Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Where the action is on education reform

The Washington Senate, led by Democrats Senators Tom and Sheldon and all the Republicans, is having substantial discussions about improving lower education and raising funding (used to be K-12, now pre-12). While in the House they are talking about raising funding and there is a shortage of other ideas, according to Peter Callaghan of the Tacoma News Tribune.

In the Senate, ideas long blocked by Sen. McAuliffe, are being heard - revised grading of schools, allowing principals last word on their staff (Shock!) and last-gap intervention for kids who can't read at the end of 3rd grade. And Democrat Hargrove has a bill with some improvement ideas. Seattle Times

And the Senate listened to a professor who shows there is no correlation between funding and educational outcomes. More money doesn't help unless it goes in the needed places. Washington Policy Center and WPC#2.

Callaghan says the Democrats, after leading on education reform for decades, gave the ball to the Republicans. Tacoma News Tribune

The turnaround is nearly complete. The party that birthed the education reform movement in Washington state is now the anti-reform party.

An issue that combined good policy with good politics has now been ceded by Democrats to Republicans. An issue that began as a response to the achievement gap between the rich and the poor, between white and Asian students and children of color has devolved into issues of public employee unions and conspiracy theories.

This is puzzling because it was Democratic governors beginning with Booth Gardner who put political capital behind the drive to stop accepting the status quo of mediocre public schools. Each governor since has embraced the reforms – some more warmly than others.

Sure, Washington has only had Democratic governors since 1985. But Democrats in the Legislature worked with like-minded Republicans to pass the first reforms in 1993’s House Bill 1209. That law created statewide learning requirements and tests to measure those requirements.

Subsequent attempts to hold adults, not just kids, accountable for performance, to use data to measure what works and what doesn’t, and to stop accepting failure would not have succeeded without leadership from Democrats...

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