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GOP education bills provoke questioning

Democrats in Olympia say their rivals are trying to foist cookie-cutter approaches from a right-wing think tank on Washington state students. Republicans say the ideas are fresh and deserving.
Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle John Stang

State Sen. Steve Litzow (R)

State Sen. Steve Litzow (R) Washington State Legislature


Senate Democrats say two Republican education bills are cookie-cutter copies from a conservative think tank.

But Republicans say: Heck, no. Our bills are homemade with homegrown ingredients.

Democrat leaders argue that Republican bills — to grade schools on an A-to-F scale and to fail third-graders who cannot read at a certain level — come from the playbook of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative think tank. ALEC's main thrust is writing bill prototypes for legislators to use. 

On Friday, Senate Democrats pointed to a Washington Post story about ALEC and a couple sister organizations share many staff members and donors — linking them to legislators who introduced education reform bills in six states. But Washington state was not named in that story.

But the story noted that the groups, including ALEC, push for online education, school choice, retaining kids in the third grade who cannot read above a certain level and grading schools on a scale of A-to-F.   

The Post quoted Donald Cohen, chairman of In The Public Interest, a think tank on privatization and contracting issues, that ALEC and one of the sister organizations receive some money from the same for-profit school corporations. 

On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said the Senate Republicans and ALEC "have the same cookie-cutter agenda. ...  It's part of a right-wing Tea Party agenda.

He added, "This is part of an attempt to dismantle and privatize education."

Murray, Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, and Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said the two bills are generic models conceived by ALEC and not tailored to specific Washington problems. And Washington's Legislature has passed educaton reforms in recent years, and now it must find money to make those reforms work, they argued. Also, the bills put extra requirements on school districts without providing extra money to handle the costs, the three said.

"This doesn't seem like change for the sake of the children, but change for the sake of change. ... We've done the reforms. Now we need the revenue," Billig said.

Murray, Frockt and Billig said the recent reforms will inevitably need tweaking.

Republican Senate Caucus Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, countered that the bills did not come from ALEC. He said the sponsors — Sen.Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, on the A-to-F system, and Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, on the third-grade-retention bill — are independent thinkers who do not belong to ALEC. Litzow and Dammeier could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

ALEC's membership includes roughly 2,000 state legislators. But it does not publicly name members, including the legislators. The website ALEC Exposed tracks members by various ways without ALEC's cooperation, and has published a list that is admittedly partial. It identifies eight current Washington senators and seven representatives as ALEC members. Litzow and Dammeier are not on that list,

Schoelser said more education reform is needed, which has been a major Republican thrust this session. "Just to throw dollars at it is just not the answer..... After eight years of Sen. (Rosemary) McAuliffe as chair [of the education committee], it's difficult for Sen. Murray to accept change," Schoesler said. McAuliffe, D-Bothell, lost that post when two Democrats joined 23 Republicans in recent weeks to oust the Democrats as the Senate majority party.

Dammeier's bill would not allow a third grader to move to fourth grade if that students scored the bottom grade of a four-grading-level reading test. The bill outlines some exceptions to that rule, which would go into effect in the 2014-2015 school year. The bill includes outlines for remedial measures. In 2015-16, schools would be required to provide remedial measures for students scoring in the bottom two levels of that four-level grade system.

In a Wednesday public hearing before the Senate Education Committee, the organizations Stand For Children and the League of Education Voters supported the bill. Stand For Children invested $148,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to unseat McAuliffe in the last election, The Seattle Times reported.


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Comments:

Posted Sun, Feb 3, 8:58 a.m. Inappropriate

"Republican Senate Caucus Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, countered that the bills did not come from ALEC. He said the sponsors — Sen.Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, on the A-to-F system, and Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, on the third-grade-retention bill — are independent thinkers who do not belong to ALEC. Litzow and Dammeier could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon."

The gentleman from the 9th knows that this isn't a reality-based position. Senator Litzow's school grading bill is clearly, based on the language within, a duplicate of this bill from Florida:

http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Handlers/LibraryViewerDocumentRetriever.ashx?statrevid=FS20121008.34&libroot;=StatRevSiteLeaf&ViewFrom;=StandAlone

....which makes the ties to the Jeb Bush education reform that much stronger. Instead of lying about it, own it.

Ryan

Posted Sun, Feb 3, 2:34 p.m. Inappropriate

"After eight years of Sen. (Rosemary) McAuliffe as chair [of the education committee], it's difficult for Sen. Murray to accept change," Schoesler said. McAuliffe, D-Bothell, "

Schoesler should note that McAuliffe saw the committee through $2.5B cuts to education. Schoesler should spend his time funding education instead of creating ridiculous arguments.

If it smells like a duck and acts like a duck..it is ALEC.

Watching

Posted Sun, Feb 3, 11:18 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh, Steve Litzow wants to grade schools, and give bonuses to schools. How do you fund that mandate? I-90 tolls. After all, one bad idea should be funded by another bad idea.

Posted Mon, Feb 4, 2:30 a.m. Inappropriate

The article says that ALEC does not divulge state legislstor members, and that a group has to try to figure out which state legislators are members. The state legislators do not own up to being members.

It is troubling that elected officials would be secret members of a nationwide political advocacy group. How are citizens to make informed choices on candidates, if state legislators may be secret members of a group like ALEC?

Any state elected official, who is a member of ALEC, or any other political advocacy group, needs to announce the membership to the public. The secrecy makes it seem as if we have ALEC operatives in our state government and not representatives of the citizenry. We do not need ALEC moles in our government.

jhande

Posted Mon, Feb 4, 12:18 p.m. Inappropriate

Why is ALEC even mentioned here, other than to rile people up?

We should be evaluating proposals based on whether they get better results for kids. Who cares where the idea comes from, as long as it's working? The fact is that Florida has better schools than Washington, so if there's something that we can learn from them, people ought to leave their ideological litmus tests aside and look at what works.

LisaG

Posted Mon, Feb 4, 5:06 p.m. Inappropriate

Where are your facts that Florida has better schools than Washington? Since, you claim it to be a fact. Well, fact away.

Citizens elect representatives to represent citizens; not to have secret membership in a group, like ALEC, and to have the group funnel legislation to the representatives. Who voted for ALEC? The representatives keep their association with ALEC secret. Some outside lobbying group should not be writing law for Washington State. So, should we just get rid of State Government in favor of ALEC, and the Federal Government?

jhande

Posted Mon, Feb 4, 9:51 p.m. Inappropriate

"The supporters said it is time to try new reforms, and this approach has worked in 15 other states."

Really? And where's their proof?

"Why is ALEC even mentioned here, other than to rile people up?"

Well, because ALEC believes itself to be the puppetmasters for our state legislatures. Because they are the men (and yes, men) behind the curtain that our legislators don't want you to see. That's why.

Florida does NOT have better schools (especially not charters which are more than half of their "F" grade schools).

And fyi, the charter school initiative - 1240 - was cobbled together from out-of-state.

I'm with Watching; connect the dots. There are way too many of them to not have reasonable suspicion. Look at Stand for Children and how their mission has changed and what their leader has said about their plans.

The cleansing light of transparency is always a good thing.

westello

Posted Mon, Feb 4, 8:34 p.m. Inappropriate

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/30/e-mails-link-bush-foundation-corporations-and-education-officials/

Connect the dots. Jeb Bush, FEE, ALEC and Litzow.

Watching

Posted Tue, Feb 5, 7:18 a.m. Inappropriate

"Why is ALEC even mentioned here, other than to rile people up?" We should be evaluating proposals based on whether they get better results for kids. Who cares where the idea comes from, as long as it's working?

You can't evaluate any policy proposal in a political vacuum. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last twenty plus years, you must be aware that there is a powerful, right-wing and neoliberal movement to destroy unions, destroy entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, and privatize public education. ALEC is one of the key players on the national scene in this right wing movement regarding education privatization. If we have legislators that are influenced by this organization and its agenda, it should be out in the open

So you might still say, who cares? ALEC's ideas might still be good, and each proposal should be evaluated on its merits. Fair enough. All I can say in the limited space here is that as other states (TX & CA, for instance) are dealing with the messes these policies have created and waking up to an awareness that these ideas don't work, clueless Washington is pushing to adopt them.

Let's have a moratorium on corporate reform ideas and let the educators in the trenches figure out what's best for their kids rather than ideologues. Our legislators' job is to find ways to fund schools, not promote ideologically driven education policy.

Posted Tue, Feb 5, 10:13 a.m. Inappropriate

From the Diane Ravitch Blog:

You may have heard that former Governor Jeb Bush regularly parades the “Florida miracle,” perhaps preparing for a 2016 run at the presidency. The formula, we hear, is testing and accountability, grading schools, charters and vouchers, and of course, online courses and schools.

This Florida teacher wrote a comment and gives a different view from the trenches:

I will go out on a limb here and argue that there IS no “Florida miracle.” I taught in a Miami-Dade high school for 6 years and I watched our school grade go from a C to a D back to a C, stay a C, and then up to a B…I think it was also an F at some point in there. During that time, did I see any change in the “quality” of student? Nope. Did I see any change in the quality of the teachers? Nope. Did I see any change in the quality of the coursework? YES. It went DOWN year after year, as more and more emphasis was placed on testing, and less and less on everything else. As end-of-course exams were introduced, the quality went down still further, as classes were disrupted even more for testing and test prep. And while the class size amendment was the one and ONLY good thing left in FL education, that too has pretty much gone out the window, at least in high school, as “core classes” were redefined to mean “FCAT classes.” My last year teaching (last year) I had up to 38 students in my French classes. The quality of my classes definitely went down, though not because I was lazy or incompetent or any of the other things teachers are called all the time…but simply because to keep a class of 38 from dissolving into chaos, you have to have a pretty teacher-centered class going on all the time. That is not ideal for a language class, but then again, neither is having a class of almost 40 kids all doing their own thing (which, as any teacher knows, means each one playing with a phone or worse).

There is no Florida miracle. Education has only gotten worse over the past few years, no matter how schools, districts and the state itself game the system. And, contrary to what the media will tell you, it is NOT teachers’ fault, unions’ fault, and I won’t even blame it on the kids or their parents this time. It is the fault of education “reform” led by Jeb Bush et al.

Posted Tue, Feb 5, 4:31 p.m. Inappropriate

The impact of the Tea Party is pretty pervasive. For example, here are two more members of Murray's "right-wing Tea Party agenda."

"Test scores alone should never drive evaluation, compensation or tenure decisions. ... But to remove student achievement entirely from evaluation is illogical and indefensible." - Education Secretary Arne Duncan

Charter schools "create laboratories of innovation so that in the public school system, we are on a race to the top as opposed to stuck in the old ways of doing things." - President Barack Obama

Yunus

Posted Tue, Feb 5, 8:42 p.m. Inappropriate

Obama is as far right as any tea partier.

jhande

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