Reform School

By Josh Feit June 23, 2009

During this year's legislative session in Olympia, one issue we covered in depth was the debate over education reform.

The ed reform bill—which redefined basic education and empowered the state to intervene in failing schools—drew opposition from the teachers union (the Washington Education Association), which argued it was an unfunded mandate.

Proponents of the bill, including the state PTA, the state superintendent association, and parents who flexed grassroots mom power in Olympia, argued that if education was ever going to be appropriately funded, skeptics needed to see a blueprint for accountable and successful schools first. They argued, and PubliCola's coverage tended to side with them, that the reform bill was the prerequisite that would finally prime the pump. 

Here's evidence that the reform bill has created the framework—or more accurately, the legislative authority— for demanding education funding.

In May, Gov. Gregoire vetoed one section of the bill—the section that added early learning into the basic definition of education. Gregoire argued that the bill only name-checked at-risk students (children from lower-income families), and she wanted the legislation to include all young children.

It's a reasonable argument—and last week she sent a letter to Randy Dorn, the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction (who supported the bill), asking him to develop legislation in time for next session that would include all children in the plan to fund early learning education. 

Here's a portion of Gregoire's June 8 letter: 

I am asking you to work on a proposal about the state's role in providing early learning opportunities for all all children birth to five, their families, early learning caregivers and educators. I believe children should have early learning opportunities from birth. These opportunities ... should be available to all children and families.

I would also like you to consider the resources that could be available to support your recommendations and provide recommendations identifying where to start programs and how to develop them to scale.

This strikes me as evidence that the education reform bill has set the stage—as proponents argued it would—to reform and fund education.
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