Cutoff Day in Olympia

We’ve reached cutoff day in Olympia!

Most of the bills I’m tracking for the League of Education Voters have passed the floor of the Senate or House.

Last night, I tuned in to TVW to view floor action in the Senate and House.  Lawmakers were working well past sundown in a rush to approve bills by today’s 5 p.m. deadline. Despite all those extra hours at work, legislators left two important early learning bills to the last minute — HB 3168, creating the new Washington Head Start program, and HB 2449, authorizing collective bargaining authority for child care center directors and workers.  


However, at 1:30 p.m. today, I caught Sen. McAuliffe speaking to the good merits of HB 3168.  Her colleagues agreed and voted unanimously to approve the bill to set the stage for the creation of the new Washington Head Start Program. I’m still watching the Senate for action on HB 2449, but I’m discouraged that it hasn’t made it onto the floor calendar as of 2 p.m.  


For play-by-play action, watch TVW’s live television feed. 

These include legislation to help students not on track to meet state graduation standards (SB 6673), require the Basic Education Finance Task Force to report back by Dec. 1, 2008 (SB 6879), and expand a program that provides accessible and affordable child care options for students attending our state’s public colleges and universities (HB 2582).


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No, I didn’t see Elvis!

Last week I attended a two-day conference in Nashville, TN on teacher pay at Vanderbilt University. Day one started at 7 a.m. and ended about 15 hours later. The information was dense and overrun with formulas and cohort talk. Having said that, I left the conference with two simple yet overwhelmingly clear conclusions:

First, this conversation requires collaboration.

More often than not, the debate in the room was a little top-down and too removed from reality. The room seemed to be 70% economists and another 20% psychometrists. I was part of a grand team of four advocates that I counted (out of roughly 500 attendees). In addition, the union voice felt dangerously low to nonexistent. Sure, there were two union members who were panelists and NYC’s UFT President Randi Weingarten delivered the keynote address (she did a great job by the way). However, considering the importance of the topic and potential effects on the teaching profession, it felt pretty unbalanced.

This is more than a little ironic considering that the most successful pay for performance plans involved intense local collaboration from the get-go. Minnesota’s Q-Comp is a voluntary program that districts can adopt after a local plan is developed by a team that includes teachers, union representatives, and other leaders. Oregon’s Class Project has modeled many elements of Q-Comp in their demonstration sites. While these projects are new and data is next to nonexistent, intense local collaboration is leading to positive changes in local culture.  Education leaders have come together and are working on solutions to improve support for teachers and results for children.

Second, change is necessary.

In many ways, I was the perfect focus group for this conference. I’m an advocate and I’ve studied data enough to know where the problems are. However, I’m not an academic and know relatively little about pay for performance programs across the country.  Whether the research discussed a specific program or market supply economics – the research overwhelmingly revealed that the statewide pay scale exclusively based on seniority is outdated for several reasons.

First, it doesn’t recognize the fact that times have changed and college graduates today can expect to have three to five career changes in their lifetime. The current system is too inflexible and turns off potential applicants. Second, uniformly paying teachers based on seniority has led to dangerous economic effects by creating teacher shortages in subject and geographic areas. In addition, more experienced and effective teachers tend to move to districts with less challenging populations. Finally, the starting point is too low. How can we expect to attract the highest quality graduate with such a low starting salary? It just won’t happen. If we’re serious about raising student achievement, we need to get serious about treating teachers with the professionalism that they deserve.

Research increasingly shows that the teacher is the most important element in a child’s educational progress. Kati Haycock of Education Trust reminds us that students who have two years of ineffective instruction in a row never catch up. This is a lose-lose-lose situation – teachers lose, students lose, society loses. Teachers need support in terms of compensation and professional development opportunities that lead to results in the classroom.  They also need better tools so they know how their students are doing and can ensure that every student makes at least one year of academic growth within one year of instruction. It is only by working together that we can develop a solution where teachers and students win, not to mention society, our economy … the list goes on.

Conference information (including papers) can be viewed here:

Posted in: Blog, LEV News

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4204 Supporters Have Reason to Cheer Again

Posted by Bonnie, 2/22/08

After what turned into a somewhat depressing Election Night last November, I spent two days accepting that we had lost Simple Majority.  Few dislike losing as much as I do – but when a loss has a direct negative effect on one million students, it is especially hard.

I think it was on the fourth day that things began to change.  I remember sitting at my computer at 4 p.m. waiting patiently for Pierce, Snohomish and King counties to update their vote totals. By 4:15 p.m. suddenly we were winning – and man did it feel fantastic. I never thought I could match the excitement I felt that afternoon. I was wrong.

This past Tuesday, 127 school levies were up for election statewide. But this time it was very different. The levy elections are now like the majority of elections we have, needing 50 percent plus one to pass rather than the old, unfair supermajority requirement. The results are pretty incredible. As of today, 122 of these levies are passing.

Here are the results separated by approval rate to show how the results might have looked under the old supermajority requirement:

Approval rate

Number of School Levies

Percentage of Total

49% and below






60% and above



As you can see, it would have been an entirely different story under the old barrier. An additional 53.5 percent of school levies statewide would have failed. Even more compelling, this group of 68 levies adds up to more than $485 million.  Almost $500 million to help school districts reduce class size, increase professional development for teachers, and purchase new text books … the list goes on.

I admit there were moments during the campaign when I got tired. I phone banked nearly every night for a month straight with a dedicated group of staff and volunteers. We all had moments of exhaustion, but we kept going. Now we see why – and we will continue to see our efforts pay off in future elections. It took a huge amount of collective hard work to pass Simple Majority and we should all feel proud. So, if you talked to a neighbor, picked up the phone, wrote a check, or simply voted to APPROVE 4204, ­- this is your moment to sit back and smile. Your work is changing the lives of one million students statewide.

Thank you!

Posted in: Blog, Elections, Funding

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School Levy Elections Benefit from Simple Majority

Posted by Michael

Hundreds of school levy volunteers are breathing a sigh of relief today.

Last night’s levy results show that the education community’s victory in November is making a huge difference for thousands of students across the state.

While many communities continue to approve their levies at rates above the old 60 percent standard, a large number of levies passed thanks to the new 50 percent simple majority requirement.

School leaders, educators, parents and students in places like Kennewick, Ellensburg, and Centralia will not have to brace themselves for a costly and time consuming second levy attempt.  Instead, they can continue to focus on educating students.

We’ll be holding our breath for close elections around the state, especially in Thurston County where the North Thurston, Rochester and Yelm school districts are hovering just below 50 percent.  Late-arriving ballots do tend to favor school levy elections.

For bond elections, the supermajority requirement continues to thwart our schools.  Only two out of five bond proposals are passing as of Tuesday night.  In Lake Chelan, the bond is passing with just over 61 percent.  This shows that every vote is especially important for school bond elections.

While simple majority saved the day for many school districts, the League of Education Voters is confident school supporters will not take this election for granted. 

And we’ve not lost sight on what’s at stake.

A large part of the success of our state’s students and schools comes from levy funding.  That’s because the state continues to NOT fully fund basic education services.

The League of Education Voters would like to see a new K-12 finance system adopted next year that fully funds basic education and returns levies to their intended purpose of funding school enrichment programs.

Posted in: Blog, Elections, Funding

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