Feb 19, 2007

some WEA issues on the lobby day agenda

Here are some things we'll be chatting about with the legislators this lovely Lobby Day. Via email:
Smaller class sizes will improve student achievement
Parents, teachers and students all know that small class sizes help students learn. Research shows it, too. With fewer students, teachers can give students the personal attention they need and deserve. For WEA's 80,000 members, smaller class sizes are among the top three priorities for this legislative session. Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed spending $90 million on new class-size-reduction programs. That's a good start, but nowhere near enough: Washington's class sizes are 47th in the nation (pdf). Yet some lawmakers reportedly want to spend even less than the governor proposed for smaller class sizes. That's a bad idea, and it will make it even harder for our state's students to meet high academic standards. In coming weeks, WEA members will be sending their legislators a clear message: Investing in smaller class sizes will improve student achievement. Invest more, not less, on smaller class sizes.

Protect gainsharing
The proposals to reduce educators’ pensions now have bill numbers.
House Bill 1771/Senate Bill 5779 eliminate gainsharing. Senate Bill 5668 and House Bill 2116 eliminate gainsharing for future school employees. WEA opposes all of the bills and any attempt to repeal gainsharing.

Gainsharing benefits education employees in retirement Plans 1 and 3 and increases their monthly pension checks. Gainsharing benefits about 50,000 WEA members, said Dave Scott, WEA vice president....

ESA bill would pay for experience
Education staff associates (ESAs) should get salary credit for their years in the private sector. ESAs include school counselors, nurses, psychologists and therapists -- people who are well-paid in the private sector. In most cases, though, they start at the lowest salary level when they join a school staff. State law doesn't recognize their private-sector experience as a factor in salary funding. That makes it more difficult to find people to fill those positions....

Fix and fully fund the so-called NCLB, teachers say
Two teachers testified this week about a memorial urging President Bush and Congress to fix and fully fund the ESEA, the so-called No Child Left Behind Act. It's up for reauthorization this year, but it's never been fully funded. It also has major policy flaws.

"You have the opportunity to use this legislation to send a message to Congress about education reform," Suzanne Mayer told the House Education Committee. Mayer is a middle school teacher from the Highline Education Association. Spokane EA member Idalia Apodaca also testified on House Joint Memorial 4012.

Keep the high standards, but fix the WASL
The WASL should not be used as a high-stakes test that prevents students from graduating, WEA representatives testified this week. WEA supports the state's high academic standards, said Mary Lindquist, but opposes using the WASL as a barrier to graduation. The WASL should be one of several assessments used to measure whether students should graduate, she told the Senate education committee.

Lindquist, Mercer Island EA president, testified about Senate Bill 5165, which would delay using the math WASL as a graduation requirement. She encouraged lawmakers to delay all sections of the WASL and to use the time for a complete review of the WASL-based assessment system. The state must also provide adequate school funding for smaller class sizes and other needs, she said. WEA supports Senate Bill 6023, which offers students additional assessment and instruction options after failing the WASL once. Lindquist said SB 6023 is good for students and gives them flexibility.
Status of the various efforts: every single bill listed above (go to http://www.leg.wa.gov/legislature, choose "bill search" and type in the number) is in committee.

No comments: