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Eye On Olympia

Posts tagged: teachers

Teachers, unimpressed with a much-touted bill to redefine basic education, have this to say…

Teachers and their union are profoundly underwhelmed by House Bill 2261, which passed the Senate yesterday with much fanfare. Proponents say the bill is a path to the biggest overhaul in school funding in decades — billions of dollars —  but Republicans and the Washington Education Association point out the bill includes no money source. Here’s the WEA’s video take on the situation, with a little help from Tom Cruise.

Basic education bill: the details…

In a bill closely watched by schools advocates, the state Senate plans to vote on — and presumably pass — an amended version of HB 2261 this afternoon.

“We’re working with the governor and members of the House to agree on a bill to responsibly reform and retool our educational system,” Senate education committee chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe said in a statement about the proposal. “It’s critical that these reforms are meaningful and phased in over time to actually achieve and maintain progress. But we cannot disregard our current economic climate, particularly as we make drastic cuts to our schools, colleges and universities and eliminate health care coverage for tens of thousands of people.”

I wrote about some of the political tension around this bill in this morning’s paper. The short version: the state PTA and others are pushing to redefine basic education (which the state must pay for), while the state teacher’s union says the real battle should be trying to stave off a billion in cuts right now.

Here are some highlights from the Senate version of the plan:

-Redefines basic education: increases instructional hours from 1000 to 1080 a year, phased in over years. “Opportunity to complete 24 credits” for high school graduation. New transportation funding formula phased in, beginning in 2013.

-More: definition will include all-day kindergarten, phased in at highest-poverty schools first. Also, money for gifted students. It also starts down the path toward expanding early learning for at-risk kids.

-Prototype school: The amended bill will create a standard “core allocation” to base school funding on, including enhancements for gifted students, advanced placement and spelling out staffing levels in law. It would take effect in 2011.

-Timeline: The new definition of basic ed would be fully in efffect by 2018.

-Accountability: the state board of education would have to set up “a system to identify schools for recognition and additional support.”

-Teacher certification: the state Professional Educator Standards Board would have to “adopt performance standards for effective teaching and recommend other modifications for educator certification.”

And here’s the key part, especially in the eyes of the Washington Education Association:

-“Revenue: Not addressed.”

 

Thousands of teachers laid off? A look at the House budget and “trickle-down pain”…

A day after the Senate, House lawmakers proposed a budget plan that cuts much deeper into higher education but spares K-12 education from some major cuts.

The House plan would strip $683 million from colleges, even while raising tuition at four-year schools 10 percent a year.

“We are asking them to take the biggest cut” despite the fact that the schools are engines of innovation and worker retraining, said Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton. “They will have to do the hardest work to figure out how to get through these tough times. But I know they can do it.”

The Senate plan, which would cut $513 million, is estimated to mean 2,500 fewer higher education jobs. House officials wouldn’t put a number on their proposal, saying they would leave it to the individual colleges to meet budget targets.

As for K-12 schools, the House would cut $625 million, compared to the Senate’s deeper $877 million in cuts. Much of that money would come from a voter-approved measure designed to shrink class sizes by hiring more teachers.

But even under the House plan, Haigh predicted, many teachers will lose their jobs.
“If we can keep other funds whole,” she said, “maybe we won’t lose more than 3- or 4,000 teachers.”

A top Senate budget writer, Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, also estimates that 2,000 state workers will lose their jobs.

“This is not a very pleasant day for any of us,” said House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler.
Lawmakers will spend the next few weeks agreeing on a final plan.

State spending would still rise

Both budgets total about the same: $32.3 billion, compared to the $33.7 billion budget approved two years ago. That doesn’t include $2 billion to $3 billion more in expected federal help. And both the House and Senate budget would reduce state pension payments by hundreds of millions of dollars and use millions more in long-term construction dollars to support the operating budget.
In other words, the state will still be spending significantly more in this budget than in the last one.

“We now know where the Enron accountants turned up: writing this budget,” said Rep. Doug Erickson, R-Bellingham, criticizing the fact that that the federal aid wasn’t included in the budget.

“Today we got the status quo,” said Erickson, indicating the House budget. “We’re going to borrow more, we’re going to spend more, and we’re going to pass the debt on to our kids.”

He and other Republicans say the budget crisis was a chance for long-term spending reforms, but that majority Democrats resisted that. Over the past 4 years, state spending rose $8 billion. Republicans argue that the state must overhaul state spending to ease the burden on taxpayers and businesses.

“It’s really hard to imagine people who are having difficulty meeting payroll in their small businesses, and yet our state employees have one of the richest health care plans that’s out there,” said Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. “I find that just amazing.”

House budget writers said Tuesday that they tried to preserve basic education and the state’s social safety net, as well as state-subsidized health insurance for kids.

Taxpayers are likely to be asked for a tax increase to help avoid some of the cuts, said Rep. Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham. But what tax and how much have yet to be worked out.

Wherever possible, Haigh said, lawmakers want to set a budget amount and let school districts, state agencies and colleges figure out the best way to meet it. Many wanted that flexibility, lawmakers said.

“There was trickle-down economics,” said Haigh. “Well, this is trickle-down pain.”

UPDATE: Local higher-ed breakout:

How the House and Senate budgets would affect local universities:

Locally, Eastern Washington University would fare about the same under either plan, with about an 18.5 percent cut from what it would cost to maintain current programs. Washington State University would lose 17 percent to 18 percent. The deepest cuts under either budget would be at the University of Washington, which would lose $134 million under the House plan.

Teachers greet governor with inauguration day call for better school funding…

Shortly before Gov. Chris Gregoire’s inauguration day speech today, hundreds of teachers, parents and school officials held a rally just across the street.

Their message: despite the state’s budget shortfall — which Sen. Joe Zarelli on Wednesday suggested could rise to $7.5 billion over the next two years — education is not the place to cut.

“We’re not here for us,” one organizer said. “We’re here for the kids.”

The president of the state teachers’ union, Mary Lindquist, reminded the crowd of a similar rally held on the same ground, same day, 6 years ago. Some things, like who’s governor, have changed since then, she noted.

“The one thing that hasn’t changed is that our classrooms are still underfunded and our students are still not getting the resources they need for their future,” Lindquist said.

She blasted those who suggest that, given the state’s economic crisis, schools should be happy with the money they’re getting.

“Those people are wrong,” she said. “We must say to them that this is the best time to invest in education.”

She urged teachers and school advocates to make sure Olympia hears that message.

“You have staked a righteous place to plant your feet and stand firm,” she told the crowd.

Look for lots more demonstrations — state workers, teachers, advocates for the poor — in the coming weeks.

Teachers greet governor with inauguration day call for better school funding…

Shortly before Gov. Chris Gregoire’s inauguration day speech today, hundreds of teachers, parents and school officials held a rally just across the street.

Their message: despite the state’s budget shortfall — which Sen. Joe Zarelli on Wednesday suggested could rise to $7.5 billion over the next two years — education is not the place to cut.

“We’re not here for us,” one organizer said. “We’re here for the kids.”

The president of the state teachers’ union, Mary Lindquist, reminded the crowd of a similar rally held on the same ground, same day, 6 years ago. Some things, like who’s governor, have changed since then, she noted.

“The one thing that hasn’t changed is that our classrooms are still underfunded and our students are still not getting the resources they need for their future,” Lindquist said.

She blasted those who suggest that, given the state’s economic crisis, schools should be happy with the money they’re getting.

“Those people are wrong,” she said. “We must say to them that this is the best time to invest in education.”

She urged teachers and school advocates to make sure Olympia hears that message.

“You have staked a righteous place to plant your feet and stand firm,” she told the crowd.

Look for lots more demonstrations — state workers, teachers, advocates for the poor — in the coming weeks.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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