By Josh Feit April 15, 2009

1. The Blue/Green coalition we've been writing about had its first big victory in Olympia last week. The coalition of labor and environmental House Democrats—a disgruntled band of legislators who feel like House leadership has been screwing over workers and the environment all session—commandeered  the House floor last Friday night (in a dramatic vote that spilled over into Saturday) and revived an unemployment insurance bill that had first been gutted when Democratic leadership teamed up with the Republicans. 

Rep. Tami Green (D-28, Fort Lewis, University Place), a labor Democrat, led the charge, passing a series of amendments to reinstate provisions to strengthen insurance coverage for workers that had initially been stripped out when Democratic leadership cut a deal with Republicans and voted to gut the bill.

One Seattle Democrat who initially joined with Republicans to ice the bill: Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Ballard).  

2. The unemployment insurance bill was a lonely win for progressive Democrats, though. In other news from the legislature: Rep. Eric Pettigrew's (D-37, S. Seattle) bill to give childcare workers collective bargaining rights was gutted in the Senate on Monday; Rep. Sharon Nelson's (D-34, W. Seattle) bill to regulate pay day lending was gutted in the Senate on Monday, and just last night, the House passed an omnibus climate change bill  (it used to be called a cap and trade bill) that was so watered down, the Sierra Club didn't even know if they supported it. 

Two upbeat footnotes for progressives, though: Yesterday afternoon the House "refused to concur" with the Senate version of the pay day loan bill—which means the stronger House bill still has a chance; and environmentalist were able to scuttle a Rep. Deb Eddy (D-48, Bellevue, Redmond) amendment to the climate change bill that would have stalled guidelines around reducing vehicle miles travelled, one of the  only good things about the bill for Greens.

3. Yesterday, we reported that education reform advocates sent a letter to Governor Gregoire warning her that if the state doesn't pass a stronger education bill with specific rules about accountability, Washington could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal education funds. 

Well, later in the day, teachers' union president Mary Lindquist sent a letter of her own to state legislators. Lindquist said the reformers' letter "incorrectly asserts that new education policy is necessary to qualify for additional federal funding." I've linked Lindquist's letter in full below the jump. 

4. The state Senate is leaning toward sending a sales tax measure to the voters to fund health care. Meanwhile, a group of private citizens is thinking of putting an income tax on the rich to voters. Polling shows both ideas have similar (50-plus) support. 

5. The conservative Evergreen Freedom Foundation is sponsoring an anti-tax rally in Olympia today, billing it as an anti-tax tea party along with similar American Revolution-themed rallies happening state and nationwide.

But I don't quite get it. Weren't Sam Adams and the Boston Tea Party patriots upset about "taxation without representation?" After the whopping November mandates last year, are the GOP activists going to argue today that we don't have a representative form of government?

6. Seattle's rock and roll crowd is hosting a fundraiser for King County Executive candidate Dow Constantine. Hosts include Kim Thayil from Sound Garden and Krist Novoselic from Nirvana. 

From WEA President Mary Lindquist:

Dear Representative:

 On April 10, the Partnership for Learning and others e-mailed legislators with misinformation about the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stabilization funds. As you make important budget and education policy issues, we at the Washington Education Association want to make sure you have accurate information about ARRA funds.

 The Partnership e-mail incorrectly asserts that new education policy is necessary to qualify for additional federal funding. Governor Gregoire already can demonstrate progress on the “four essential areas of reform” highlighted by Secretary Arne Duncan in a letter to governors. The four points below explain why:


  1. Making improvement in teacher effectiveness and ensuring that all schools have highly qualified teachers. Washington has been required to report annually on our highly qualified teacher numbers. We must also report the number of highly qualified teachers in our low- and high-poverty classes. Our 2008 numbers show a modest difference in elementary; the number of classes taught by highly qualified teachers in high-poverty classes is 99.48 percent versus 99.59 percent in low-poverty classes. The numbers for secondary are 99.19 percent in low-poverty and 97.43 percent in high-poverty classes. In addition, Washington has implemented a salary bonus for National Board Certified Teachers to teach in the poorest schools. Our state is already making gains in teacher effectiveness.

  2. Making progress toward college and career-ready standards and rigorous assessments that will improve both teaching and learning. Our new State Superintendent is making changes to improve the state assessment system, including online assessments, quicker results, the use of formative assessments and other improvements.

  3. Improving achievement in low-performing schools by providing intensive support and effective interventions in schools that need them the most. In our state we have been using school improvement facilitators and district improvement facilitators to assist schools and districts with reform efforts. We have also had Math Helping Corps and reading programs. Washington is using federal school improvement dollars in a program called Summit District Improvement. There are five school districts completing the first year of a three-year program with three new districts coming on next year. This project develops district knowledge, skills and capacity to lead and support consistent, sustained and dramatic increases in student achievement in all district schools.

  4. Gathering information to improve student learning, teacher performance, and college and career-readiness through enhanced data systems that track progress. In 2007, the Legislature passed E2SSB 5843, regarding education data and data systems. Expanding on the Core Student Record System began by OSPI in 2002 and a 2006 grant from the Gates Foundation, Washington has already been working on a longitudinal student-teacher data system.


Washington does not need to pass legislation this session to assure receipt of the ARRA stabilization funds. We are already working in all of these essential areas of reform.


Unfortunately, other issues could jeopardize the ARRA funds in Washington. Both the Senate and House budgets use the ARRA funds to supplant current I-728 funds, not for saving educator jobs as required by the federal rules. By using the funds this way, the Legislature is freeing up state funds to balance the budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year. Quoting from Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s letter to state governors, “… this sweeping economic recovery package provides the largest one-time Federal investment in education in our nation’s history, more than $100 billion to help save and create jobs, preserve needed learning programs, and increase college access.” 


As for other federal funding, the “Race to the Top Fund” is a competitive grant system. No change in current law is necessary to enable Washington to compete for these grants.


Finally, it is unfortunate that misinformation remains concerning the National Math and Science Institute’s withdrawal from our state. NMSI program, funded by private grants, abandoned our state because the group refused to work collaboratively with the school districts it had targeted. NMSI representatives insisted on imposing their system without taking the realities of each school district (including Seattle) into account. We must be clear, Washington schools did not turn NMSI away; the group made the decision to withdraw its support despite its original commitment.


Thank you for considering these important issues. Today we continue to ask the Legislature not to pass unnecessary legislation filled with false promises of future funding, SB 6048/HB 2261. We ask the Legislature to begin to address the approximately $1.5 billion in cuts to the current K-12 budget. In two years there will be no stimulus money, just a deep funding hole to be filled.


We look forward to working with you on the education funding challenges that will continue to face our state for the foreseeable future.



WEA President
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