by seniority may be the worst way to do it, but it's better than all the other alternatives.
1/6th of school districts on the brink of bankruptcy?
No direct link available, but this is from the email that the Spokane Library Moms send out to their supporters via the Washington State Library Coalition listserv:
The library issue really symbolizes the failure on the part of the state to fully fund basic education â€“ but as we all know, this goes far beyond school libraries. How bad is it? Yesterday at a hearing in Olympia, State Spdt. Randy Dorn testified that "42 school districts (14% of districts statewide) are on the brink of insolvency."
I have a hard time believing that. Can anyone point me to the source material?
For Those Attending the PoliSparks Conference in Olympia This Weekend
My name is Ryan Grant; I'm a first grade teacher in Medical Lake, president of the Medical Lake Education Association, WEAPAC Chair for WEA-Eastern, and for the purposes of this workshop (and in the eyes of Ann Randall :-) a political blogger of some small note.
I've been writing here at I Thought a Think for 3 years now. It started as a bit of a lark--everyone was doing it, so I will too!--but since then I've really come to see the power that blogging and other internet communication can have as a tool to get the message out. Having the blog has opened up contacts for me with people involved in education that I wouldn't have made otherwise, and for everything that I've put into it I've gotten just as much out.
Below, then, I'm sending you on a bit of a treasure hunt to show you some of the resources that I use when I'm working on my own blog projects. There'll be some video, there'll be some audio, there'll be lolcatstwitteringmemes. Hopefully it'll be educational for you, the same way it has been for me. Please follow the links freely, and have fun doing it!
Part I: Why Blogs Matter
See the PI.
Print, print, print, says the PI.
See the PI....die?
I'm a longtime lover of newspapers; they're how I learned to read, and while it may sound rather trite growing up in small-town Washington (Rochester) they really could take you places that you wouldn't otherwise be able to go. This post at The Stranger from the day that the closure of the PI was announced is a rather stunning look at that moment in time.
And then the Seattle PI went online only, the biggest newspaper in the country to do so. The model that they're apparently running with is to be an online aggregator of other content that is found on the 'net, with some small bit of original reporting thrown in from the few staffers that they have left. Broadband access is becoming more ubiquitous by the day, the reasoning goes--if people are opening their laptops in the morning before they would even think to open a newspaper, then isn't being on the internet better?
Hence, blogging. The immediacy of the internet can be a blessing in getting a message out; take, for example, the League of Education Voters, the anti-school group trying to ram HB2261 through the legislature. They've done good work in liveblogging events like House Education Committee hearings and important votes that give a sense of vitality to the issue being covered that simply can't be matched by dead-tree media. By the same token consider what happened to the Washington State Labor Council last week, where a scandal over an email that killed their most important bill was thoroughly dissected by both the left and the right before the first drop of ink was ever spilt.
The take home here? Something I tried to do around HB1410/SB5444 was to get reasons out there, quickly, why they were bad bills and inspire people to respond. At the link above I was able to get a reason out and have it sitting right next to an email link to the legislators to let their voice be heard, and it worked--Statcounter showed that when people "left" the site it was typically to go and send an email. You can't reproduce that experience with a newsletter, a newspaper, a rally, or a flyer.
Rich Wood and Simone Boe have also been doing great things with the group set up on Facebook; it was originally designed to fight against 1410/5444, but has now evolved into a more general group on the budget crisis with almost 1,600 members. Consider that; people opt-in to join the group, meaning that they want to be there, and that creates an instant list of folks who you know are receptive to the message.
The website that I use for my blogs is Blogspot, because it was the first one I found when I googled "blog" at the beginning. Coincidently Blogspot is owned by Google, so let's hear it for corporate synergy!
Blogs are almost always automatically indexed by your major search engines, and the "labels" function is also useful if you want to categorize your posts a certain way. I also have a script called StatCounter installed--a tracking cookie--so I can see who's been coming, who's been going, what brought them to my page, how long they stayed, if they've ever come back, etc. It's a real kick in the pants when you see that your blog post has been noticed by someone else, who comments on it on their web page, which moves traffic your way. Again, synergy.
So as y'all think about starting your own political blog the piece that I'd ask you to think about is voice--what tone do you want to take in your communication? I've given you some examples below; which ones best match your personality?
Voice #1: Snark. A shortening of "snide remark," think of snark as the insult comic at the Celebrity Roast who rips the target up and down. Long knives drawn, on the attack, true snark can be a bee-yoo-tiful thing to behold.
Th snarkiest snark on the internet is found at Wonkette, a pleasent alternative universe where everyone is a drunken version of James Carville and has something really funny and really wrong to say. Consider this recent post on the gloriously stupid AIG debacle, which is an update on the current legislative session wrapped up in profanity with a "Go f- yourself" ribbon on top.
For a local example take a look at Horse's Ass, a blog that started with the wonderful initiative to officially label Tim Eyman a horse's ass. They also do a hell of a podcast.
Voice #2: The Storyteller. One of the best blog posts I've ever read from one of the best bloggers around was The Nice Man Cometh at New York City Educator; whenever people talk about alternative routes into the classroom, this is the piece of writing that I point to. NYC Educator is one of the best at taking those slice-of-life stories from the classroom and turning them into (sometimes damning) indictments of the system writ large, and that can be one of the most powerful tools in the internet activists arsenal. Mrs. Bluebird and Dr. Pezz are two more who share their classroom stories while also keeping an eye on the larger prize, and it's a neat thing to see.
One of the basic tenets of lobbying is that the legislators respond to the personal stories, those anecdotes that really drive home what legislation means. With the impending cuts to the school budget, there's so much that could be done to share how the decisions made in Olympia will impact teachers, students, and parents in the schools.
When you think about your school, what story would you tell to answer these questions:
How does class size matter?
Why does compensation matter?
How did ProCert impact teachers new to the profession?
Why should we care about National Certification?
When you think of a kid who had a good turn-around in life, what was it that helped him get right?
Voice #3: The Wonk. This is, perhaps, the toughest one to pull off convincingly. The Science Goddess at What It's Like on the Inside (a Washington State blogger, too!) isn't a fan of teacher's unions but is always interesting, topical, and has a depth of knowledge in her field that really shows. She presents frequently and is this able to break down sophisticated ideas into bite-sized pieces, which makes her an easy read.
Or, going right to the original, EduWonk, aka Andrew Rotherham, who used to have a position in the Clinton White House as an education advisor and still keeps his ear close to the ground on the big education issues of the day.
The trick to being the wonk is taking something obtuse and opaque, like state law or taskforce recommendations or the lyrics of Morissey, and making it easily understandable. I've been working for a week now on a post about the impact that the new legislation coming out of the Basic Ed Finance Task Force recommendations would have on regional salary adjustments for education professionals here in Washington State, and when the summary is four lines long you can imagine what it's like when you really explain it.
Not that every blog necessarily needs a "voice", mind you. These are only the ones that I've identified that are used to make a point; there are plenty of blogs out there that are simply sharing their day-to-day lives and having a great time doing it.
The absolute best way to follow blogs is Google Reader. By entering the names of blogs of interest you can be notified automatically when they're updated, which saves you from having to check them yourself, and the ability to "star" posts that are especially interesting is handy for when you want to go back and comment on something yourself.
Are you on Facebook yet? If not, think about it. When you hear people talk about Web 2.0 and social networking it's platforms like Facebook that are the next step in the evolutionary process of on-line organizing. Plus they have Bejeweled, which is every bit as addictive as crack cocaine.
And in the "It works for me, maybe not for you" department--Microsoft Word. Typing into Blogger proper has never really felt all that organic to me, so I type most of my posts into Word and then transfer them into Blogger after I've given them some time to digest.
That's it from me. I regret not being able to be there with you for this workshop--my daughter's health made it impossible for me to get away for the weekend--but I hope that the two days were enjoyable for all of you, and here's to political action!
Ed Reform Bill Offers Low Class Size, Additional Funding, Indentured Servitude
HB2261, the omnibus education reform proposal championed by Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina), was the primary topic of his town hall meeting this past Saturday during a break from the legislature.
Rep. Hunter touted many of the merits of the bill, including a plan to redefine the definition of basic education, implementing the Core 24 proposal to add more rigor to the high schools, and forcing teachers into a life of involuntary slavery for a period of "between 5 to 7 years."
"All of us on the Basic Ed Finance Task Force worked hard to develop positive, pro-kid and pro-parent solutions to the crisis in education," said Rep. Hunter, "and we've developed a clear blueprint on how to do that: prototype schools, regional salary differences, and random beatings of anyone holding a degree in education."
"I know that the proposal has a high price tag, but remember that time is money, and by giving teachers 10 additional work days I'm giving them more time, so that's pretty much the same thing, right?"
Across the county at his town hall meeting Sen. Fred Jarrett (RD, Mercer Island) continued on the theme of reforming teacher salary.
"Hard work is it's own reward, and with these changes I look forward to rewarding teachers twice as much. When they're forc.....er, encouraged to pursue National Certification to get to the top of the salary schedule, I'm sure they'll all be thanking me."
"Of course I'm sure," added Sen. Jarrett. "Only someone with absolute certainty on their side could be as cocksure as I am."
When asked for comment WEA president Mary Lindquist replied with a stream of expletives unfit for publishing on a family blog.
Washington State Labor Council Leader Promises "Not One Penny More" to McDonalds Until He Gets His Chicken McNuggets
A visibly angered Rick Bender, president of the Washington State Labor Council, spoke to reporters outside an Olympia area McDonalds today, promising that the restaurant would not receive "one penny more" of his money until he received the 9-piece Chicken McNuggets that he had ordered, along with "not less than 2" packages of honey mustard dip.
"This clearly demonstrates the need to raise the minimum wage, invest more in worker training programs, and allow these fine young men and women to collectively bargain," said the labor leader, "because if they can't tell the difference between me asking for chicken mcnuggets and a grilled chicken, then management has won and all of us, the American people, have lost."
Bender's language was oddly similar in both tone and substance to a controversial email that lead Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, House Speaker Frank Chopp, and Governor Chris Gregoire to kill labor's #1 priority bill, the Worker Privacy Act, which was vehemently opposed by business interests.
Added Bender, "Until McDonalds gets their act together, my solidarity will lie only with Wendy's."
Legislators Declare Spring Break
Deciding that they had worked hard and put in "a ton of hours," Speaker Frank Chopp and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown announced today that lawmakers would be given the week of March 23rd to March 27th off as a spring holiday.
"Look, we've been putting in a ton of hours," said Speaker Chopp as he was packing his bags in his Olympia area apartment. "I know the budget's not done, but people need to chill the hell out."
"I mean, have you seen Hans Dunshee lately? Christ."
Rep. Dunshee, the chair of the House Capital Budget committee, wore a speedo and little else during a hearing this afternoon, causing Rep. Marcie Maxwell (D-Mercer Island) to move for an early adjournment that quickly and unanimously passed on a bipartisan vote.
Said Dunshee, "SPRIIIIIIIIIING BREAK! SPRING BREEEEEEEEEEEEAK! WOOO WOOOO WOOOO!"
Republican support for the spring break idea was more limited. Sen. Mark Schoesler of Ritzville gave it his grudging support, acknowledging that, "the combine could use some work," while Rep. Richard Debolt of Chehalis expressed concern that there wasn't really much of a Nascar race to watch this week.
The legislature will reconvene on Monday, March 30th.
The League of Education Voters Isn't Being Honest Again
Over at their blog they're talking about the education reform bills, and they have this to say about HB2261 (emphasis theirs):
Also this week, Gov. Chris Gregoire said she would not sign an “education bill that puts in a new definition of education without the funds to pay for it.”
In fact, HB 2261 would not impose new burdens on our schools now. It would phase in reforms over time beginning in 2011. The bill would fund the changes by dedicating a portion of the state’s growth in revenue to basic education.
Let's point out first that the second piece of the quote doesn't at all negate what the Governor said; allotting unspecified revenue towards a bill like HB2261 that's going to cost *billions* of dollars is not the same as funding the bill.
The fact remains, though, that the schools this year are looking at being axed by $1,000,000,000 +, and passing a bill that will immediately cause more education money to flow-through to OSPI (new data system!), the Professional Educators Standards Board (redoing certification, again!), and the State Board of Education (new accountability system!) is, in fact, adding cost to the system IMMEDIATELY and guarantees that more money will be tied up in Olympia-level fiddling while the rest of the education system burns.
Right now education money needs to be in the schools, not feathering the bureaucratic nest.
Strategies: *Expand alternative pathways for subject-area experts to become teachers. ... *Revise and strengthen the state's definition of Highly Qualified Teacher to require an academic major in the subject area being taught.
Don't those seem kinda mutually exclusive?
Take the oft-cited theoretical engineer, who majored in engineering. She might be a math wiz, but if that wasn't her major it would seem that the LEV would deem her to be NOT highly qualified.
Similarly, the computer sciences. Most of your Microsoft engineers weren't math majors, even though they might be pretty sharp at it, but under what the LEV proposes here they wouldn't be HQ to teach math, either.
I'm not against alternate pathways; if they fill a need and they get good people into the classroom, that's a happy thing. But it's hard to see how you can promote both alternate pathways AND subject area degrees, because there's quite a divide between the two.
Just got a statement from Governor Chris Gregoire, House Speaker Frank Chopp and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown: The so-called ‘worker privacy’ bill is dead and there’s now an investigation over whether an e-mail “linking potential action on the bill to campaign contributions” broke the law. The “worker privacy” bill was listed as the labor unions’ top priority this session — and among the top bills to quash on a list from the Association of Washington Business. The bill would have barred employers from requiring employees to sit through meetings about religion or union matters.
That's more than a little bit of a cock-up, Big Labor.
Earlier today, the Senate took action on its three unfunded mandates bills: SB 5880, SB 5889 and SB 5890. Each bill would delay, suspend or repeal a series of education unfunded mandates. Each bill was adopted today with amendments; however, we specifically want to make you aware of an amendment that was attached to SB 5880. Sen. Rodney Tom was successful in adopting language that would repeal current law provisions that school directors automatically become members of WSSDA. In arguing on behalf of his amendment, he said that this was needed to ensure school districts have the flexibility to decide for themselves whether or not they will be members of the Association. He also argued that larger districts were not adequately represented by the Association — even though WSSDA's own membership recently approved of major changes to our weighted vote structure. Ironically, WSSDA made these changes following an internal review that was prompted by pressure from then -Rep.- Rodney Tom.
Sens. Rosemary McAuliffe, Mary Margaret Haugen and Steve Hobbs each asked their colleagues to reject the amendment because WSSDA provides the services and training that school directors need to be effective. Sen. Hobbs strongly said that this amendment would ultimately hurt small districts because they can not afford any other representation in Olympia. Unless an oral roll call is requested, amendments are adopted by a voice vote in the Senate. When the vote was taken, there was some doubt as to which side prevailed; however, a division was called for (essentially a "standing vote") and 33 senators voted to accept the amendment. As SB 5880 moves to the House we will have to work with legislators there in an attempt to have this potentially crippling amendment removed.
You can read Sen. Tom's amendment here; TVW Washington video here, starting at about 39:30 in. Fun quote from Senator Tom:
"WSSDA is geared towards the smaller school districts. It's very undemocratic in the way they take their votes."
Fun quote from Senator Haugen:
"It sometimes gets to be the country mouse versus the city mouse down here."
It's obvious, then--school board members need an agency fee payer option.
....because with the state budget cuts, if the levy had gone down, you might as well have closed down the school district, kicking me out onto the streets where I'd become a wino passed out on the sidewalk who'd you have to step over on your way into businesses, so it's just better for everyone this way.
I went to the dentist today, and the Dow went up almost 380 points. Clearly the American people are concerned about my dental hygiene, and knowing that I was making use of my taxpayer-funded insurance was a comfort to them all (the American people, that is). I can see now that I am only a prostate exam away from getting the market back to 10,000, and I promise you, the people, who are Americans, that I will make that sacrifice for you.
Expect the embedded video next week.
And yes, you can probably take the word "embedded" a couple of different ways in the above sentence.
Majority party ignores Angel's sex offender GPS monitoring bill
Port Orchard lawmaker calls on public to keep measure alive
Despite repeated requests for a hearing on a bill that would provide global positioning system (GPS) real-time monitoring of certain sex offenders, Rep. Jan Angel says her calls were never returned by the committee chairman. Angel says the bill might be dead this year, unless the public responds to keep it alive.
House Bill 1834 would require electronic GPS monitoring of all Level 3 sex offenders and sex offenders who are registered as homeless, transient, or have a prior conviction of failing to register.
"We have an opportunity to protect vulnerable citizens with new, effective technology, and yet the majority party completely ignores this legislation. How can majority leaders turn a blind eye to those who have been victimized by sex offenders?" asked Angel. "Weeks or months from now when another sex offender strikes, how do we tell the parents of a child who has been victimized, and whose life has been changed forever, that we could have helped to prevent it through GPS monitoring, but obviously it wasn't important enough to even warrant a hearing?"
Eryk's Law, first introduced and co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, was passed today off the floor of the House of Representatives. Eryk's Law (House Bill 2279) was heard and voted out of the public safety committee just Friday, March 6. It was approved by the full House 96-0.
If signed into law, the bill would require a review of sentencing guidelines for child abuse convictions and prevent child abusers from working with children under the age of 13 in a paid or volunteer capacity.
The humour that I find in this is that these two posts to the House Republican RSS feed are literally right next to each other in Google Reader.
But please, Rep. Angel, before saying that the majority party doesn't care, ask caucus mate Mike Hope how things are going for him.
On October 23rd, 2006, Rush Limbaugh got himself some attention when he said Michael J. Fox was faking his Parkinson's Disease:
The market closed that day at 12,116. Since then it's lost 45% of its value. Clearly the American people were so shocked by Limbaugh's insensitivity that they stopped paying their mortgages, starting the housing crisis that ruined the economy.
WHY ISN'T THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA PUTTING THE BLAME WHERE IT BELONGS?
On the day that the last episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was aired, the Dow closed at 13,422. Since then it's lost more than 50% of its value. This clearly demonstrates that the faith of Americans was shaken when this quality TV program was prematurely taken off the air, because correlation really does equal causality no matter what all the eggheads say.
Clearly, we must bring back Studio 60 if we're going to bring back the economy.
I think that one of the big problems with teachers is that we're way too willing to sit back and let things happen to us instead of being proactive, so during parent/teacher conferences this week I went ahead and took the bull by the horns and told 50% of my class that they were being laid off.
Confusion, of course, was understandable. Many of the families that I fired were under the impression that they had some sort of "right" to a quality public education. One ridiculous wag even suggested that it was some sort of "paramount duty" for the state of Washington to fully fund public schools, but I think it's understood by all that the state constitution is meant to be a living, breathing document, and that most of us don't really know what "paramount" means anyhow, so what's the fuss?
It was hard on me, as their teacher, to watch these sad little first graders clean out their cubbies and return their school-issued glue sticks, but in these tough times I just can't keep on all the people that I taught before. Sure, having the campus security officer walk all the families out to the parking lot and order them off the school grounds immediately under threat of tresspassing charges maybe, maybe was a little over the top, but I have to look at the big picture, and the big picture right now is that me and the 12 kids who made it through this round of cuts are going to be OK.
I'm finding it very easy to sacrifice other people's educations to improve my own lot. I can see now why Olympia is finding it very easy, too.