Teacher evaluation bill goes down, putting $44 million of school funding at risk

In a session when there’s been a lot of talk about education funding, what with the McCleary decision and an impatient state Supreme Court, a sensible tweak in how the state uses teacher evaluations should have been easy. The Washington Alliance for a Competitive Economy (WashACE) makes clear what’s at stake.

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats – joined by some conservative Senate Republicans – pulled the rug out from under students by defeating a bill that would ensure Washington’s school districts retain control of $44 million in Title I federal funds, which support programs for low-income students.

SB 5246 would require student test scores to be one of multiple measures used in evaluating teacher performance. The U.S. Department of Education, working under the federal No Child Left Behind law, has warned Washington state that, if it does not comply with this requirement, school districts will lose local control of $44 million in Title I federal funds. Current state law says test scores “can” be used in teacher evaluations. That word needs to be changed to “must” for school districts to retain control of the Title I funds.

WashACE makes the right point.

The federal No Child Left Behind law isn’t going away and the federal government is unlikely to waive this requirement. Protest votes against federal mandates will only negatively impact our students. And lawmakers who resist holding teachers accountable for student growth are doing so at the expense of the our state’s children.

Lawmakers need to do what’s best for students [and support a sound teacher evaluation process and protect the $4 million].

The News Tribune editorial board agrees that the measure is necessary.

 …the waiver depends on adoption of the “must” language of Senate Bill 5246, which now stands rejected. ..

This isn’t just about federal money. More important, it’s about moving schools into an era where performance can be measured and compared, and classroom problems can be diagnosed and solved. Students deserve no less.

TNT columnist Peter Callaghan explains the politics and the policy,