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!

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.


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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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.

Read more here, if any.

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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Saturday, February 02, 2013

Rep. Norma Smith Nails It, Unintentionally

When you travel in my district, and when you sit with job creators that are hanging on by a thread....they're worried.  When consumers don't know what tomorrow holds, in terms of what's coming down from us, they worry.  It impacts decisions in families. -- Rep. Norma Smith
I agree with the good representative from the 10th Legislative District, and I would encourage her and everyone else involved in governance to understand that teachers feel that uncertainty, too.  When the Senate is looking to throw on more, new accountability, to change an evaluation system that was just changed last year after being introduced in 2010, when they want to make the new 3rd grade Common Core-aligned test a high-stakes test where one bad hour for a kid could mean one year of their life--that's uncertainty.

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