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Legislature could still save $40 million from fed cutoff

Gov. Jay Inslee Credit: Photo: John Stang

A state bill is in the works to regain $40 million in federal educational aid, jeopardized by the Washington Senate's failure to pass a similar bill last week.

Gov. Jay Inslee and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn met with legislative leaders Tuesday to fix a major risk created when the Senate rejected a Senate Majority Coalition Caucus bill to require schools to conduct teacher evaluations based in part on student test scores. The schools already have that option, but mandatory use of test scores is needed to keep a waiver from federal No Child Left Behind regulations. That waiver is worth $40 million in federal aid to Washington's schools.

Last week, political gamesmanship on both sides of the aisle was more convoluted than usual, with the bill's real purpose apparently taking a back seat to several backroom flip-flops. Inslee met with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Sunday to try to salvage the $40 million.

The new bill would make the test-score-based teacher evaluations mandatory in the 2017-2018 school year. A committee must turn in recommendations on implementing those evaluations to Dorn's office in the 2016-2017 school year, according to a press release from Inslee's office. But the state government will move forward only if the feds extend the waiver — with the $40 million — from the No Child Left Behind regulations.

“I assured Secretary Duncan that if he grants us this waiver, we will ultimately be able to deliver a stronger, more effective evaluation system that better serves our students and educators. He indicated that, given our demonstrable progress on a range of reforms, this is a positive step could provide a satisfactory path forward,” Inslee said in the press release.

For exclusive coverage of the state government, check out Crosscut's Under the Dome page.

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