Afternoon Jolt

Today's Winner: The I-594 Campaign

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety, which has registered a PAC to support I-594, the statewide inititiave calling for universal background checks on gun sales, released the findings of a study today based on FBI data. (The group, which has raised $13,000 for I-594, paid for the study themselves.)

Here's the full report, but the stats the group is hyping are these:

1. The federal criminal background check system, which requires licensed gun dealers to cross reference buyers against the FBI's database, has blocked more than 40,000 gun sales (out of 4.2 million) in Washington state since the Clinton-era background check went into effect in 1998. (More than half of those denials were to felons and 6,000 of them to domestic abusers) 

"The federal background check is working in Washington state," the group's press release declares.


Additionally, the number of people trying to buy guns also increased. Dramatically: From slightly more than 300,000 attempts in 2010, for example, to nearly 600,000 in 2013, while the number of denials, as a percentage of total attempts to buy, fell.

The group seizes on that number to make a point as well. 

2. Between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of denials fell more than half a point from 1.6 percent of sales to 0.7 percent of sales. The report's read on that? "Criminals may be seeking guns from unlicensed sellers such as transactions online, at gun shows..." 

The total percent of denials since 1998 is .9 percent, though it hovered well above 1 percent between 1998 and 2005, and held at around 2 percent and above in the first few years. 

I-594 closes the so-called "gunshow loophole," making all sales fall under the FBI background check standard. 

Today's Loser: Local School Districts

The legislature's failure to amend teacher evaluation guidelines last session put $38 million in federal money for local school districts in jeopardy.

The change was opposed by the teachers union (thus the Democrats) and also by the GOP (federal guidelines!)

The federal dollars—now estimated at $40 million to $44 million— were contingent on making a change to teacher guidelines mandating that the teacher evaluations track statewide student test scores. The change was opposed by the teachers union (thus the Democrats) and also by the GOP (federal guidelines!) and the bill went down in one of the most convoluted flame-outs of the 2014 session. 

However, legislators, Democrats anyway, had held out some hope that the the feds would grant Washington a waiver from non-compliance anyway because 15 other states were granted waivers this week, even though they were also out of compliance. The reason? their teacher evaluation systems were still in the design phase. 

That was presicely why Democrats voted against the change in Olympia, they said last spring, arguing that it was too early to make any changes because the system was still in beta phase. 

No such luck. 

An email from a legislative staffer to the house Democratic caucus today reads: 

"We learned two days ago that the DOE has extended waivers for about 15 states—stating that teachers, schools and the new assessments are not ready to link student growth data to teacher and principal evaluations. [Superintendent Randy] Dorn contacted the DOE to ask how this might affect WA state and was told that we would not receive an extension of our waiver since it had already been officially revoked."

As a result, schools that are performing poorly have to send letters giving parents the choice to bus their kids to other schools or send them to private tutoring programs. The money to pay for that? The $44 million that used to go to things like programming at the schools themselves. Without the waiver, howver, the districts lose control of the money and parents, jolted by the letter, take control of the funds. 






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