Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Education Year-End Awards for Washington State

The Hulk Hogan Heel Turn Award:  
Senator Rosemary McAuliffe

Late in the summer the federal Department of Education, which has been absolutely hostile to teachers without an ounce of push-back from the NEA or AFT, told Washington State that we needed to "strengthen" our evaluation laws or else we'd lose our waiver from the most pernicious effects of No Child Left Behind.  This caused Superintendent Dorn to go slightly mad and grow Olympia's worst mustache:

......but it also guaranteed the eventuality that there would be legislation this upcoming session to mandate that student test scores were a part of a teacher's evaluation, never mind that the tests are changing RIGHT NOW along with our adoption of Common Core standards.

So, who was going to do the dirty, disgusting deed, destined to damn them to the WEA forever?  Rodney Tom, who's been gung-ho about this idea for years?  Steve Litzow?  Bruce Dammeier?

That would be State Senator Rosemary McAuliffe (D-Bothell), on whom the WEA spent about $125,000 to help beat back primary challenger Guy Palumbo and beat down general election opponent Dawn McCravey during a really hot 2012 contest.  Stand for Children spent more than $200,000 trying to defeat McAuliffe with some of the most negative mailings you'd ever hope to see, and a year later she's on TV in a segment with Stand for Children talking about her shiny new evaluation bill.

The policy is stupid--an angle that Publicola missed--but the politics is just insane.  This is someone who is nominally the teacher's best friend, the kind of politician we point to when signing people up for WEA-PAC, an award winner, someone we doorbelled for, someone we've made TV ads about:

....and the payoff is a kick in the teeth when Senator Tom shepherds this bill through with a big grin and a thank you to someone who really should have known better.  The state is going to bend over backwards to implement a bad idea at the behest of a lousy federal administration, and there's no good reason why.  Pbbbbbbt to you, Rosemary.

The "I Really Hate the Reykdal Family!" Award: 
Representative Cathy Dahlquist

It started on Valentine's Day when Kim Reykdal, a counselor for the Olympia School District, went to the Education Appropriations Subcommittee as part of a panel to give one of those perfectly innocuous "We have a meeting scheduled, let's put something on the agenda!" presentations that happen throughout the session.

After giving her spiel the committee chair opened things up for questions, leading to this eyebrow-raiser from Rep. Dahlquist:

"I have children, they're juniors and seniors in high school, and I can tell you that they went K-12 without ever really seeing a counselor.....It's very difficult for some of us to see the value (of counselors) for those kids who are just regular kids."

That's right--regular kids wouldn't ever need to access a school counselor.  This is a former president of the Enumclaw School Board talking, folks.

11 days later Rep. Chris Reykdal goes to that same committee to speak on behalf of a bill he prime-sponsored on paying kids to work in agriculture programs, where he is promptly met by Rep. Dahlquist asking some of the most bizarre questions ever posed during a committee hearing--the fun starts at about the 10 minute mark:

 HB1276 did eventually pass the House 89-8, only to die a lonely death in the Senate.  The vote on final passage created the odd partnership of Matt Shea and Reuven Carlyle being 2 of the 8 to vote no; Rep. Dahlquist was one of the many, many yes votes.  Whoddathunkit?

The "Can We Blame Obamacare for This? No? Crap." Award:
The Washington Education Association 
and Premera Blue Cross

It's perfectly swell to have your name attached to things.  I, for example, have a classroom.  It's a nice classroom, with windows and everything, and when people say, "That's Mr. Grant's room!" I'm more than happy to agree and take ownership, because it doesn't actively hurt me to say, "Yep, that's mine!"

On the other hand, if my classroom featured a portal to Hell at the back of cubby #7, faucets that ran red with blood, and a whiteboard that screamed whenever you tried to write on it, I would disavow that room and seek to hang my shingle somewhere else.

That's my entirely appropriate lead-in to the fact that there's a WEA-Premera health insurance plan, and this September if your benefits coordinator looked grumpy it was probably because everything about that plan sucked ass this fall.  Things were in a giant state of flux anyhow because of changes mandated by the legislature, and when on-line enrollment got added onto that the system basically collapsed.  If this was just Blue Cross, or just Premera, they'd take all the heat.  When it's WEA-Premera, though, it makes my union look foolish.

The "I Spoke Truth to Power, Power Told Me to Fuck Myself" Award:  
The Washington State School Directors Association

If you read this, you probably also read the Legislative Update put out by the Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA).  Their February 24th update (since edited!) was a dandy as it talked about some of the reform-minded legislation that was still alive at the time, namely retaining 3rd graders and giving schools letter grades:
This legislation is part of a national push for model legislation supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council.  Bill sponsor:  Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup.

This legislation is part of a national push for model legislation supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council.  Bill sponsor:  Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island.
 Now, if you're Steve Litzow, and you like to make a show of being moderate, you'd just as soon not have yourself linked to ALEC, even if it's glaringly obvious that the bill THAT YOU FILED has language cribbed from Jeb Bush's Florida and being pushed around the country.  So maybe you make a phone call, or you have Rodney make a phone call, and you say, "Hey, remember how in previous years we had a proposal to make membership in WSSDA optional?  Fuck you, that's back."  So the next day you backpedal like an NFL cornerback with this:
In the February 24 Legislative Update, references were made linking bills in the Les Misérables list and their sponsors to “model legislation proposed by the national organization American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).” This link between bills and ALEC model legislation is incorrect, and WSSDA sincerely apologizes for the error.
That's the way Olympia works--hell, my union had to apologize for leaving a flaming bag of doody on Steve Hobbs' doorstep--but I think it also goes to show you that, despite all prostrations to the contrary, the Majority Coalition Caucus wasn't really all that interested in being different than the Democrats were when they had power.  And speaking of people who didn't handle power well......

The Peter Principle in Action Award:  
State Senator Steve Litzow

It's been eminently clear that one of the big reasons--perhaps the biggest reason--that Rodney Tom switched parties was because he really, really hates Rosemary McAuliffe, and that's what made Senator Litzow the chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.

He simply wasn't ready for the job.

The good Senator tries to wear a big grin with his bipartisan bona fides, but his committee kept crapping out some of the most anti-teacher, anti-education legislation that has ever been countenanced in this state.  What's notable is that of the 16 education-related bills that Senator Litzow prime sponsored this year, exactly 1 went on to be signed by the Governor, and even that was only after it was completely overhauled by the House.

Senator Tom (R-Medina) is promising that education reform will again be a hot issue during this short 60 day session coming up, which is going to once again put Senator Litzow in a prime position, but it's not easy being the tip of the spear when you're dull.

The Education Person of the Year Award:  
Randy Parr

I've had more false starts on this section than I've had on anything I've ever written, and it's because of the level of respect I have for the guy in question.

I thought first about trying the "Lobbyists are like lawyers, everyone hates them until you need a good one!" line of thinking, but that kept leading me to "Randy Parr is just like Thurgood Marshall," and I don't know that he'd appreciate that.

Similarly, I thought about comparing him to some of the other lobbying professionals I've come to know from hours of watching TVW--"Say what you will about Randy, but he's got a better haircut than the guy from the Association of Washington Cities!"--but that's a joke that works for about 5 people in the world.

Instead, I'm going to go with regrets.  As a local president I get asked sometimes just what the point of WEA membership is.  It costs a ton of money, after all, and my members don't always see the tangible benefits linked to that big outlay every month.  I wish that I could show all of them this piece of video:

.....and make them understand that when our retirement plans were under attack, it was Randy Parr of our lobby staff who gave some of the best testimony I've ever seen and won the argument for us.  When there have been technical committees looking at the formulas for salary, retirement, or student funding, it was our budget lobbyist Randy Parr who had to get into it up to his neck to maneuver through all the numbers and come out the other side with legislation that was good for our schools.  We've got an outstanding Government Relations office that often toils in anonymity, but I will loudly sing their praises to anyone at anytime, and Randy has been a big part of that.

This year, Randy retired.  My hope for him is that he's sitting by the side of a lake somewhere with absolutely no thought of politics, because he's earned that.  The work that Randy Parr did for all of us for years improved the life of every public school employee in the state--even those who are represented by a different union, or no union at all--and I thank him for it.

Read more here, if any.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Because Research is Haaaaaaaaaard

In August I did a post about some terribly slanted research from the Washington Policy Center.  I never really expected to hear anything about it again, but lo and behold the inimitable Mrs. Finne has provided an update:
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction contacted me today, November 21, 2013, with additional information about Duty Root 61. The staff  explain that, in addition to public employees who are paid to work for unions, Duty Root 61 could include teachers on paid administrative leave because they are under investigation.  Here is the official definition:  "Duty Root 061:  Certificated on Leave - An individual on paid certificated leave from the district other than normal vacation leave or normal paid sick leave. Includes union representatives."

OSPI staff say they do not know how many employees are on paid certificated leave because they are working for unions or because they are under investigation, so a breakdown of the 60 people I report here is not possible without contacting each individual on the list.
Yeah, I'm calling shenanigans.

When that post first showed up in my Facebook feed it didn't take me 10 minutes to Google some of the most obvious discrepancies on the list (Mabton with a full time president? Really?) and find out that Liv's initial assertion--"New research by Washington Policy Center shows public education funds are being diverted from school budgets to pay the salaries and benefits of executives at private labor union"--was being built on a foundation of shifting sands.  She's at least amended the web page--but not the printed report--to show that there's more than a little gray here, but the whole "is not possible without contacting each individual on the list" is just silly when you consider that this whole contretemps began with data that was reported by the school districts to OSPI....

....so why not just ask the school districts?  There's only 39 of them, and they're all listed in the school directory, so why not take the research to the obvious conclusion?  This isn't a difficult bit of action research to do, and it could be interesting data to have what with the legislative session three short weeks way--go for it, Liv.  It might be edifying.

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Monday, December 23, 2013

I've Spent the Last Four Months Doing Nothing but Reading BuzzFeed Posts

When the guy from Duck Dynasty gets in trouble for saying stupid things about how blacks had it better before the Civil Rights movement, Conservatives be like:

But when Joe Fitzgibbon says something stupid about Arizona, they're all:

Meanwhile the rest of the world is pretty much:

Labels: , , , , , ,

Read more here, if any.