Author: Liv Finne (Page 1 of 3)

In One Minute, George Will Explains Dangers of Common Core

As we’ve seen, Common Core is meeting increasing resistance from parents and educators across the country.  George Will explains why.

[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog.]

King County Judge Upholds Washington State Charter School Law, Permits Continued Implementation

This morning Judge Jean Rietschel upheld Initiative 1240, the voters’ charter school law, clearing the way for Washington’s first charter schools to open next fall.  Her ruling rejects claims made by Washington Education Association, the state teachers union, and the League of Women Voters, that Initiative 1240 violates the state constitution.

Judge Rietschel held the charter law is part of the constitution’s general and uniform system of schools, because the law does not require all schools to be identical.  She did hold that the provisions of the charter law which describe charter schools as common schools are unconstitutional, for lack of local voter control, making them ineligible to receive state matching funds for construction. However, she severed these provisions of the law, allowing the Washington State Charter School Commission and Spokane Public Schools to proceed with their work to open charter schools to Washington’s students next fall.

[Reprinted from the Washington Policy Center blog]

Is Superintendent Randy Dorn Planning to Underfund Charter Schools?

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn has just released his calculation of how much he wants to give charter schools and their students when these popular, voter-approved schools open next fall.  As many of my readers will recall, Superintendent Dorn opposed allowing children in Washington state to attend charter schools.

He just posted this chart on the State Board of Education website showing how much education funding he wants to provide charter school children:

Allocation, Charter Schools Estimated Average per StudentFTE School Year 2013-14
Basic Education $5,297
Programs with Enhancements
Special Education $5,048
Learning Assistance Program $466
Transitional Bilingual $891
Highly Capable $9
Student Transportation $807

These numbers looked odd to me.  So I compared them to the state report showing the money students at traditional public schools receive.   Report 1191, Apportionment for September 30, 2013, shows that public school students currently receive the following amounts:

Basic Education $5,537
Programs with Enhancements
Special Education $5,428
Learning Assistance $464
Transitional Bilingual $948
Highly Capable $416
Student Transportation not enough information

Comparing these figures suggests Superintendent Dorn plans to provide each charter school student about $1,082 less in funding than other public school children receive.

The planned unequal funding levels seems unfair to charter school children.  When voters passed Initiative 1240 they intended children at charter schools to receive equal treatment.  Section 222 (Funding) of Initiative 1240 says:

“(2) …the superintendent of public instruction shall allocate funding for a charter school including general apportionment, special education, categorical, and other nonbasic education moneys….  Categorical funding must be allocated to a charter school based on the same funding criteria used for noncharter public schools…”

Public education funding is complicated, to say the least.  There may be information in the state numbers that explains why children at charter schools may receive less education funding than other children.  As a policy analyst, I have occasionally found official reports to be unclear because of their sheer complexity.  However, if Superintendent Dorn is planning to underfund charter schools, this should at least be reported to the public.

The lower funding may discourage some families from seeking educational opportunities at a local charter school.  That would be the practical result.  On principle, however, it just seems unfair.

This report is part of WPC’s Initiative 1240 Follow Up Project.

[Reposted with permission from the Washington Policy Center's blog.]

Milton Friedman’s Birthday and Charter Schools in Washington State

Today is the 101st anniversary of Milton Friedman’s birth. People across the country are celebrating the great economist and his contributions to education reform in America.

Milton Friedman was a Nobel Prize winner whose research showed that the freedom to choose, through millions of daily decisions made by free individuals in an open market, delivers prosperity to the larger society. His book Free to Choose showed the free market can solve problems where other policy approaches have failed. He was described by The Economist magazine as “the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century….possibly all of it.”

Education reformers across the nation also celebrate the good work of The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, which Milton and Rose Friedman founded to advocate for expanding school choice options for parents and children. Because of the Friedman’s good work, 22 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to allow parents the power to decide how best to educate their own children.

In March of 2012, a Friedman Foundation poll showed Washington voters want charter schools and other alternatives to regular public schools. Soon after, charter school proponents successfully placed Initiative 1240 on the 2012 November ballot.

Voters passed Initiative 1240, making Washington state the 42nd state in the nation to allow children to attend charter schools.

Happy Birthday, Milton Friedman!  The legacy of your sound economic research and your concern for others continue to benefit the children and parents of Washington state and of the nation.


[Reposted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog]

At Hearing, Parents Seek A-through-F Grading System to Measure Local Schools

Last week, Brooke Beresh, mother of a 1st grade student at John Hay Elementary in Seattle, told the House Education Committee that parents are hungry for easy-to-understand information about their schools. The House Education Committee was considering ESSB 5328, which would officially assign letter grades to schools based on the State Achievement Index.

SB 5328 has already passed the Senate and is now being considered by the House. Governor Inslee supports giving letter grades to schools as a way to inform parents. Washington Policy Center recently reported on how a letter-grade system would work. To find your school’s grade, see the latest Achievement Index results.

Ms. Beresh said parents talk constantly about school quality, but can’t find good information. “There is no shortage of hearsay on which schools are good and which schools are not,” she said, but getting good data on school performance is nearly impossible. She said public agency websites are very confusing and use different numbers. “Parents are basically blind on knowing the true quality of a school,” she said.

Ms. Beresh added, “Letter grades are simple and easy for everyone to understand. It is information parents can use in their decision making and their conversations. It should not be hidden away.”

The A-through-F system helps. Ms. Beresh’s school, John Hay Elementary, got an “A” on the Achievement Index. Yet nearby Coe Elementary only got a “C,” showing schools can vary widely in the same neighborhood. Ms. Beresh said “I don’t think parents in my neighborhood find a ‘C’ to be acceptable, and will work to improve it.”

The committee hearing shows parents are vitally interested in their schools, but education officials are failing to meet their need for information. Governor Inslee is right. Parents need a formal A-through-F grading system for schools, and ESSB 5328 would do just that.


[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog; featured image credit: ]

Senate Passes Governor Inslee’s A through F School Grading Proposal

Wednesday morning the Senate passed SB 5328, which would create a pilot program to implement Governor Inslee’s A through F school grading proposal by giving letter grades to schools in five school districts. School grades would be based on the State Achievement Index and on schools’ progress towards improvement. The bill passed 26 to 23.

Senator Litzow (R-Mercer Island), the prime sponsor of SB 5328, said: “This bill is about creating an easily understood and transparent accountability system that is clear to every parent…. At the end of the day, this is about clarity and transparency for parents. Everyone understands it. What we have now is a murky description which does not define the difference between Good and Very Good, between Fair or Struggling.”

Proponents argued that letter grades for schools would create public pressure on the schools to to be more accountable to parents and taxpayers. Senator Smith (R-Colville) said: “Labeling schools as a D or an F will provide a great impetus for them to improve.”

Senator Tom (D-Bellevue) read from Governor Inslee’s statement last year describing his school grading proposal:

“We have a quarter of our children who are sort of forgotten children, and that is going to be unacceptable when I’m governor. That’s one of the reasons I’m proposing (that) every school will have a letter grade that will be given and disseminated then to the parents in the district so that we hold ourselves accountable.”

Senator McAuliffe (D-Bothell), former Chair of the Senate Education Committee, led the opposition to the bill. The main argument of opponents was that giving schools letter grades could hurt the feelings of some of the adults working in public education.

The purpose of the public schools is to serve children, not make adults feel comfortable. A good education develops the whole child, and provides children the skills and knowledge they need to prepare for the future. Too many children are not receiving the education we have promised them. Over one-third, 34%, of schools received a dismal “Fair” (D) or “Struggling” (F) on the State Board of Education’s latest Achievement Index. In passing Inslee’s school grading idea Senators were thinking about the welfare of children first, not the bruised feelings of some adults, and working to make sure every child has access to a good education.


[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog]

Governor Inslee Supports Letter Grades for Schools

There’s a lot of buzz about Senator Litzow’s bill, SB 5328, to implement a state ranking system to give A through F letter grades to public schools, so families and taxpayers can know where their local school stands.

This is a bipartisan idea. On Sunday, Tacoma’s News Tribune noted that Jay Inslee has called for giving letter grades to schools and then using the rankings to inform parents. In an interview with the education reform group Stand for Children (at 10:10 below) Inslee said:

“We have a quarter of our children who are sort of forgotten children, and that is going to be unacceptable when I’m governor. That’s one of the reasons I’m proposing (that) every school will have a letter grade that will be given and disseminated then to the parents in the district so that we hold ourselves accountable.”

Inslee repeated his support in an interview with The Seattle Times. He said he wants to, as the Times put it, “establish a system in which every school in the state receives a letter grade that’s accessible to parents.”

On our website we provide the state’s latest Achievement Index and show what a letter-grade system would look like. You can look up your school here.

Parents love this idea. I was a guest Wednesday on the Mike Fitzsimmons Show, KXLY radio, and during my 90-minute segment we took dozens of calls from parents asking for their local school’s grade. The station’s phone board was jammed – the host couldn’t fit everyone in.

The main opponents to giving letter grades to schools once a year are the adults who would be graded, even though they work in a system that every day issues letter grades to children.

Public education only works when we have engaged parents in the community ready to do whatever it takes to make their school a success. Parents can only be engaged when they are informed; when they have a clear understanding of where their school stands in relation to other schools locally and across the state. It’s true that receiving a low ranking will make some adults employed in education uncomfortable, but it is worth it if it helps children by making our public schools stronger.


[Reposted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog.]

Garfield High School Teachers Refuse to Give Students Standardized MAP Test

Well-connected Melissa Westbrook breaks the story that teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle have unanimously refused to comply with the Seattle School District’s mandate to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test.

Kris McBride, The Academic Dean and Testing Coordinator at Garfield, explains:

“Our teachers have come together and agree that the MAP test is not good for our students, nor is it an appropriate or useful tool in measuring progress. Additionally, students don’t take it seriously. It produces specious results, and wreaks havoc on limited school resources during the weeks the test is administered.”

In addition, results of the MAP tests will be used by district officials to help evaluate the effectiveness of teachers who give the test. “Our teachers feel strongly that this type of evaluative tool is unfair based on the abundance of problems with the exam, the content, and the statistical insignificance of the students’ scores,” said Ms. McBride.

Garfield’s reading specialist, Mallory Clarke, said teachers made this decision only after intensive internal discussions and years of experience with the MAP test.

The MAP Test is part of the District’s top-down plan called “Excellence for All” developed by McKinsey and Company Associates  in 2008. The November 2012 District Scorecard shows Seattle is not on target to meet even one of the 23 goals established in “Excellence for All.” Read more about it here.

Mandating the MAP test shows why top-down dictates don’t work in education. Central office mandates don’t respect teachers as professionals who know how to do their jobs and who care deeply about children. Every child is different. Only the teacher in the classroom and the principal, who know the students by their first names, know what each child needs to succeed.

That is why principals should be allowed to be real community education leaders, with control over the school’s budget, hiring and firing, over which tests to use, and over the school schedule and educational program. Principals should be allowed to give bonuses to reward the best teachers and motivate others to improve. This is why teachers should be freed from central district mandates so they can actually teach their students. Only then can principals and teachers be fairly held accountable to parents and the public for improving results.

Go Garfield teachers!


[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog]

Union Lawsuit Against Charter Schools: Potentially Risky for Union?

On Friday morning, Steve Scher of KUOW Radio (NPR-Seattle) interviewed Mary Lindquist, president of the state teachers union (WEA), about the union’s lawsuit to block children’s access to voter-approved charter schools. Here is a part of their conversation (at 12:15):

Scher: About the lawsuit against the charter school amendment — if you try to have allies on both sides of the aisle (in the Legislature), you know there are people who look at the charter school effort as a way to look at the union’s power and maybe bring about some change in that power. Aren’t you just setting yourself up to be in a fight with the very same people you want to fund education fully if you go after the charter school amendment?

Lindquist: …We are going to work with all legislators — legislators that are pro-charter schools and legislators who are against public sector unions — because our children deserve that.

Scher: Do you think that means an agreed-upon reduction in the union’ s influence on health care, on contracts, on pay, on seniority, on evaluation in order to get the larger funding issue settled?

Lindquist: No, I think the talk about the power of the union is perhaps exaggerated. The real power lies in the fact that the teachers and educators who work with our students every day are among the most respected members in our communities…. So I don’t think it is an issue of a big bad union, but about teachers being the most respected members of the community.

While President Lindquist’s modesty is charming, the union wields considerable power over education policy in Washington.

Her power is based on the WEA’s monopoly position within the system, and because union membership is mandatory for most public sector teachers. Teachers must devote $900 of their pay annually to the WEA. Each year the union, a private labor organization, receives about $33 million in budgeted education funds in the form of required dues. School districts must provide free bookkeeping and money collection services as well, and school officials are required to guarantee that funds are electronically transferred to union bank accounts each month.

Times have changed. The union appears to be out of step with Washington public opinion on charter schools. This change, for the first time in years, is raising questions about reducing the union’s power in setting school policy.

In one week the 2013 Legislative Session begins. Will the union’s loss of influence in the charter school debate translate to other losses in the Legislature? Will the union’s legal attack on charter schools prompt legislative attempts to weaken excessive union power? Frustrating the will of voters with lawsuits is not popular in the Legislature. It is certainly not popular with voters. Many of the Legislature’s elected representatives, Democrats and Republicans alike, support giving children access to charter schools.

The National Education Association has issued a policy statement describing their support for charter schools, which you can find here. The American Federation of Teachers says this on their website: “The American Federation of Teachers strongly supports charter schools.”

The WEA remains the primary obstacle to education reform in Washington. The WEA led opposition to charter schools on three previous occasions, and was at the forefront of the recent “No” campaign, until its position was recently overruled by voters. WEA executives now say they plan to support a lawsuit against charter schools. The lawsuit will be funded by money taken from school teachers, many of whom likely voted for the law their union is trying to overturn.


[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog; featured photo: wallyg]

Washington State Teacher Union President Wrong on School Funding

On Monday, Mary Lindquist, president of the Washington Education Association, posted a cranky attack on legislative leaders Senators Tom, Litzow and Sheldon. She claims they have been “slashing school funding by $2.5 billion.”

Ms. Lindquist is wrong. School funding has not been slashed. In fact, as the table below shows, school spending has increased significantly in the last ten years, from $11.3 billion to $15.6 billion, a nearly 50% increase. In 2001-2, schools in Washington spent $7,330 per student. In 2011-12, schools are spending $10,237 per student, the highest amount ever in state history.

Public school financing in Washington is a complex mix of multiple programs and funding sources. It creates a hazy fog of confusion that allows self-interested parties like Mary Lindquist to mislead the public with erroneous claims.

School spending has not been cut. It just hasn’t increased as fast as Mary wanted it to.

Maybe Mary should do her homework the next time she talks about school spending.

K-12 Spending — Operating, Total Budgeted (does not include capital spending)

2001-03 $11.3 billion
2003-05 $11.9 billion
2005-07 $13.2 billion
2007-09 $15.2 billion
2009-11 $15.4 billion
2011-13 (budgeted) $15.6 billion


[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog; featured photo credit: ]


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