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WEA members focus on putting kids first and funding McCleary

Jared and Camlyn

WEA members Jared Kink and Camlyn Tafa asked their legislators to uphold the state Constitution and amply fund public education.

Dozens of WEA members descended on Olympia Tuesday with a simple message for their legislators: Follow the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision and increase funding for K-12 public schools.

“Now is the time to make sure our kids get what they deserve,” said Mary Lindquist, WEA president.

After five years of budget cuts and the passage of major education reform bills, WEA members told legislators to put kids first and increase funding for our public schools. That means reducing overcrowded class sizes and expanding all-day kindergarten.

“We told them, ‘We’re teachers, and we’re here to educate you,’ said Sonya Langford, a University Place teacher. “They all agreed that reducing class sizes makes sense.”

For the most part, Langford’s legislators listened. But how will they vote?

Washington’s class sizes are fourth-most-overcrowded in the country, and Washington ranks a woeful 43rd in per-student spending.  In the last five years, the Legislature has cut $2.6 billion from K-12 schools.

Read the court’s McCleary decision and its December, 2012 admonition of the Legislature.

Today (Jan. 30), instead of discussing how to fund McCleary and our children’s education, the Senate K-12 and Early Learning Education Committee debated bills that make additional policy changes but do nothing to improve class sizes, provide all-day kindergarten or increase school funding. Sens. Rodney Tom, Steve Litzow and Steve Hobbs are among the sponsors of these four bills:

  • SB 5328 would require giving each public school a letter grade based on student test scores and other factors. The grade would determine whether teachers received a performance bonus. “New unfunded policies are not what best addresses our kids’ urgent needs,” said WEA Lobbyist Wendy Rader-Konofalski. (Complete testimony)
  • SB 5237 would require schools to hold back third-graders based on test scores and to provide them remedial services, but it doesn’t guarantee funding and it ignores earlier reform legislation.
  • SB 5242 eliminates fair due process for teachers by allowing school districts to fire certain teachers without cause (scheduled for a hearing Feb. 1).
  • SB 5329 would require the state to take over struggling schools, but provides no funding and ignores the successful, collaborative work taking place in schools with federal School Improvement Grants. “SB 5329 provides no additional funding and destroys entire school communities in the hopes that outside entities know better than the educators, administrators and parents at a school.  Research does not appear to indicate that state take overs work,” WEA Lobbyist Lucinda Young told the committee. (Complete testimony.)

At the same time, one of WEA’s legislative priorities is moving forward. Next week, the House Education Committee will hear House Bill 1293, the Parent Right-to-Know bill. It requires school districts to publicize how much time and money is spent on student testing.

Other bills related to student testing include HB 1015, which removes passing the state high school assessments as a graduation requirement, in addition to eliminating tests that aren’t federally required. WEA supports the bill.

Yesterday, WEA members testified against House Bill 1303, which would extend huge tax breaks to successful high-tech companies.

“How do we attain a world class education? We pay for it,” said Julianna Dauble, a Renton teacher and parent, and a member of the WEA-PAC Board.

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