This Washington

Bad News for Education Reformers

By Josh Feit December 7, 2010

State Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44, S. Snohomish County), a favorite of Arne Duncan-style education reform groups like Stand for Children, will not serve on the education committee this session according to the plan the Senate Democrats presented in caucus yesterday.

The assignments "are not set in stone," according to Democratic spokesman Jeff Reading, and Hobbs could be added back in, he said. Members were reportedly concerned that the committee itself had been downsized (a typical move when the size of the caucus itself shrinks, as it did after November from 31 to 27.) Reading says members made it clear than "an exception should be made" for education given that it's the paramount duty of the state.

The proposed members of the K-12 education committee—tasked with addressing the fact that Washington's reforms to date have not met the Obama administration's Race to the Top standards (which demand things like data-driven teacher evaluations)—were: Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, Sen.-elect Nick Harper, Sen. Tracey Eide, Sen. Sharon Nelson, and Sen. Rodney Tom.

Compared to last year's committee, this has to be a disappointment for reformers. With the exception of Tom (D-48, Eastside Seattle Suburbs), none of these Democrats are strong allies of the reform movement—a movement that got a glowing profile in the hit movie Waiting for Superman, which demonizes teachers' unions for protecting bad teachers.

And MIA from last year's education committee: Hobbs, along with fellow reform movement favorite, state Sen. Eric Oemig (D-45, Woodinville, Kirkland, Redmond).

Oemig lost his election in November (so of course, he's gone). But Hobbs, who won in November and was supported by nearly $21,000 in independent expenditures from Stand for Children, is a glaring omission for reformers.

Harper and Nelson, the two new Democrats on the committee, are more traditionally union Democrats, which makes reformers nervous.

The Republicans have not named their committee members yet. There are two hopefuls for the Stand for Children crowd, though: State Sen. Curtis King (R-14, Yakima), who pushed the education reform agenda as a committee member last year, and newly elected Republican Steve Litzow, who SFC backed during the campaign.

The senate Democrats are on a caucus retreat today and Hobbs wasn't immediately available for a comment.

Stand for Children has not returned a call for their reaction.
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