As expected, several business interests including Boeing and Gates along with LEV and SFC have put a lot of pressure on our representatives to vote for the House and Senate bills related to charter schools and teacher evaluations.

There is at least one more month to go and anything can happen. LEV and SFC, Boeing lobbyists and Gates’ folks have been relentless in their push for the privatization of our public school system and they get paid well to do just that so don’t expect them to slow down after this bump in the road for them. Still, the news is good and our representatives in the House who have stood up for us, the rest of us, should be commended.

To follow are excerpts from the WSSDA Legislative Update that arrived in my inbox this morning as they pertain to charter schools and the teacher evaluation bills:

House policy bills meet first cutoff

Under a self-imposed deadline, House policy committees closed out business today leaving hundreds of bills short a vote to move forward on the next step of a long journey that could end at the governor’s office.

In the House, Friday marks the day for bills with a fiscal impact to pass out of one of the three appropriations committees, with next Tuesday as the deadline for fiscal bills to pass from the Ways & Means Committee.

The Senate deadline for policy bills to pass out of committee is Friday, February 3. Like House Ways & Means, fiscal bills must be out of committee by Tuesday, February 7.

It takes two

The House Education Committee started today’s meeting with 16 bills on the schedule for executive action. After breaking into separate caucuses to discuss votes on the long list, along with the nearly two dozen amendments being offered on the various bills, members returned to the committee room for an unusual finish.

Committee ranking Republican Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, gave a signal of things to come when speaking “reluctantly in favor” of HB 2586, the bill that would require all school districts to use the WAKIDS kindergarten readiness tool by 2014-15. (The bill passed 19-2.)

Dammeier said that while the bill did some good things, he was discouraged to see other bills go “wanting” and be denied the opportunity of a vote, particularly when the bills meant real change to the system.

Of course, he was referring to the charter school bill (HB 2428) and his amendments to the teacher/principal evaluation bill on the list (HB 2334), which were designed to make it more closely resemble HB 2427, the evaluation bill promoted by LEV, Stand for Children, Boeing, Microsoft, and the Washington Business Roundtable.

Ain’t no mountain high enough

Of course, the abrupt end to the House education meeting left 13 bills languishing on the list. These include:

  • HB 2334, which would have continued implementing the teacher/principal evaluation system, with a starting roll-out date of 2013-14.
  • HB 2165, which would direct OSPI to develop an online training program for principals and administrators on the new evaluation system.

Mercy, mercy me

And some bills never made it on the House education “executive action” list. These include:

  • HB 2309, SPI Dorn’s teacher/principal evaluation bill. Other TPEP or “Seniority in RIF” bills include HB 2427, HB 2451, and HB 2537.
  • HB 2428, which would authorize up to 10 charter schools per year for a total of 50, and set up transformation zone districts (temporary state takeovers) for the state’s lowest performing schools.

Of course, nothing is ever really “dead” until the legislature goes home, and several of the bills are expected to stay part of the “end game” mix for at least the next month and possibly until the end of session – if the two dates are different!

I heard it through the grapevine

In the Senate education committee, things are just as dynamic, although they have a few more days for action. Late last week, it appeared that no bills would be coming out of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. This week, it is possible a few bills that weren’t acted on in the House will be scheduled for a vote.

Pressure has been intense on Senate education committee chair Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, who leads a committee where at least two members frequently vote with Republicans, to bring the charter school and business-backed evaluation bills up for a vote.

The Senate EL&K-12 education committee meets Wednesday, February 1 at 8 a.m. for a short list of bills. No bills are listed for executive session. In addition, the committee has a meeting February 2 at 1:30 p.m., with a final deadline of Friday for policy bills to be passed out of committee.

That’s it for now. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in the Senate education committee this morning. Will they bend to corporate interests or listen to the will of the people?

Stay tuned.