Victory for teachers’ union – defeat for local schools

One of the more critical things left undone in the waning hours of the legislative session was the failure to make necessary changes in the state’s teacher evaluation program. TNT reporter Melissa Santos explains.

Washington lawmakers adjourned Thursday without changing the state’s teacher evaluation system, which probably means Washington will lose its waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, education leaders said.

With the failure of legislation to address the waiver issue, “We have to assume the waiver is gone next year,” said Alan Burke, deputy superintendent of K-12 education for the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

That means local school districts lose control of some $40 million in federal aid targeted to low-income students. You’ll recall that the governor had hoped to retain the waiver without changing the program. A meeting with U.S. education secretary Arne Duncan changed his mind.

The Washington Education Association opposed the reform.

“A single test does not measure student growth, which every teacher knows,” said Rich Wood, a spokesman for the Washington Education Association.

Last Sunday, The News Tribune editorial board said rejection of the money would not sit well with voters considering local levies.

Kissing off $40 million a year, when education officials are pleading poverty, could be hard to explain. Poorer districts need that money. Tacoma Public Schools alone stands to lose $2 million.

The editorial concluded:

Lawmakers can find excuses, run out the clock, stay on the good side of the teachers union – and throw away those millions of dollars.But for the local schools they’d be putting at risk, the consequences may be greater than anyone realizes.

An inexplicable legislative lapse in what one lawmaker has called the post-McCleary era. How odd is this? So odd that a teachers’ union lobbyist for once says the money doesn’t matter.


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