Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Governor Stiffs the WEA

Alternate Title: Oh No She Di’n’t! No, really, she didn’t.

The two issues that the WEA has decided to push in the coming legislative session are class size and compensation. “Governor Gregoire is with us,” was the conventional wisdom. “She talked about our two issues at her town hall meeting, and she’ll sign what comes to her desk.”

The last part may be true, it may not be true, only time will tell. When she released her budget on Tuesday the Governor had a powerful opportunity to signal her support for the WEA agenda, and she did anything but.

The seven line items in her supplemental education budget, in order of cost:

Increase teacher salaries: $31,200,000. A .8% increase, which would bring the COLA for 2008-2009 up to 3.6%. Not bad at all—it would be the envy of many, really—but it’s half of what we’ll be asking for.

Maintain and improve the current assessment system: $17,300,000. This section deserves to be parsed hard.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction will develop tests that teachers can use in their classrooms to identify student learning needs. These tests will give more immediate and targeted information to teachers anytime during the school year. Having this information readily available to teachers will allow many of the current annual assessments to be shortened.
This troubles me.

We already have assessments that can be used at any time of the school year to measure where kids are. The DIBELS come right to mind, or the tests available from AIMS Web, or any of the 100 different fluency assessments that can be correlated with the Hasbrouck fluency table, or STAR Reading, or STAR Math, or (especially!) the NWEA. OSPI doesn’t need to “develop” anything; it would be a replication of existing efforts and a waste of money.

And really, does anyone believe that having more assessments available will shorten the current assessments (read: WASL) that we already have? This sounds an awful lot like it’s just one more thing, and it’s troubling to me that Gregoire would misread what teachers are asking for to such a staggering degree.

I’ve got a rant worked up about how many teachers are feeling overwhelmed by what the job asks for today. This idea would not help that, at all.

Keeping students and others safe on college and university campuses, $14,300,000. This is clearly and unapologetically a response to what happened at Virginia Tech this spring, but that’s OK. The college that I watch the most is Eastern, and they’ve made some great steps in upgrading their communications network to get information out to students. I wish that SVC Alum was still blogging, because he did some great writing about events there this spring.

Serve the first class of students of U of Washington – North Sound Campus, $1,100,000. There’s still some who would tell you that this campus isn’t necessary, but here it comes. This is to pay for the first group of students to come through, which will include 30 in nursing and 30 in teacher education. I’d suggest that we might not need yet another teacher education program in the state; I’m wondering why they chose that as a direction to start with.

Improve child-care safety, $435,000. Pays for five folks at the Department of Early Learning to work on redoing licensing for child care centers.

Provide services for visually impaired library patrons, $341,000. To pay for more talking books and Braille services. As the father of a deaf child, I’m all for it.

Boost achievement for English Language Learners, $250,000. Pilot program to integrate ELL and job prep training.

Adjust K-12 student enrollment, -$9,300,000. Yes, that’s negative. Enrollment statewide is going down, and this is what they figure to save by having less FTEs.

The total bill: $55,626,000.

Mainstream media coverage here, here, and here. The gist is that the Republicans are calling her new fiscally conservative streak either Rossi inspired or too little, too late.

And now, pure partisan political opinion.

Christine doesn’t have to do diddly-squat for teachers this session, because when Dino Rossi is the one on the other side there really isn’t much of a choice. Rossi shat the bed with teachers when he lead the drive to cut the I-732 COLA in 2003, and the trial balloon that he’s floating about merit pay isn’t going to play well with many. Your average teacher can’t support Dino Rossi, because Dino Rossi doesn’t have much to say to support your average teacher.

(Sidebar to Mr. Rossi: Education plays in Washington. Always has, always will. If you make an educated, reasonable, sensible education proposal, you'll will over a lot of people. If you run on platitudes, you'll not get the traction you could.)

So really, it’s not a surprise that Christine didn’t give the WEA everything they could ever hope for in her budget proposal, because she doesn’t have to. She can stand on what she’s already done—student spending is way up, and we did get a great raise this year and next—do nothing this session, and as she campaigns she can play the fiscally responsible card.

This election, we need Christine more than Christine needs us. There’s a lot that we’re going to do for her, because there’s a lot that she can do for us given four more years. That’s not a good or bad thing; it’s just one of those things that we have to do and acknowledge. For thoughts on how close this election could be, see Joni Balter’s column in the December 20th Seattle Times.

It’s going to be a session to watch.

Update: On the December 20th edition of Inside Olympia with the affable Dave Ammons it was shared that Dr. Bergeson was asking for "hundreds of millions" of dollars in additional spending here in the short session. Doesn't look good for her, either.


The Science Goddess said...

Just because DIBELS and other packaged assessments are out there, doesn't mean that every district has the means to support them: money, training, etc. Also, most of the marketed tools are for elementary...which is all well and good. But what about kids who aren't meeting secondary targets? What about areas other than literacy and math? As someone working with high school kids, I would love to have a bank of free formative tools aligned to our standards.

Talking Books Librarian said...

As a Talking Books Librarian, I'm glad to see the money for library services for visually impaired patrons.

I also write a blog about resources for persons with disabilities - please feel free to share it with others... it's at