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Spin Control

Posts tagged: Randy Dorn

Spec Sess Day 3: Education cuts blasted

 

OLYMPIA — School administrators, teachers, middle school pupils and college students pleaded with a Senate panel to spare many of the programs on the chopping block in a budget fix proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Some broke down in tears when they described state programs that kept them in school or returned them so they could graduate. One group of technical college students played a YouTube video in an effort to convince legislators that budget cuts now would darken the future for years to come.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn criticized Gregoire's plan to save $99 million in the General Fund by cutting four days from the school year in 2012-13 and another $152 million by rearranging the levy equalization system so that poor school districts get less and more affluent districts could get none at all.

“Cutting four school days is simply not going to help students,” Dorn said. “Kids deserve an opportunity to reach their maximum potential.”

Students from Renton Technical College played a video they produced called “Don't Cut the Solution” (above) which features those in welding, computer aided design, medical assistants, auto technology and culinary arts holding up signs that said they had been unemployed but can expect to be working, and paying taxes, when they graduate.

The committee's opening hearing on the budget was interrupted for about a half-hour Tuesday by protesters who demanded the committee abandon its rules and abide by their rules for a “general assembly.” Several of those protesters were escorted or carried out of the committee room before that hearing could continue.

There were no such interruptions Wednesday. The committee, which has primary budget-writing authority in the Senate, will hold a hearing Thursday afternoon on proposed cuts to state Social Service programs, Health and Long-term Care programs on Monday afternoon, natural resources and general government programs Tuesday afternoon.

If students aren’t learning, who’s to blame?

Whom do you hold responsible for the problems Washington schools have graduating kids who can read, write, calculate and be intellectually flexible enough to have a dozen careers before they retire?

Put another way, whom do you blame for the fact that nearly one kid in three doesn’t graduate from high school, and among those who do, some go to college thinking a hypotenuse is one of animals in tutus in “Fantasia” or a dependent clause is a dead-beat relative?

To read more, go inside the blog…

WA Lege Day 23: Gov v. SPI on education

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire made the pitch to unify the state's school systems from preschool to gradulate degrees under her office, even if it means getting rid of the state's elected school chief.

“This is not about one governor…This is about having one system,” Gregoire said in supporting a bill that would allow her to appoint a cabinet-level secretary of Education and create a department that encompasses all learning prorgrams in state schools and colleges.

The current Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn, made the pitch to keep an elected education leader.  “We need to do more. But I won't sit here and say the system is broke.”

The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee is considering several bills that would make major changes in school systems, including Gregoire's plan to consolidate all education under a gubernatorial appointee, and a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the office of SPI.

Some members of the Senate panel seemed critical of Gregoire's plan, wondering if it would create another mega agency like the Department of Social and Health Services. Not so, the governor said; DSHS has about 18,000 people, the education department she's proposing would have about 700.

Other members were critical of the current system. People complain the SPI's office “is like a dinosaur that can't be moved,” Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Des Moines said, while the dropout rates get worse and the achievement gap broadens.

Things need to be fixed, Dorn conceded, but the Legislature needs to accept some of the responsibility for the current problems. “We are cutting education,” he said.

But it's not solely about money, Chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, countered. The state has spent more on various programs over the years, but “there are many pieces that are still broken.”

Most speakers told the panel that some reform was necessary. But they disagreed sharply whether putting all education systems in one office, led by a governor's appointee, was the right reform.

The state needs the independent voice that a separately elected education official provides, Marie Sullivan of the state's association of school directors said. A member of the governor's cabinet can't speak against the governor's budget if he or she doesn't think it's adequate for education, Sullivan said.

But Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who sponsored the proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate the office, said the governor is recognizable in a way the education superintendent is not; putting the governor in charge of education would create a tool needed to improve it.

Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center said the governor needs the authority to make changes and by appointing the person in charge of all the state's education systems, voters “can better hold her accountable for improving education.”

Gregoire proposes education czar

Gov. Chris Gregoire explains proposals for education and higher education at a press conference Wednesday.

OLYMPIA — All of Washington's education systems and programs, from preschool through graduate degrees at universities, should be working together and overseen by a single office, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday.

Gregoire proposed creating the cabinet position of Secretary of Education — appointed by the governor and approved by the Legislature — and placing responsibility for the many “silos” of education at all age levels into that office. That would include the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, a constitutionally mandated official, elected by voters every four years, just as the governor is.

The state could eliminate the elective position, or keep it and have the OSPI report to the Education Secretary, Gregoire said at a morning press conference. “I'm comfortable either way.”

The current occupant of that office, Randy Dorn, is not comfortable with the idea. Wednesday afternoon he suggested it was a power grab by the governor…
  

Gregoire, others try to put best face on Race To Top loss

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire, Schools Superintendent Randy Dorn and others were trying to make lemonade Tuesday morning out of the federal government’s announcement that Washington didn’t make the list of finalists for Race To The Top.

All that work that was put into the application process can now be used as a roadmap to make Washington schools better, Gregoire, Dorn and state Education Board Chairman Jeff Vincent said in a prepared statement:

“When we put together our application, we were committed, win or lose, to making sure we would carry out education reform our way, the Washington way. Race to the Top enabled us to spend time creating a road map to our education reform efforts through a draft plan that reflected the work of many diverse groups as well as the good work started by our most recent education laws. We will finalize the plan this fall and use it to prioritize and allocate resources as we move ahead with our state education reform efforts.”

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, the chairwoman of the Senate Early Learing and K-12 Education Committee, also was putting the best face on it:“Although we were not identified as a finalist in the RTTT competition, we will not waver in our work towards successful education reform.”

And from Washington Education Association President Mary Lindquist:“…the steps we have already taken in preparation for Race to the Top money set a framework for investing in a stronger public schools system. The application process itself proves that we can and will continue to work together to continuously improve public education across Washington.”

Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center, issued sort of a “told  ya so” statement, calling Washington’s cut from the team no surprise. The bill passed by the Legislature didn’t allow for innovative or charter schools, she said, create a rigorous enough evaluation process for teachers, make it easy enough for the state to turn around failng schools or assign good teachers to poor schools.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan talked about a quiet revolution in naming the finalist states, she noted: “Well, that revolution has clearly not reached the borders of Washington state, which continues to trap generations of children in second-rate schools.” 

Race to the Top is a competitive program, and states have to submit plans to meet certain goals to improve their schools. Tuesday morning the feds announced that 18 states and the District of Columbia are finalists and move on to further competition for the $3 billion.

Dorn apologizes (sort of) for Cliff Lee comparison

OLYMPIA — State Schools Superintendent Randy Dorn is sorry he compared his salary to Mariners’ pitcher Cliff Lee’s salary last week.

Which isn’t too surprising, considering he’s been taking flak for it for the last week on talk radio and elsewhere. It probably doesn’t help that Lee is proving to be well worth his salary these days, what with last night’s third consecutive complete game victory. If Dorn put up numbers like that for school test scores or graduation rates, he might be able to get a raise, too.

The background: Last week at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing, Dorn was telling legislators it was time for the nation to rethink priorities and put more resources on education.

“I don’t want to tell you how many pitches my salary would pay for, for Cliff Lee from the Mariners. It would be embarassing. Somebody who’s responsible for a 1,050,000 kids. It would only add up to a few pitches,” Dorn said. “We have our priorities out of whack.”

“It should be embarassing to our state, and the citizenry of the United States, that we’re only willing to spend, basically, a half a game, to be responsible for 1,050,000 students.”

Gov. Chris Gregoire was asked this morning what she thought of Dorn’s comments, and she declined to get involved in comparing  the SPIs and ERAs. But she didn’t support giving out raises, either.

“Every family that I know of in Washington state is struggling,” she said. “Nobody that I know of in public or private sectors is expecting pay raises now.”

Today, Dorn issued a statement about his previous statement, insisting that he was merely trying to make the point that we need to spend more on education by comparing it with what’s spent on professional sports.

“Unfortunately I made the mistake of using my salary as the point of comparison.  It was a poor analogy and I regret using it,” he said. “But I don’t regret pointing out the absurdity of our current lack of commitment to education funding.  I strongly believe we need to reset government and actually dedicate ourselves to fully funding a basic education for every child in this state.  Our future as a society depends on it.”

So here’s the problem with the logic in today’s statement…

WA sends in its Race to the Top app

OLYMPIA — Washington has nearly 9 of 10 school districts signing on for the federal Race to the Top competition, hoping to get a total of $250 million in federal cash for a wide variety of education programs.

Gov. Chris Gregoire and Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn had a made-for-media event late Tuesday morning at Nisqually Middle School in Lacey to give the application a formal send-off. They have 265 of the state’s 295 school districts — covering 97 percent of the total students —  signed on.

A couple of months ago, there was some concern the state wouldn’t be able to submit an application because so few districts had turned in their paperwork. But it looks like that was mainly a function of waiting until close to the deadline.

Finalists for the program — it’s competitive, so the Deparemtn of Education will have to pick winners and losers — will be announced in mid summer, and the winners in early September.

For a list of the school districts, go inside the blog.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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