House Bill 2111: Same Song, Third, and hopefully final, Verse

Carlyle, Santos, Pettigrew, et al are trying one more time to push through unproven education reform items by way of House Bill 2111.

First there was House Bill 1443, then Senate Bill 5914 and now this bill.

I am still wondering why how we educate our children should be determined by state or federal legislation, by many people who know nothing about education let alone public education, by politicians who unfortunately for the most part determine their course of voting based on who puts the most money in their pockets.

The course of action that a school district takes should be determined by the immediate members of the community and led by educators and parents, not by politicians. That being said, let’s look at Bill 2111.

First they want to determine what a prototypical school should look like in terms of graduation rates and funding. Prototypical for Seattle or the Tri-Cities? For Tacoma or Walla-Walla? For Garfield High School or our only alternative/option high school in Seattle, Nova High School which is at most half the size of Garfield? Whatever funds are available, they should be provided to the districts and the district should be allowed to determine where the money will go.  Considering that graduation rates are usually directly related to poverty rates, it’s obvious where the money should go.

I want to see money going to our schools but let’s do this in a way that is logical and not determined by those who are not in touch with our schools on a daily basis.

But let’s get to the meat of this bill, it is the edicts of Race to the Top but without any funding. These requirements are costly in terms of dollars and disruption and have not worked so far in any other state including Chicago where these ideas were first implemented.

This is the wording of that portion of the bill:

The local district superintendent and local school board of a school district designated as a required action district must submit a required action plan to the state board of education for approval.

A required action plan must include all of the following:

Implementation of one of the four federal intervention models required for the receipt of a federal school improvement grant, for those persistently lowest-achieving schools that the district will be focusing on for required action. However, a district may not establish a charter school under a federal intervention model without express legislative authority. The intervention models are the turnaround, restart, school closure, and transformation models.

In other words, according to the requirements of Race to the Top which is no longer being funded, the intervention models are:

“Turnaround” which means firing half of the school staff and principal and hiring new staff and a principal. In any “low-performing school” I don’t see how that would make a difference. If we instead focus on what the teacher needs and ensuing that our teachers and principals are supported, that the students are ready to learn by supporting the families, then you are addressing the issues. Firing teachers and a well loved principal does nothing but disrupt a community that needs stability more than anything else. A good example of this is what happened in Central Falls last year. And what do you do in less populated communities? Where do you get qualified teaching staff to replace fired teachers? And the answer is not Teach for America recruits.

“Restart” is converting a public school into a charter school.

“School Closure” is self-explanatory and again only causes disruption in communities that need stability. In Seattle we have neighborhood schools and right now in many communities we do not have enough classroom space so this alternative would not work in addition to causing unnecessary upheaval.

“Transformation” is replacing the principal and determining performance of students, and therefore teachers, by test scores.

According to this bill, a district would have to apply for a SIG, School Improvement Grant, or another grant that is not described to pay for any of these actions.

But there’s more. According to this bill:

For any district designated for required action, the parties to any collective bargaining agreement negotiated, renewed, or extended after June 10, 2010, must reopen the agreement, or negotiate an addendum, if needed, to make changes to terms and conditions of employment that are necessary to implement a required action plan.

Renegotiating and more than likely weakening the protections and status of teachers who are a part of a union. What I have found so far with this zeal to break the backs of the unions and therefore the waning middle class in this country, is that if they, corporate interests, can’t get to these workers and professionals one way, they’ll try it any other number of ways.

Until this bill is free of ploys to implement disastrous “transformation models” it should not be passed.

This bill is in front of the Ways and Means Committee today so please contact your representatives and let them know what you think.


Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown:

By Phone:

Olympia Office – (360) 786-7604

Spokane District Office – (509) 456-2760

Legislative Hotline – 1-800-562-6000

By E-Mail:

House Speaker Frank Chopp
Olympia phone:(360) 786-7920

Senator Rosemary Mcauliffe, Chair of the  Early Learning & K-12 Education
(360) 786-7600

Senator Maralyn Chase              (360) 786-7662

Senator Nick Harper                     (360)786-7674

Representative Bob Hasegawa   (360) 786-7862

Senator Adam Kline                          (360) 787-7688

Senator Sharon Nelson                (360) 787-7667

Here’s a list of House Democrats. If you click their photo, it will take you to their web page with contact information.

House of Representatives Member E-mail List

Senate Member E-mail List