State Rep. "Bummed" About Education Bill

By Josh Feit March 2, 2009

This session's original, detailed education reform bill got tabled after the debate between reformers and the union became too acrimonious. This afternoon's hearing on version 2.0 was a Kumbaya.

Speaker after speaker sang the praises of bill sponsor Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-47, Covington, Amazing Kiss Song) and committee chair, Rep. Kathy Haigh (D-35, Hood Canal, Grays Harbor, Mason County), for halting the clash over the first bill, "pressing the restart button," and introducing this new compromise bill to move the issue forward.

Indeed, the new bill, a placeholder with minimal specifics, sailed out of Rep. Haigh's education appropriations committee and onto rules today, 11-1.

The placeholder bill lacks the substance and definition of the original bill—what does a prototypical school look like, how should the state redefine "Basic Education," what's the formula for tying accountability to compensation, how do schools address the achievement gap between middle class kids and poor kids? And so, despite the lovefest, the warring parties managed to subtly allude to their differences over these issues.

Bill Freund from the Washington Education Association (which was responsible for killing the earlier bill) told the committee the WEA supports the new bill but "continues to have serious concerns" explaining that the bill needs to define revenue sources—perhaps through a dedicated portion of the state budget, an idea that Rep. Larry Haler (R-8, Richland, Kenwick) seconded.

Edie Harding, Executive Director of the Washington State Board of Education (strong supporters of the original bill), said the bill needed "a lot more" when it came to the accountability piece. For the WSBE's accountability specifics look here.

She also hit a couple of points that a number of other reformists echoed in later testimony: "Basic Education" must be expanded to include pre-school and the school day should be expanded to six hours instead of five.

While these occasional specifics from the adversarial stake holders slightly jarred the Kumbaya vibrations, the "we support the bill" "we support the bill" "we support the bill" sing along only truly ended when the legislators themselves gave their own comments before the vote.

phunterRep. Ross Hunter (D-48) is all smiles...

Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland, Clyde Hill), a strong supporter of the original bill, smiled as he delivered a harsh F.U. to Rep. Don Cox (R-9, Pullman, LaCrosse)—who had just finished noting that the bill needed more details to safeguard small schools. Rep. Hunter sneered: "If you'd like more details, we can go back the original bill ... and just pass that."

prolfesRep. Christine Rolfes (D-23) is "Bummed."

Rep. Christine Rolfes (D-23, Poulsbo, Bainbridge Island), another strong supporter of the initial bill, made it clear she was frustrated with the re-start as well, "I'm bummed," she said, "I wish there were more specifics."

Reps. Rolfes and Hunter, however, voted for the placeholder bill.

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