State Superintendent Chris Reykdal’s Interview with Inside Olympia

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Editor’s Note: This is an important interview which slipped under the radar of many parents and educators.

In it, State Superintendent Chris Reykdal talks about McCleary and education funding, Plus, Reykdal explains parts of his plan to redesign K-12 education and the importance of technology to his vision.  

Please take the time to read the transcript and share your thoughts in the comment section. I think there’s a lot to talk about.  

The interview can be seen here. Below is a transcript of the interview. 

-Carolyn Leith

Well a couple things. On the political front I would say, look at our levy passage rate around the state, folks in our state love their schools, they trust their local schools, which is why as much of this has to be in local controls hands as possible. The the further you get from people on the ground the more skeptical they get. So they’ll tolerate a package in Olympia that supports schools but gives their districts the ability to have some flexibility. The further up you go the less they’re gonna trust that for one. The other thing is we’re doing things very differently in this state. I I mean I wish we could spend an hour on your show going through twenty years of education reform to talk about what we’re doing: more math, more science, more English language arts, more rigor in the curriculum, more expectation of teachers, a better evaluation system, a school rating system, our achievement index. All of that by the way is getting reimagined right now because we owe a consolidated accountability report if you will to the federal government by September. And we’re writing that plan now. You’re gonna see variables in that achievement index where we, where we look at schools way beyond test scores, which we oversimplified. You’re gonna see things like chronic absenteeism and whether or not they’re at this critical benchmark, 9th grade success…and whether they’re getting dual credit for courses in the 11th and 12th grade. We are doing things very differently in public schools. I would argue a little humorously, most of the cynics of reform have not stepped in a classroom. If you go into a classroom today and see what’s happening, from a, from a third grade teacher, all the way to a high school science teacher, you would see a very different experience than when you went to school.

-Chris Reykdal

Inside Olympia, April 27th 2017

Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal with Austin Jenkins.

Jenkins:  As you complete your first 100 days, a former state lawmaker yourself, what are your, there’s a little bit of déjà vu no doubt going on, but what is your thought, as we begin this special session, and legislators find themselves kind of right back where they were two years ago, in a budget standoff.

Reykdal: Well I don’t think it’s surprising, given the magnitude of what they’re dealing with. The good news is, the court I think is still abundantly clear in their original order, that this is about making sure that the state fully funds basic education. The court did not say it has to be a levy reduction, that process, although I think there’s lots of reason why I think people want to implicate local school levies. They didn’t say there had to be some massively different structure in collective bargaining, even though that’s a political interest of some in the conversation. So, I’m not surprised that this fairly straightforward requirement meets politics. That’s just the nature of this place. Our house and senate are not just dealing with education funding. There are those preserving the social safety net, there are those who want a tax conversation, or a tax reform conversation, or tax reduction conversation. So in the context of all that, probably the biggest education session in our history, I’m not surprised it’s taken more than 105 days. But we, we certainly want to keep supporting them as they as they get to that inevitable place where they have to give up things in order to get compromise. And that is, that is a tough word in America right now, but it’s necessary here.

Jenkins: How concerned are you that whatever compromise they come to, ultimately will, will fall short of the court mandate, and creating a constitutional system.

Reykdal: Well based on the size of the proposals that have been put forward on both sides, and again, you know in your intro you point out that they take a pretty different approach on how to pay for it, but the size and the magnitude of those investments for the state’s contribution, again, not considering local levy opportunity, they’re relatively similar. You’re talking about adding a couple billion dollars. That’s gonna be remarkable progress that the court can see is evidence of completing the task by next year.  It may not be down to every penny, but I believe there will be such inertia in the final deal that you will, you will sit here and say that’s, that along with some economic growth and a few changes next year, will get us there. Part of that is do they lump all the money in the second year of the biennium so that (byways?) into something significant and fully funds McCleary, or do they kind of spread that out over two years and have quite a task next biennium. That’s, those small decisions seem kind of technical, but they matter a lot.

Jenkins: Yeah, your predecessor Randy Dorn often used a number, a dollar amount, that he was looking for that he considered full funding. And he was always on the high side, I mean, above the governor, above just about anybody else, rolling in a lot of things. But when you ask the, the lead plaintiff’s lawyer on the McCleary case, whether either the house plan or the senate plan are sufficient, he’s skeptical. Is there a number that you’re using, and a number that your office has identified as the right target number for increased funding at least over the next two years?

Reykdal: Yeah, but I’m gonna be clear that there’s the absolute minimum in order to meet a court interest, which I think is sort of the least common denominator in this debate. Just satisfying the court is not our real purpose. But that number to me and based on what we have to do to ensure that compensation is covered by the state…

Jenkins: Maybe I should stop you there and maybe just explain that the key thing left to do, that the court has identified is for the state to take over, paying the full freight, for teacher and staff and administrator salaries, and benefits, some of which right now are being handled by local levies.

Reykdal: Right, and I think, our analysis of that number and we’ve refreshed those numbers in the last week, we think that a minimum, that’s a billion and a half dollars a year, so three billion a biennium, just to comply with the technical direction of the court, which is to pick up basic ed costs with the state. I think the reason the number gets higher for folks, and it ought to, is that’s gonna be the technical definition, but won’t fundamentally change our level of investment for special education. So you might technically argue that that number covers basic ed, but we know we’re underfunding special education. We know we don’t have career and tech ed programs funded to where they need to be. You have a dropout rate that persistently hangs at 20 percent. That doesn’t change the intervention strategies per se. So if, if we’re here to fund an education system and get better, and help students and close gaps, and help our business community, that number begins to get to 2 ½ or 3 billion dollars a year, and the metric that I use to just say well, what would be an objective thing that democrats and republicans can’t really argue with, and that is the level of investment of our economy that we put back into our public schools. And the rest of the country it’s 3.6 percent of the economy, in our state it’s about 2.9 or 3 percent. It seems small, but if you moved another ½ percent of GPD in our state into education, you’d be looking at about 3 billion dollars a year, six billion a biennium, twice as much as the technical number, to meet the court interest. And I think they ought to be shooting for that over the next couple biennium.

Jenkins: So, I know, asking you again to put your former lawmaker hat on, what would you do if you were in the legislature? How would you fund, at that level you’re talking about, which to your way of thinking is the optimal and right level?

Reykdal: Well I do think the answer sort of sits in front of them. I think between the house and senate they have the right combination. There’s no scenario where you don’t utilize some property tax in there, because, and I and I say this with a little bit of crystal balling, you have to at some point adopt something in a bi-partisan way that, that then potentially the voters say, well we want our say through referendum. The one tax in the state constitutionally dedicated public schools that you can make an absolutely crystal clear statement to the voters, we’ve raised this tax and it will be spent on it, is the state property tax.

Jenkins: And point in fact, the republican plan does create a new state property tax levy for this purpose.

Reykdal: It does indeed and so I think that’s part of the solution. But unfortunately, on balance it’s a significant tax shift and so to my earlier comments, if you’re here to do multiple things, not just fund schools, but tax fairness and all the rest of the the ambition, you can’t just lower taxes in some communities and raise them in others and say we’re good to go. So I think the house democrats have big concepts that should win out in the end. We should be collecting all of our sales tax in this state, tax fairness, and if somebody is being exempted for reasons we can’t quite justify anymore, internet sales, people in Oregon and Idaho purchasing, we ought to be doing that as well. So I think there’s a compromise here that really works.

Jenkins: And that is one of the proposals on the table that house democrats have come up with, a pretty significant tax package, including a new capital gains tax, changes to the B and O tax, but there is also talk of, I think they call it the Marketplace Fairness Act, which was thought to have, to be something that the feds would do, or congress would do, to capture internet sales. But now there’s some thought that the state could do it. So, one of the criticisms of the senate republican plan is that while they create this new property tax levy, they eliminate local levies. And then a question, the question becomes how much, what’s the net new dollars to my system, or is it just a a shift? How concerned are you about the elimination of the local levies?

Reykdal: Yeah, I’m I’m actually very concerned about that. Because again, you can meet the technical interest of the court and not add much new resource, and then we’re not actually changing results for kids and we’re not being more effective in public education. So, the court never said you had to lower local levies. That is a political desire, if you raise state property tax to fully fund, it’s a political interest to then say, and we’re gonna offer you tax relief over here, completely understandable. Again, I think there can be some of that. We probably don’t need 24 and 28% levies if you’re gonna add a billion and a half or two billion dollars to the state side. But I think 10% is too low, and that was their number. I would suspect in the end they might get awfully close in satisfying the court and leave the debate open to the final days and weeks of some special session on how much local levy they’re gonna allow. I would leave that number quite high actually. I don’t think it’s appropriate to ever tell a local community that you cannot, through a vote of the people, support your kids more. I think that’s a strange and artificial Olympia constraint that we ought not put on local communities.

Jenkins: Of course you occupy a non-partisan office today. You were, you are a former democratic state lawmaker. What do you say to your, to to democrats about the idea…’cause you mention this this notion that whatever they pass might be subject to a referendum. Either, I mean the senate republican plan actually calls for a a referendum clause, and voter approval on this property tax approach. It’s possible that voters who don’t like what they see could also force a referendum, on whatever comes out of this this legislature. What, what’s your message to democrats with respect to this idea, like a new tax, something like the capital gains tax which has been criticized as volatile, not necessarily reliable, perhaps doesn’t meet the test that the Supreme Court has set, which is amply fund, with a reliable source of funds?

Reykdal: Well it certainly can be volatile. I think they’ve got a notion that helps it out a lot. They only presume a certain percentage of that in the base, and then there’s some, some dedication of that volatility over time. That’s exactly the kind of resource though that if this state’s really serious about tax fairness, and and not sort of the President’s one pager he put out yesterday, but real substantive change in Washington, you gotta start walking down that path given that virtually all other states have something like that, it makes sense. It will be hard. It’s part of that compromise process. And I don’t worry about the voters rejecting something if it’s gone through really rigorous debate. In particularly if you get a bipartisan deal in the end. And there’s democrats and republicans and labor and business supporting the final package. That will carry the day. They will, they will make clear through their channels, the importance of this in the larger scheme of Washington’s tax code, not just supporting schools. So I, my advice to both sides is be courageous and be bold and stay at the table, and take risk, and listen to each other, and get a deal that you can both support, so that universally, you know, from the Idaho border to the Pacific Ocean, we can tell voters, this is really good for kids.

Jenkins: Let me ask you about the skepticism I sometimes hear among members of the public. And it just happened last week. I was talking with somebody who was here in Olympia, lives up in Seattle. And, and just made an off-hand comment about, oh, they’re gonna put a bunch more money into education and we’re not gonna get, essentially we’re not gonna get much for that, for those dollars. It’s this notion that we pay for inputs but not outputs. You were starting to get to this a little bit in terms of what you think the system needs to elevate all students. But but stepping back from that even. There is a skepticism out there among some people that we are investing in a system that produces results. How do you respond to that?

Reykdal: Well a couple things. On the political front I would say, look at our levy passage rate around the state, folks in our state love their schools, they trust their local schools, which is why as much of this has to be in local controls hands as possible. The the further you get from people on the ground the more skeptical they get. So they’ll tolerate a package in Olympia that supports schools but gives their districts the ability to have some flexibility. The further up you go the less they’re gonna trust that for one. The other thing is we’re doing things very differently in this state. I I mean I wish we could spend an hour on your show going through twenty years of education reform to talk about what we’re doing: more math, more science, more English language arts, more rigor in the curriculum, more expectation of teachers, a better evaluation system, a school rating system, our achievement index. All of that by the way is getting reimagined right now because we owe a consolidated accountability report if you will to the federal government by September. And we’re writing that plan now. You’re gonna see variables in that achievement index where we, where we look at schools way beyond test scores, which we oversimplified. You’re gonna see things like chronic absenteeism and whether or not they’re at this critical benchmark, 9th grade success…and whether they’re getting dual credit for courses in the 11th and 12th grade. We are doing things very differently in public schools. I would argue a little humorously, most of the cynics of reform have not stepped in a classroom. If you go into a classroom today and see what’s happening, from a, from a third grade teacher, all the way to a high school science teacher, you would see a very different experience than when you went to school.

Jenkins: But it sounds like one of the areas that you are very concerned about is that you don’t think the supports are sufficient.

Reykdal: That’s exactly right. We’re we’re running the numbers now again and and the good news stories, our students are taking more core credits than they ever have, and why wouldn’t they? The new high school diploma requires that. Even our high school drop-outs are taking more math, science, and English language arts. The system is responding as policy makers have wanted, and we still have a 20 percent or so drop-out rate, and now we’re learning that two-thirds of those drop-outs are in the senior year. We keep them longer than we ever have, they take more of the classes that folks have asked them to take, and we still lose them in their senior year. That’s not because they’re cognitively struggling per se. They get to this place where they say, I’m not sure the relevancy of this. Or I gotta get to work because my family cannot afford to not have me doing that. There are wraparound services for kids that are the difference in their lives. Which is why I’m so sympathetic to the house democrats who say, yes this is hard work, but it shouldn’t just be revenue neutral, and it shouldn’t be cut everything else in state government just to fund K-12. It’s a move all of this together to support students.

Jenkins:  Well, let me ask you about that though because it, you’ve led to the next question that was in my mind. And I know the resistance, especially among many state lawmakers, to writing a state budget in comparisons to a home budget. But everybody gets the idea that every month, if you own a house, the first and foremost thing you have to do is pay your mortgage. And then after that, you kind of go from there, right? And if you have kids, sort of at that bottom of that list is there anything leftover for some summer camp, or for some, you know, music lessons, or for some extras, right? But you’ve gotta carry, you’ve gotta deal with the fundamentals first. The the state constitution, and the McCleary decision, in no uncertain terms say, the state’s paramount duty is to fund, amply fund basic education. Why can’t the approach be as, for budgeting, to do that first? And then, have a conversation about what else state government should do, and how we’re gonna pay for that, and perhaps ask tax payers what they’re willing to pony up in addition. It seems like that’s a logical approach and conversation, and yet when you ask that question, especially of democrats, no no no no no, we can’t do it that way. Why not?

Reykdal: Mmmmhm. Well actually I’d argue that the first obligation’s debt (laughing). There’s big consequences if you don’t pay debt service in this state…

Jenkins: Which I guess is sort of like paying your mortgage…

Reykdal: Right. Like paying your mortgage.  And then what do you do, you feed your family,right?

Jenkins: Right.

Reykdal: You do those basic essentials at home. So there is some appropriate comparison here. And education is the paramount duty. I mean, you’re not gonna get an argument here from me as state school superintendent. But it’s just naïve to believe that that the future of our state is to continue to grow that bucket at the expense of everything else, when we’re reaching record economic growth in our state.

Jenkins: But if, but if, as a former democratic office holder, again, now residing in a non-partisan role, when you think about talking to voters, why do democrats not wanna, or why are democrats so resistant to talking to voters about raising taxes for non-education items? Which actually if you think about it, at the local level, is usually the conversation. Were gonna pay for police and fire. If you want mental health, if you want to help the homeless, we’re gonna ask you to pay a little bit more. If you want mass transit…

Reykdal: Yeah.

Jenkins: …we’re gonna ask…right? But at the state level, if we’re gonna raise taxes, it’s always to pay for education.

Reykdal: I won’t speak for all democrats who want to raise taxes for some reason, nor will I speak for all republicans who wanna cut taxes in the middle of economic boom. I will say that there are communities all around the state who go directly to their voters and say, help us raise resources for homelessness or food programs, or supports, and the voters willingly do that. I would say it’s more an argument about the era of media, and maybe, and maybe this is a little bit on on you all, about the level of mistrust that accumulates in a voter, the further that decision gets away from them. They’ll support this stuff at the local level, they get more cynical in Olympia, and they’re absolutely cynical about the feds being able to solve problems. So you know, that’s, that’s for the politics of today to figure out, and and maybe there’s an appetite for it in a different way in the future. It’s also part of positioning. And that’s what democrats and republicans do, they they represent their base, and they come with their best argument. And right now this is I suppose where we are.

Jenkins: Let’s hit a few more issues here. One thing that the senate republicans do in their plan is they propose to move away with, from what’s been called the prototypical school model, where you fund the prototypical school. We won’t get into details about how you define that. They want to move to a per student funded model. I think ala Massachusetts. You get a base amount per student, and then students who have extra needs, special needs, homeless, would get additional dollars, based on those needs. Again, it seems like something that people can get. If you, if you tell the average member of the public, prototypical school model, or your kid gets this amount of money plus extras for their extra needs. Which one do they understand best? That one. Yet I’ve heard a lot of resistance to it. What, what are your thoughts on the, on the best approach?

Reykdal: Yeah, sometimes the simple message is the right one for politics, but probably not the right one for good policy. It is simple to say, hey every kid gets the same amount of money. The truth is it’s not even close to the Massachusetts model. In Massachusetts they start with the ability of the locals to raise money, so in Boston, in some of the urban areas with high values, the entire budget’s born by local voters. And then in the rest of the communities, the state’s picking that up, which is also a tax on those local or urban voters. And so the challenge in Massachusetts and this idea that, oh we love how simple it is because everyone knows their dollar amount, is is actually born back in that tax conversation. It’s because urban livers in Massachusetts are massively subsidizing folks in rural communities out there. And that might be the approach that some folks want. I mean the senate gets closer to that concept. I don’t think that’s the Washington way. I think our court has a very different expectation, our constitution does as well. It says it’s the state’s responsibility to amply and fully fund our paramount duty which is public education. So right or wrong we we have to work on solutions that the state picks up. And in that regard, the protypical school model kinda works. If you think about it. It does tell you how much money you’re getting in your school. And we are able to translate that down to per student. Now I think where the senate has a really important angle they’ve taken here is there’s so much conversation around English Language Learners, or special education students, or career and tech ed, or homeless youth, these things that we want to do, that are very targeted, where we wanna see a result and better accountability for the money. Having that be a factor, some percentage of basic ed, is not common sense. Telling students, if you are in this camp, your school’s gonna get an extra 500 dollars or thousand, or five thousand. People do, do understand that for that targeted reason, and I think that’s the compromise that’s coming.

Jenkins: Okay. We do have a teacher shortage in this state, and the governor just signed a bill aimed at addressing that. And it it deals with creating new, alternate pathways for someone to become certified to teach. As I understand it a board will actually be working on what those paths should be. But what optimism or confidence do you have that this, this new law will allow the state to start to address this shortage.

Reykdal: It’s part of the solution. And there’s no question we want really talented folks to come to the classroom. I I stand with lots of people on both sides of the aisle, that you still have to have a lot of rigor in that process and really competent folks, and the ability to evaluate them out if it doesn’t work out. Just because you’re a great software engineer, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gonna come to public school and be a great math teacher. Those are different skill sets so… But opening up the pipeline, and considering this, particularly people who are already working in schools, they’re support staff, they’re paraeducators, I think they demonstrate the passion and the want, and they see excellent teaching and so it’s a good pathway. The truth is, the market is broken. And if it were a private sector business, back to the private analogy, and you couldn’t keep employees, you’d say, I have a market problem, and the first place you’d look is compensation. So getting the state to solve McCleary and pick up the bill, is a big step, but if it’s just neutral, it doesn’t change that market reality for the teachers. So we have to go beyond that. Starting pay has to go up a lot, and we have to continue to create financial incentives for educators, particularly with the booming economy of the Puget Sound. Yes people leave high school today, it is not top of mind the way it was twenty years ago to become a teacher. And we have to change that through market.

Jenkins: So, that gets back to this house and senate plan. Both of which, which would raise pay, but they approach pay for more experienced teachers very differently. I think senate republicans have said they don’t feel like the salary schedule is broken. They say that they haven’t seen evidence that overall we’re not paying enough. What are you looking for in a final plan in terms of compensation and and, a a salary structure and model?

Reykdal: I’m looking for them to first and foremost define basic ed compensation. They have a definition of basic ed for lots of other things the court was able to point to. This was an area where the court looked and said, we’re not sure what basic ed compensation means. Which is why they essentially said every dime being paid by local levies must be basic ed. I don’t necessarily believe that’s true. So they need to define basic ed very clearly. They need to amply fund it. Which means have the entire cost of basic ed compensation born by the state. And then they need to recognize though hat there are reasons for local communities to want to pay more, or add more. And the analogy I always use is that the formulas are driving five kindergarten teachers in your community, but your voters and your school board want to lower class size even further, we should absolutely allow you to raise local levies to hire a sixth kindergarten teacher.  Is that kindergarten teacher basic ed? Probably not. Because the formula’s told us what basic ed was. But we shouldn’t get in the way of local communities. And I believe this is what’s coming. Is the definition of basic ed compensation that’s much clearer for the court, I believe they will amply fund that, and in the end they’re gonna have a long political debate about how much resource to leave local communities, and I think they should leave them a lot of local levy authority. And make clear that if you’re gonna pay additional compensation, or you’re gonna hire additional staff with that money, that’s outside of basic ed.

Jenkins: But on the flip side, the court has also been very clear, that one thing that the that the legislature in the state needs to do, is to to pick up the cost of salaries and compensation, and to fund those salaries at a level that allows you to recruit and retain competent educators. So what does, what does that look like? Aside from what the local levies might be…

Reykdal: Yeah. I think it’s…

Jenkins: Do they need to blow up the salary schedule?

Reykdal: Well I don’t think they need to blow it up. In fact I think they need some salary schedule. Because local collective bargaining is a right of workers, and I support that. I think it’s gotta be simpler, lots of those schedules locally that are bargained, are driven by this complex 16 by 12 schedule or whatever it is at the state. I think the governor had the right idea here to really skinny that down, have four or five simple steps. The bottom line is, is you gotta have a higher starting salary, and from there you’ve gotta have slightly higher tiers to create that incentive for folks to come in. The other benefit of having higher salaries early in career, besides recruitment, is that it’s a significant benefit to Plan 3 retirees, those younger folks who come in and pick a market based retirement plan. They…

Jenkins: As opposed to a traditional pension?

Reykdal: Right, they want their resources early in their career for lifetime earnings. And so there’s a lot…

Jenkins: Well…

Reykdal: …a lot of wins here.

Jenkins: Is 45,000 dollars a year for a base starting salary, which I think both sides are proposing…

Reykdal: Yeah…

Jenkins: …sufficient?

Reykdal: I think they’re in the right ballpark, again for that state defined basic ed. And then you’ll have communities who say, that’s not quite enough for us, they should have the authority to go higher.

Jenkins: Except for those districts who could still be starting at 60, or 55, right?

Reykdal: Right.

Jenkins: With those add-ons. Okay. You had briefly touched on a moment ago, the chronically absent students, and how that can lead to lots of troubles, including dropouts. But a statistic that came out in April, that really surprised a lot of people, is that Washington was recently ranked 2nd worst in the nation for its number of chronically absent students. Washington State? How is this possible? How did that happen?

Reykdal: (laughs) Two things: A, we think there is a big problem and the research is really clear. So we’re building an achievement index, and an accountability data system that every voter, every person in the state can go look at their school district, and hopefully eventually their school, and drill in on those things that really matter. Kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading, and ninth grade failure, chronic absentee, we’re gonna give them the best thinking in education, so right down to their school they can see how they’re doing. Specifically to that issue, the one thing I would caution about is there is fifty different state definitions of what absent is, and even in our state there’s some big differences. So if, if in your school you’re ten minutes late, we say, hey, you’re absent from that class. In another school we go, ahh, our policy is fifteen minutes, you’re on time. We have a lot of definitional alignment to do in the next couple of years, and and we know there are states who say, if you’re on a school-sanctioned field trip, if you’re, if you’re at the Science Center on a school field trip, that’s not an absence. And in our state, we count that as an absence, for reporting. So, so I’d be careful of the ranking, but do not walk away from the importance of that data metric, and I think the legislature’s all over this. I think they’re gonna help us attack this problem. And you’re gonna see us keep putting resources into getting students there. And I know it sounds simple, but the old adage is, half the battle’s showin’ up.

Jenkins: Yeah. Well, so, in some places I think, you know a truancy officer will show up at your door. You come up with a slightly different approach. A call from one of your favorite Seahawks players. Let’s listen to, what some students who are missing school, are missing class, are hearing on their telephones. (plays audio clip)

    “Wake up, it’s Jermaine Kearse from the Seattle Seahawks. Get up and get to school. Don’t be left on   

     the sidelines. The future is all yours. All you have to do is show up. “


So this is a voicemail call that’s a robo-call, that you can send out. What’s the thinking here?

Reykdal: Well our schools, once again, have used technology in innovative ways to reach parents, almost real-time, when their student isn’t showing up. So that we don’t have that long gap. Remember when you were a kid and you didn’t show up, maybe your parents knew and maybe they didn’t? Maybe they got home at the end of the day and listened to a message. We have these real time systems now that are really powerful, that connect parents to school. And in this case, you know, we find somebody who’s got name recognition and and Jermaine’s really passionate about this. He’s a Washington kid, went to Lakes High School, Seahawk. And he’s helping us be one of many systems that say to kids, this is a big deal. They may not think it’s a big deal if it’s just the vice principal recording the message, but when a Seattle Seahawk calls you and says, you know, get to school, it matters, we think it has impact and we’re gonna keep doing more of that.

Jenkins: Okay, I know that, kind of, you are completing, like a lot of new elected office holders, your first hundred days. And you spent a lot of time on the campaign talking about career technical education, and a a need to give students avenues and pathways that may not entail a four-year degree. What have you been able to accomplish, in your first hundred days toward that goal.

Reykdal: Yeah, so one of the exciting things at OSPI is we we have new leadership in our CTE team and we’re actually merging that and our teaching and learning team, or learning and teaching team, depending on who you ask. Because we think CTE has this pathway of huge importance that needs to be elevated but it also has to be integrated well. We can’t see it as this separate thing, or this lesser thing. So we’re merging it with the team that’s really focused on high math standards and English standards and other standards. And so we think we’ve gotta get our house in order a little bit. We’re also partnering a course with the public and private sector on core plus and these other things where we are building certifications for students while they’re in high school that tells the employer community, and the higher ed community, this student is ready with a different set of skills than they’ve ever had and it’s industry and standards based. So that’s happening on the private sector side. And then in the legislature we’re continuing to say to them, you you you do have a test problem in this state. (laughs) We can have lots of debates on the weight of tests. It’s too much, quite frankly. We’re one of only a couple states with a comprehensive, high stakes exit exam. And the biggest problem isn’t that it drives students away in the end, which it does. Its biggest problem is that much earlier in their in their school career, they all believe that they are one-size-fits-all, and they must follow the same math pathway, the same ELA pathway, the same science pathway. And you’re losing students who’d say, I’d stay in school if you’d put me in a consruction trades program. I still wanna take math, but I want it applied to my job. That’s really not a viable pathway for kids. So we still have a legislative effort to get this straightened out.

Jenkins: Okay, and just in the last minute we have, what is the biggest surprise or lesson you have learned, as a candidate for office, you sort of had these visions of what it might be, but now that you’ve actually occupied the office for 100 days, what surprised you, or struck you.

Reykdal: Well what hasn’t, the good news is that I was in higher education for a long time in a state agency, so I understand a little bit of that culture. And then being a legislator, I get their world. So that’s been a really nice marriage to put to work right away. The surprise honestly is how receptive folks are to change that matters. They don’t just want you to spin the wheels because someone’s new in the seat. They want to see evidence, and and the employees at OSPI are so good at what they do, but they have high expectations that we connect this to better outcomes for kids. And that’s where the pressure is on me everyday, and I love that. They are really a remarkable group and I think we’re making big change fast.

Jenkins: Have you hit any barriers?

Reykdal: Well you do in a legislature, because you want the resources to flow. You want flexibility. And you wanna go up there with data and say this is the answer. But politics doesn’t always use empirical answers. Sometimes they use very political answers and so, it’s a barrier but it’s one I understand because maybe I was guilty of that myself at one point in time. So it’s, it’s okay though.


Why Delinking Graduation from the Smarter Balanced Assessment & Other Tests is the Right Thing to Do.

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I am writing to encourage everyone who values the 13 years of hard work completed by students as they reach their senior year to call their state legislators. My request is simple: ask your legislator to pass HB 1046. This bill will serve to delink all high stakes testing requirements in all subjects from high school graduation.

While this bill does not eliminate the state tests, it DOES eliminate the high stakes attached to these tests, which is a big step forward in supporting students whose futures have been severely damaged by high stakes testing.

In 2013, Seattle Times writer Donna Blankenship notified her readers about some stark facts tied to the state’s End of Course Math tests:

“But that doesn’t make life any easier for the nearly 7,000 students in the Class of 2013 who have yet to pass the newly required math test and didn’t get their diplomas last month.”

2013 was the first year the state required students to pass an end of course math test in order to graduate and earn their diploma.

This got me thinking. Since 2013, how many students in Washington State have been denied a diploma for failing a high stakes tests required for graduation? I don’t see the numbers posted clearly anywhere, despite the state’s creation of these high stakes.

It gets worst. In 2017-18, students will  be required to pass three high stakes tests in order to receive their diplomas, per OSPI:

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I wrote OSPI and asked them about the number of students who will be denied a diploma because of end of course tests required by the state. After all, we know approximately 7,000 students were denied graduation in 2013 because of one math test. What will happen when three tests are required?

Hello OSPI Communications and Community Outreach,

I have a question about SHB1046. Does OSPI have an estimate of how many students will fail to graduate if testing is not delinked from graduation, please?  How many failed to graduate last year due to testing?

Thank you kindly, Susan DuFresne

OSPI’s  response:

“As of late April, there were 15,645 students in the Class of 2017 who had not met the assessment graduation requirements.  Students are required to pass an assessment – or a graduation alternative – in each of the three subject areas ELA, math, and science.  The 15,645 number includes students who may have passed 0, 1, or 2 of the requirements, but haven’t met all 3.  Also note that these numbers only reflect their status with respect to the assessment grad requirements; it does not include information about whether the student has met other graduation requirements such as credits.”

15,645 students in Washington State are at risk of being denied graduation after investing 13 years of their lives in school.  In years past, a child attended 13 years of school, received passing or failing grades by their professional educators, earned their credits, and graduated with their diploma.

Shannon Ergun, ESL 9-12 Mt Tahoma High School, Tacoma Public Schools is highly concerned about the undue stress level these high stakes create for students and she states:

“I estimate based on there being 1.1 million students in WA that there are 70K-75K seniors that means that about 20% of current seniors are waiting on test scores to know if they can walk at graduation in 4-5 weeks. That is an inappropriate level of stress for a 17 or 28 year old to carry while still faced with AP exams, final exams, and final plans for beyond high school.

Until large numbers of kids are actually impacted everyone will continue to believe it will all be ok.”

I think Shannon makes a great point: What about the ordeal our kids experience just by taking these high stakes tests, knowing graduation is on the line? As adults, it’s sometimes easier to ignore rather than face the pressure these tests place on our kids.

For instance, did you know some students find these tests so stressful there’s an actual protocol for what to do should a student vomit on a test? That’s a lot of pressure. When was the last time you vomited at work over the pressure you felt to perform? I’m guessing this would be a highly unusual occurrence, not likely covered by a particular protocol in the employee handbook.

And what’s the message we’re sending to those kids born without the very particular gift of being a good test takers? You only have value if you can score high on a standardized test?

The State Board of Education is offering a compromise solution: delinking the biology end of course exam, while continuing to use the other end of year course exams as graduation requirements.

Why would it be acceptable to offer a deal to 3,302 students but leave 12,343 behind?

As an educator, I want ALL students who have otherwise completed their graduation requirements based on grades and credits earned to receive their diplomas – despite failing one or more of any of the three high stakes tests imposed by the state.

And what happens to the chances of bright futures for those left behind?

High school exit exams contribute greatly to the school-to-prison pipeline as noted here by FairTest:

“High school exit exams (FairTest, 2008) push many thousands of students out of school. As a result of these factors, urban graduation rates decreased. Some students see no realistic option other than dropping out; some are deliberately pushed out or fail the tests. Either way, these young people are much more likely to end up in trouble or in prison. One study found that high school exit exams increase incarceration rates by 12.5 percent (Baker & Lang, 2013).”

Sadly, youth who are unable to acquire a diploma are often relegated to minimum wage employment, live with state support through DSHS, or become homeless. In 2012, for example, DSHS reported that 69% of their “Opportunity Youth” did not have a high school diploma.

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And what about earnings for youth who do not receive a high school diploma?

“The average dropout can expect to earn an annual income of $20,241, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (PDF). That’s a full $10,386 less than the typical high school graduate, and $36,424 less than someone with a bachelor’s degree.

PBS Frontline reports in Dropout Nation by Jason Breslow and per the 2012 US Census here:

“The challenges hardly end there, particularly among young dropouts. Among those between the ages of 18 and 24, dropouts were more than twice as likely as college graduates to live in poverty according to the Department of Education. Dropouts experienced a poverty rate of 30.8 percent, while those with at least a bachelor’s degree had a poverty rate of 13.5 percent.

Among dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24, incarceration rates were a whopping 63 times higher than among college graduates, according to a study (PDF) by researchers at Northeastern University. “


Are we OK with throwing away the futures of kids who are unable to perform on high stakes tests – after they’ve devoted 13 years of hard work to their education? What message does this send to kids about hard work when it doesn’t payoff and they end up rejected by the system.

What if OSPI was required to report how many students have been denied graduation due to high stakes testing each year? What if our US Department of Education had to file a yearly report which focused on the living conditions of each state’s youth denied a diploma due to high stakes tests?

Perhaps outraged parents, educators, and students would rise up and stop the high stakes testing; the state’s means to punish children, educators, and schools would be lost forever.

By delinking ALL high stakes tests from graduation we can protect thousands of students in Washington from being denied their rightfully earned diploma for simply missing a few questions on a test.

Also by delinking these tests from graduation requirements, we will also save our state between $9-$11 million dollars. Money that could be better spent on actual teaching vs testing.

Call 1-800-562-6000 and ask your legislators to protect our students by delinking high stakes testing from graduation – vote YES on SHB1046! Delink them all! Give our youth the bright futures they deserve!

-Susan DuFresne – Integrated Kindergarten Teacher with General Education and Special Education endorsements – 7 years in the Renton School District, Teacher of Professional Conscience, Co-Owner of the Opt Out Bus, Social Equality Educator, Artist, progressive and social justice education activist, unionist, mother and grandmother – The views I express are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer. #FreeSpeech

Tim Burgess, Bruce Harrell and Pamela Banks: Sleight of Hand in the 37th?


From Seattlish:

SEEC Complaint Alleges Shady Behavior in the 37th Dems Endorsements

Bruce Harrell

Bruce Harrell’s campaign may be in some hot water following allegations that they essentially bought the 37th District Dems endorsements for both him and Pamela Banks.

An SEEC complaint alleges that, before the deadline to become a voting member of the organization in time for endorsements, 15 new memberships were paid for in one batch, with sequential money orders purchased at the same location.

It gets sketchier: These new memberships came on the heels of the Harrell campaign calling and asking if it would be OK for them to pay for new memberships (they were told it was not).

Pamela Banks

After this group of new members showed up and voted, Harrell and Banks — both of whom didn’t get enough votes in the primary endorsements to actually gain the 37th Dems’ endorsement — were both endorsed publicly. But some weren’t convinced they were acting independently.

Just after the vote, it was determined that at least five of the new members shouldn’t have been permitted to vote at all, because, per the 37th Dems themselves, they didn’t even live in the 37th LD. And although there’s no way of knowing exactly who voted for whom, what was clear was that Harrell passed the 60% voting margin required (Morales received 30 votes, Harrell received 72, per the 37th’s Tweeting of the votes), and Banks received the exact number of necessary votes. A motion to recount was filed, but it did not stand.

Tim Burgess
Tim Burgess

A few days ago, Erica C. Barnett reported that the endorsement for Banks was possibly being challenged due to the issue of residency by some of the voting members. The basis of the challenge is that, without those votes, Banks may not have received the endorsement; in the past, the 37th haven’t shown a ton of support for status-quo candidates like Tim Burgess, Bruce Harrell, or, now, Pamela Banks.

(Banks is the only Democrat in the D3 race, so she’s the only candidate eligible for endorsement; this doesn’t mean they had to endorse Banks. The 43rd chose to vote “no endorsement,” effectively endorsing retaining Sawant. A not-small number of the 37th wanted to vote for a no-endorsement, but were reportedly “shouted down” when given their chance to speak.)

However, in part because of these new members, the 37th did endorse both Banks and Harrell, and chose not to rescind those endorsements, even though they may not have truly had the votes.

The SEEC complaint alleges that not only were the memberships invalid due to the place of residence of the voters, but that they were actually paid for by Bruce Harrell’s campaign, which is illegal.

The complaint, filed by 37th Dems board member Pamela Keeley with Jonathan Rosenblum, is dated September 30, just a few days after the endorsement meeting.

Meanwhile, in a statement, 37th Dems president Rory O’Sullivan notes that they failed to report that bundle of 15 memberships—which technically count as campaign donations—to the Seattle Ethics & Elections Commission. He takes “full responsibility” for the error and for “any campaign violation” stemming from the new memberships.

From the complaint (it’s long, but it describes the allegation pretty accurately):

On information and belief:

1. Before the meeting it was known to all candidates that endorsements would be made or voted upon, and that the group’s rules prescribe that one who is not already a “Precinct Committee Officer” or a member can only attend the meeting and vote on endorsements by becoming a member 25 days before the meeting, i.e. by August 27, 2015, paying dues and also one must reside in the 37th LD.

2. On August 27, 2015, someone called O’Sullivan and said he was speaking for the Bruce Harrell campaign.

3. This person asked if the campaign could purchase memberships for other persons. After checking with Treasurer Legault, Chair O’Sullivan told this person no, that would be illegal.

4. On August 27, 2015, within two hours of the earlier call to O’Sullivan, someone called Legault saying there were people who wanted to be members with no bank accounts or credit cards, can I bring money orders. This person refused to identify himself to Legault. She thought this was odd or unusual. She said money orders would work, also persons could pay with cash but that she would need other info, such as name, residence address and their signature to report the membership dues paid as contributions to SEEC.

5. An hour and a half later he called again saying he would be there shortly and at about 10:30 pm he arrived by car at Legault’s home in Beacon Hill. He again declined to identify himself although she asked him if he had a card. He gave her 15 membership forms and 15 money orders for 15 membership dues payments. The forms given said the 15 were all employees of East Side for Hire.

6. The money orders were numbered in sequence at the same bank. The money orders were bought at Fred Meyer Store no. 459, which is in Renton.

7. Legault apparently has reported this as a potential bundle of contributions to SEEC. In addition, she felt that these facts were unusual – the lack of identification, the short time between the first call to O’Sullivan and arrival of money orders, the fact that someone would pay charges for money orders when cash was acceptable, that the money orders were on the same bank and in sequence.

8. O’Sullivan called some of the persons indicated on the membership forms and one person he called told him that his “boss” said to him, “you live in the 37th district, I want you to join as a member.” For a “boss” to direct or compel political activity or contributions by employees – is a serious matter.

9. After receiving the money orders and forms, Legault noted 5 of the person’s addresses stated on the forms were outside the boundaries of the 37th District. This meant they were ineligible to be voting members. She e mailed and called the 5 persons leaving messages, to tell them they could not become voting members, and asking would they like to become members of the district in which they resided, in which case she could refund them and or forward their payment to another district, but none of them responded to her messages or e mails. This was unusual. Hearing no response, she returned those membership contributions.

10. About ten of the East Side for Hire employees, for whom membership forms and dues were given on Aug. 27th, attended the endorsement meeting, arriving largely in a group and leaving in a group. They wore Bruce Harrell tee shirts. During the meeting they stood closely together and acted like a group. They stood next to Bruce Harrell, who spoke with them often. Tim Burgess also stood by closely and he and Harrell spoke.

11. During the time when endorsement voting was taking place on those council members’ races, also the Banks-Sawant race, Harrell spoke directly to the group, and also to Burgess. Voting was by paper ballot and persons voting would hand the ballots to persons collecting ballots. When the person collecting ballots approached the group, to take their paper ballots, on two occasions (Banks-Sawant contest, and Burgess-Grant contest) some of them did not hand over their ballots; Harrell then spoke with them directly, whereupon they wrote on the ballots, and gave them to the ballot collector. This was while Harrell was close to them and Burgess was close to him. These interchanges took less than one minute and it appeared that he directed them in voting. He also spoke closely with them during the voting on the Harrell-Morales contest. After the voting was concluded for the endorsement in these three council contests, the East Side for Hire group left together with Bruce Harrell.

12. Harrell, Banks, and Burgess obtained the endorsements, with Banks and Burgess making the 60% threshold by a one vote margin. Each of these three candidates had failed to obtain the 37th District Democrats’ endorsements at the endorsement meetings before the primary election, by wide margins.

13. On information and belief, the coordinated purchase of memberships by a third party allowed the East Side for Hire group to become members, swinging the endorsement vote outcome, in favor of Banks and Burgess and against Sawant and Jon Grant.

14. East Side for Hire, is a business owned on information and belief by Abdul Yusuf and Samata Guled. East Side for Hire is interested in ongoing City Council action, involving a bill to give drivers collective bargaining rights. East Side for Hire and or its owners oppose this bill. I understand this Friday, tomorrow, the Council Finance and Culture Committee votes on the bill, which East Side for Hire and its owners are lobbying against. One concern is that the bundling of memberships, apparently in exchange for voting a certain way in three council endorsement votes, was done in order to influence or induce or favor-trade with council members to oppose the bill (or to obtain other political results).

Eastside for Hire’s owners have a vested interest in both voting Sawant out of council; Councilmember Mike O’Brien’s proposal to allow drivers collective bargaining rights has her support in a big way.

Additionally, while Harrell has often sided with Sawant on behalf of cabs (in The Great Cab v. Uber Fight of 20Forever), his position on the committee about cabs and for-hire ride services makes him a potentially important ally with further legislation.

It’s also no secret that Bruce Harrell likes Pamela Banks, has no love for Kshama Sawant, and would love to see a new face representing District 3.

But does that mean that his campaign would try to buy a coveted endorsement that carries a lot of weight in the city?

^^These contributions were filed by the 37th on 10/01. They aren’t necessarily those from the money orders, but they were all filed on the day before the complaint was filed and in a group, which is not in and of itself uncommon. Abdul Yusuf, who is named as the person who delivered the 15 memberships and payments, is not listed as a donor on the SEEC’s website at any point since 2013.

Keeley said that immediately following the vote, she and several other members of the 37th had questions, but that she was surprised by the reaction from many members of the 37th Dems, who were, she thought, actively attempting to quell any mention of potential impropriety.

“I was out-voted, as were other people, and the decision was made not to rescind any endorsements.”

While she admits that she is “not an expert in SEEC or PDC laws,” Keeley noted that she wanted to at least ensure that the behavior displayed, as well as the endorsements, were as above-board as possible. Keeley says she filed the complaint not because she’s even sure that anything nefarious occurred, but because of the unwillingness within the organization to even examine the proceedings.

“If we don’t have our credibility, what good is it making endorsements?” asked Keeley over the phone this week. “It doesn’t mean anything happened, but we don’t know what happened until we look at things. And if we’re going to put our endorsements out as they were decided that night, I don’t feel comfortable with that.”

A representative from Harrell’s camp called the complaint “factually baseless as demonstrated by the…declarations and admissions and apologies from Rory O’Sullivan, 37th Chair,” wherein O’Sullivan and the 37th essentially took the blame upon themselves.

However, the 37th’s admission/apology doesn’t a.) change the fact that Banks may not have had the votes without the new members (they admit that the Banks endorsement was decided by fewer than three votes but are adamant that they will not be rescinding any endorsements), and b.) exactly address the issue of how the new members were added, or how they managed to vote in the first place if they were not technically “in good standing” i.e. residents of the 37th.

Harrell’s representative went on to say that “the parties who joined the 37th district were not affiliated with the Harrell, Burgess or Banks campaigns,” though…that’s kind of exactly what the SEEC is supposed to be looking into and also would be pretty hard to identify.

Still, Harrell’s people seemed confident that the complaint would be promptly taken care of without anything further.

“The SEEC has been notified and we expect the complaint to be dismissed in the very near future,” said Harrell’s rep.

We also contacted Wayne Barnett of the SEEC, but he told us (unsurprisingly) that he couldn’t comment on a current complaint.

Regardless of what happens with this SEEC complaint—which, if it’s NOT dismissed, as Harrell’s campaign thinks it will be, could have potential ramifications for both the 37th as an organization and for the Harrell and Banks campaigns—it’s clear from the experiences of members of the 37th that this is an extremely divisive race, and that there are a lot of strong feelings about who the organization should stand behind.

“It’s become extremely mean. There’s so much meanness right now,” said Keeley. “Even supporting someone that someone else doesn’t seems to be grounds for character assassination.”

Notes from the field: The Nathan Hale Rally


What was to be a forum presented by the League of Women Voters and the Seattle PTA with some of our state representatives there to field questions on funding for public schools quickly turned into a rally when a teacher from Nathan Hale High School brought down the house while talking about the SBAC and its unfairness to students and families. At the end of his speech, parents started chanting “Opt out, opt out, opt out!” and stomping their feet. Soon, the entire gymnasium exploded with excitement as the chant caught on and everyone was on their feet clapping, stamping and demanding in one voice to refuse the test.

Sally Soriano (former Seattle Public Schools’ Board Member) was there and took notes as one teacher after another astutely articulated their concerns.

Representative Gerry Pollett attended the event also and showed himself to be a voice of the people.

To follow are Sally Soriano’s field notes about the forum that quickly turned into a rally.

My Notes from the WEA/SEA Legislative Forum • Sat. 3/21/15, 10AM – Nathan Hale High School

Panel: Sen. Jeanne Khol-Welles (36th); Rep. Gael Tarleton (36th); Rep. Strom Peterson (21st); Sen. Rosemary McAuiffle (1st); Rep. Frank Chopp (43rd); Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (43rd); Rep. Jessyn Farrell (46th); Rep. Gerry Pollet (46th); Sen. David Frockt (46th)

Smaller Class Size

-Social Studies teacher in Shoreline. It’s time to reduce class size in WA State as we’re 47th in the nation. Last year educators in this state didn’t feel comfortable without a petition in our hands. We collected hundreds of thousands of signatures and smaller class size is now the law.

-5th grade science teacher at Olympic View. Last year I had 29 students. I’m a veteran teacher and skilled at my profession but with 29 students it was not possible to reach every student. Our charge as teachers is to reach every student. In talking with other educators, I’ve been finding out that 29 students is not even the largest class size. This year I have 22 students. The difference of 7 fewer students has made a drastic change in my teaching. Now I can sit down with students on a one on one basis. I have to do less prep time and can focus on better instruction.

-Frockt (46th) Response: I’ve been working with the WEA on a timeline to start implementing smaller class size beginning with low income students at the elementary level. Then we’ll move to the middle school level and then add nurses. I think we will be able to get there. We have to work with the court and with new revenue. It is my commitment to fund McCleary.

-Khol-Wells (36th) Response: I agree with Sen Frockt; I am former teacher but we also have to work with the Senate majority.


-SEA Comment: WA is 47th when comes to class size; also is 42nd when comes to compensation.

-I teach in Edmonds; my husband teaches in Everett. When I talk with people about the reality of being a teacher I warn people — don’t ever marry a teacher! We live very modestly and have over $700 a month in student loans. My sister has no degree and just took a job for $70,000/yr with a $10,000 bonus. We are a healthy family but have medical bills. We continually make medical decisions on the basis of having no money. This winter we had to put off getting the brakes fixed on our car. Every few months my Grandma takes me to the store to stalk up our cupboards. We cannot afford violin lessons for our child and wonder how we are going to pay for two children to go to college when we haven’t even paid for our own college. Legislators must understand how important it is to retain quality people. They have to make this system work for teachers.

-I love working to support teachers. I wear many hats. I’m a special ed teacher and parent educator in Northshore. I work at Moreland Elementary School. I’ve worked part-time doing home repair and painting. I was in the Naval Reserves. I’ve been a fine art photographer. I need medical benefits. I make $16.00 an hour and my gross pay is at $1,700 a month with take-home pay of $1,200 a month. I am a single woman and am lucky that I own my home. Still I don’t cover my expenses with my take-home pay. I will have to continue working as long as my health holds out. We are not compensated equitably. I should be making $9,000 more each year. I guess this is what I’m donating to the state. I’m continually using up my retirement savings. My situation is the norm. I’m here to ask you to do something to fund educators. We have to be able to survive in this economy.

-SEA Question to panel: COLA is still not enough, would you support competitive wages as recommended by your own task force? Everyone on panel answers YES

-SEA Question to panel: Local flexibility, local districts negotiate with teachers? Everyone on panel answers YES

-SEA Question to Chopp: Please comment on the COLA, Speaker Chopp, as you play crucial role in the House?

-Chopp (43rd) Answer: I am a community organizer who happens to be Speaker of the House. I support raising COLAs; my brother and two sisters are teachers so our get-togethers sound like a WEA union meeting.

-Rep. Peterson Answer: We have to honor the COLA deal we have made as honoring these promises is exactly what we have to do to maintain the safety net.

-From an Audience Shout Out: When?: Answer: This year; How? Answer: Revenue packages; Capital gains; Cap and Trade

Salary and Benefits

-I’m a parapro at Stevens Elementary. I am doing the work I love and I’m lucky to have a place to live inside Seattle as I have landlords who appreciate my teaching and therefore give me a good deal on rent. If I did not have this relationship, I could not live here. I have neighbors who are also educators at Stevens and we all live pay check to pay check. We never have money at end of the month. There is no retirement and healthcare costs are rising. Inslee raised healthcare by $200 which is a minimal raise as it barely covers anything. I’m thinking that I’ll have to reconsider whether I can do the work I love. What does this say about how we are valued?

-SEA Question to panel: The decrease in healthcare has impacted teachers; $786 per month since 2011. Most educators are taking home less pay every year. Do you support increasing teachers to the same level as state employees? Everyone on panel answers YES

-SEA Question to panel: Do you oppose the state takeover of our healthcare system? Everyone on panel answers YES (except Tarelton, she didn’t know anything about a takeover)

-Tarleton (36th) Answers: I’m in support of teachers getting healthcare funding that keeps up with the cost of healthcare.

-Walkinshaw (43rd) Answers:  My mom was a teacher and my dad was on my mom’s healthcare plan. As a kid growing up I know what family finances are like. Kids know when families are budgeting and there has been a huge change over the last 20 years. It is essential to be fighting on this issue.

Student Testing

-I’m a Nathan Hale Teacher (loud applause). We teach students to be citizens, to be honorable, skillful citizens. After studying the research and using a broad-based input process with students, parents, teachers, we came to the conclusion that the SBAC was of no benefit. Since then, Dr. Larry Nyland stated we could be guilty of misconduct if we refuse to give the SBAC. We will be fired and could never again be able to teach in Washington State. Fortunately there is a large parent movement and a large student movement. The state and city and school board must listen to these protests against this unreliable test. All across the country parents and students are protesting against these tests — NY, NJ, PA and TX and California just decided to postpone Common Core testing for the next year. I think the federal government is more likely to listen to the public’s opinion about these tests because it is an election year. (standing ovation)

-I’m a Graham Hill elementary special ed teacher and also the parent of a student at Ballard High School. I have already opted my teenager out of the SBAC. I have been the testing coordinator at Graham Hill for nine years. During that time I have seen the required amount of assessment given to students increase and increase. There is no longer enough time each day for the important instruction in the classroom. There is no time for in-depth teaching. Students have to spend an enormous amount of time on their homework and this is actually content they should have been learning in school but don’t have the time because of testing. Students average 2.5 hours for each of the district mandated tests and now the SBAC will take 8 hours. Most all of this testing has nothing to do with what the kids are working on. What happens is, through the testing, you end up telling little kids that they are dumb. What am I suppose to do with this data from all these tests? I know that when I send the results to the district they just all fall into a black hole. As you all know, when you test your students the testing is timely, it is related to your curriculum and is relevant. Your tests are individualized for your students. Students realize these tests are created for them. Your tests then inform your curriculum. Students are not guinea pigs; teachers are not guinea pigs. These other tests are created by people who are more concerned about students as a number and making money off of these students. (standing ovation)

-I’m from Lake Washington School District. I just administered the SBAC. Students were looking to me with fright, trying to figure out what was going on. All I could say was: “I will not be able to help you.” These tests are taking way too much time and there is no research that shows they improve student learning. I think it is premature to be giving these tests now and it will just lead to a real narrowing of the curriculum. We must make sure how we measure our students — we must use a just process. Who is going to be the voice for our kids? Who will do what’s right for our kids? (standing ovation)

-SEA Question to panel: Do you support removing high stakes testing as grade requirement?  Everyone on panel answers YES

-SEA Question to panel: Will you work with us to limit tests? Everyone on panel answers YES

-Jessyn Farrell (46th): There is so much energy in this room! I have a 6-year old and 4-month old. When I walk into my 6 year olds classroom, I think to myself what amazing things are happening here in spite of what the Legislature is doing. I’m learning about this just the way you are. My 6 year old had a day off a while back. What did we do? We played testing. Thank you Nathan Hale. We need to and want to be your partners.

-Gerry Pollet (46th): Thank you Nathan Hale. When we were here in October I urged students to go to their parents and talk with them about boycotting SBAC. As a parent I am disturbed by what Seattle Schools are doing. I received a letter from Superintendent Nyland who states parents can “refuse” the test. He has it wrong. I have a right. It is a legitimate option for my child to not take the test. It is not a refusal! I have a legal and moral option. Our kids are not guinea pigs. (standing ovation)

-Khol-Wells (36th) — I’ve always opposed using student test scores for teacher evaluations. I would have voted against SB 5748 again this year but there was an amendment offered which was exactly what the SEA has supported. Evaluations would not be based on test scores but on assessment data and it would be up to each district what assessment data would be used. I care a lot about getting back the $40M. I have always been opposed to “high stakes” testing and I am not the enemy. I have repeatedly talked about the horrible nature of “high stakes” testing. My granddaughter is a high achiever; I was a 4th grade teacher. We know our students are achieving well and we know what we want.

-Frockt (46th): I’ve heard you loud and clear about how we use the tests and the proliferation of tests. I voted for SB 5748 for one reason. I wanted to try to restore NCLB and services to low income kids. I’ve worked with Governor Inslee crafting a waiver based on the statement of Arnie Duncan. I’ve asked Inslee to re-double his efforts. By adopting the amendment which would allow multiple measures, I was hoping this would be the right direction for public policy.

-McAuliffe (1st): When we brought it in, the wording was “may use”; not “must use.”

Fully Funding Education

-SEA Comment: We remain focused on the importance of fully funding education.

-President Northshore School District. This is the paramount duty of the State and McCleary has reaffirmed this and the State Supreme Court is now holding the Legislature in contempt. Through various initiatives, such as I-728, funding for education has become a shell game. No fair revenue has been added.

-SEA Question to panel: Do you agree full funding and smaller class size? Everyone on panel answers YES

-SEA Question to panel: Should there be competitive professional wages? Everyone on panel answers YES

-Seattle PTSA lobbyist. I have a second grader and classrooms in Seattle are bursting at the seams. We need to build more school buildings. In Seattle, we have kids in 6,000 portables. In order to meet K-3 we need 350 more classrooms. Kids need quality learning environments. We have to invest in our buildings.

-SEA Question to panel: Will you work to make sure in this biennium there is full funding for K-3 classroom construction; we need 5,000 new classrooms at a renovation cost of $40M? Everyone on panel answers YES

-SEA Question to panel: Will you support fixing the formula for building classrooms? Everyone on panel answers YES

-League of Women Voters. We know state funds are central to many programs. Where is the money going to come from? Will it be sufficient?

-SEA Question to Chopp: What can we expect this year and how can we work together? We have 84,000 educators across the state (Chopp adds: and 1 million students across the state).

-Chopp Answers: First we have to improve our tax system. Leaders in Apple Health have already learned this with $1.4B in new revenue. The problem is with the Republican dominated Senate. People in this room and throughout the state have contacted me about the bad Senate bill SR 5748 regarding teacher evaluation and testing. I’ve received 1,300 emails opposed and zero email in favor.

From the field,

-Sally Soriano

Washington’s Charter School Value: Who Benefits?

For sale to the highest bidder.

This is the first in a series of posts regarding the charter school bills that were introduced last week in the state legislature.

The post to follow was written by a contributor.


Washington State voters have turned down charter schools three times in the past.  Voters twice rejected charter school initiatives and repealed a charter school law passed by the legislature and signed by the governor.  The charter school issue is back like a persistent kid, not satisfied with an initial rejection of a request for something, who keeps asking until the parents wear down and give in.

The charter school issue is back in the form of HB 2428 and companion SB 6202:  Establishing alternative forms of governance for certain public schools.  What value is there to having charter schools in Washington State?  Will the targeted educationally disadvantaged students across the state benefit from charter schools or will benefits lie elsewhere?

Section 115 of both bills addresses the number of charter schools allowed in the state should this legislation pass.

Sec. 115.  NUMBER OF CHARTER SCHOOLS.  (1) A maximum of fifty charter schools may be established statewide under this chapter.  No more than ten charter schools may be established each calendar year.  These annual allocations are cumulative so that if the maximum number of allowable new charters is not reached in any given year the maximums are increased accordingly for the successive years, but in no case may the total number exceed fifty without further legislative authorization.

What might these numbers mean in terms of serving the educationally disadvantaged students across the state and the benefits of having charter schools?  Consider looking at this in three ways:  1) the number of schools, 2) the enrollment, and 3) the dollars per student.

There are about 1,900 schools in Washington state with an enrollment greater than 100.  If 50 of those schools were charter schools, only 2.6% of the schools in the state would be charter schools established with the purpose of meeting the needs of the educationally disadvantaged students across the state.

Consider enrollment in terms of average school enrollment and well above average enrollment. The average enrollment of the nearly 1900 schools in WA is about 540.  If each of 50 charter schools had an average enrollment they would serve 27,000 students, or 2.6% of the statewide enrollment of 1,024,711.  A school enrollment of 1,500 is well above average with 74 schools in the state, or 4%, of Washington state schools having an enrollment this larger or larger.  If each of 50 charter schools had an above average enrollment of 1,500 students, 7,500 students, or 7.3% of Washington students would be served.  The estimate of 7.3% is on the high end.  2.6% is more realistic even though it could also be high.  Will having charter schools serving a possible 2.6% of the state’s schools or students really address the needs of the educationally disadvantaged students in the state?

(Data in the OSPI Washington State Report Card 2011 Data Files Demographic Information by District was used for the calculations presented above.  Schools with enrollment of less than 100 and their student enrollment figures were not used in the above calculations.)

If an approximate amount of $10,000 per student per year of taxpayer’s money is used, the estimated 27,000 students that may be served by charter schools will generate $270,000,000.  Who will benefit?

(Washington State School Districts Per Pupil All Expenditure—Four-Year Average by County shows a per FTE expenditure of $9,982.69 for the school 2004-2005 fiscal year.  An approximate $10,000 per student per year is used for the calculations presented above.)

President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have called for states with charter schools to lift their caps on the number of charter schools allowed and not limit their growth.  Will the pressure, and possible coercion, from the federal level result in a legislature that acquiesces in the future to these demands?

Are parents, voters, taxpayers, and local community members willing to have the state create more layers of bureaucracy without any opportunity for elected representation in the governance of charter schools that likely will serve 2.6% of our schools or students?  The current legislation calls for the creation of a commission as a state agency.  Commission members will be appointed.  Charter schools will have their own appointed or selected board of directors.  There is no provision in the legislation for the public to have elected representation in the governance of charter schools.  School choice?  It is possible that parents of 2.6% of the students in the state will have charter schools as a choice for their child.  They will not have, even as a taxpayer and voter, a choice in the governance of a charter school in their local community.

What is the value of charter schools in Washington State?  Is it the opportunity that may be provided to the state’s educationally disadvantaged students?  Is it the opportunity for nonprofits to capitalize on a possible $10,000 per student?  Is it the opportunity provided to for profit corporations?  Charter schools’ appointed school boards are allowed to contract with for profit corporations to provide instructional services and manage and operate the schools.  Who benefits?  Or should the question be who benefits most?

HB 2428 – 2011-12  Establishing alternative forms of governance for certain public schools.

SB 6202 – 2011-12  Establishing alternative forms of governance for certain public schools.

Charter school feud to raise its head again in state

Designing Smart Charter School Caps

OSPI Washington State Report Card 2011 Data Files Demographic Information by District

Washington State School Districts Per Pupil All Expenditure—Four-Year Average by County\

The Underground Parent