PubliCola Afternoon Jolt logo
Afternoon Jolt

It's cut-off day in Olympia—the last day for bills to make it out of one of the two chambers.

Typically, the "5 o'clock bill," as the last piece of legislation on cut off day is known, hits the floor as some kind of political statement. The majority caucus—in the senate's case, that'd be the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus of 24 Republicans and two dissident Democrats—will run a bill that has broad support to end halftime on a bipartisan note of good will; or they'll run a hotly partisan bill (that they've got the votes for), to emphasize their power; or they run a bill that they want to highlight for the opposite chamber as a priority bill.

Pffft.

The MCC chose a teacher evaluation bill today as their 5 o'clock bill and got hammered: Seven Republicans joined with all but one Democrat to crush the legislation, which was sponsored by Sen. Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island) and co-sponsored and supported by the MCC leader, Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina), who spoke in favor of the bill on the floor this afternoon.

The bill, which would change the language in teacher evaluation guidelines so that state tests in reading, language arts, and math "must" be one factor among many in student improvement measures (rather than the current "can" language), went down 28-19. The change would have given Washington a last-minute waiver from federal guidelines and prevented the state from losing $38 million in direct school district funding.

Oddly, Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe (D-1, Bothell), who voted against the bill this afternoon, sponsored the same fix earlier in the session.

Sen. McAuliffe

However, she said on the floor today that testimony during hearings on the bill convinced her that "it's not a good thing to use statewide tests ... local districts should be in charge of their own classrooms."

Sen. Litzow, who neutered his bill of more controversial provisions such as quantifying the percentage that student testing must be a factor in teacher evaluations (50 percent of three measures) and a non-sequitur provision that took seniority away as a factor in personnel decisions,  held up a chart of how much money each district would lose (Seattle stands to lose $2.4 million, the most. Tacoma stands to lose $2.1 million, Vancouver $1.4 million, and Yakima $1.2 million). And trying to appeal to the Democrats across the aisle, he noted that he was simply following Obama administration policy. (Maybe that's why so many Republicans bailed?)

The teachers union, the Washington Education Association, was against the bill. Leading up to the vote, WEA spokesman Rich Wood told Jolt: "Mandating the use of state standardized test scores in teacher evaluations does nothing to improve student success. There’s no research to support making that change. A single test doesn’t measure student growth, it doesn’t help teachers become better teachers and it doesn’t help kids get a better education." He also said, as McAuliffe herself said during the floor debate, that Washington can still get a waiver and keep the $38 million.

Sen. Litzow

Litzow, however, said OSPI and Seattle were both told that Washington would not get a waiver without the fix. OSPI told me the same thing. Litzow's Eastside Seattle suburban colleague, Sen. Andy Hill (R-45, Redmond) pointed out that decreasing K-12 funding by $38 million was "cutting into" the McLeary investment.

Meanwhile, the last bill on the house side today, the DREAM Act, which the Democratic house passed on the first day of the session. The senate passed back a similar GOP version (re-naming it the Real Hope Act) and today, the house passed it again 75-22, ending the first half on a bipartisan note.

 

For the latest on Seattle news and politics sign up for our Seattle Met Daily newsletter, subscribe to PubliCola’s RSS Feed, follow us on Twitter @publicolanews and @SeattleMet, and visit our News & Profiles page.