May 10, 2009

what the legislature did--and didn't--accomplish

The Tacoma News-Tribune's Joe Turner runs down the list of legislative feats from the 2009 session. Excerpted, some of the educational laws already signed by Governor Gregoire:
Special elections: HB 1018 will get rid of two of four spring dates that most school and fire districts use for special elections. The March election will be eliminated right away. May elections will be eliminated after 2011. Elections still will be held in February and April, but the specific dates will be different hereafter....

Military school kids: SB 5248 will enroll Washington in an interstate compact and set uniform rules that govern how schools handle children who transfer from one state to another because their military parents have been reassigned....
Some of the pending education items in the budget:
Pay freeze: Cost of living adjustments (COLA) for some 250,000 state and public school workers will be suspended for two years, but workers will receive “step” increases based on how much time on the job they have....

Bethel skills center: There is $10 million in the capital budget to proceed with the skills center in Spanaway that will be shared by a dozen school districts in Pierce County.
And, of course, let's not forget the $600 million in "savings" due to the evisceration of the class size initiative, I-728.

Other bills still pending:
Teachers pay raises: HB 2363 would suspend the cost of living raises that public school and some two-year college workers are automatically entitled to in 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years. However, the bill also obliges the Legislature to make up for the estimated 4.2 percent raise that teachers are losing no later than the 2014-15 school year....

Stun guns in schools: SB 5263 would add stun guns and Tasers to the list of weapons that cannot be brought by students onto school property, buses or playgrounds, and school security must be trained before they can possess them at schools....

Four-day school week: HB 1292 would let mostly rural school districts with fewer than 500 students shorten their school year to fewer than the required 180 days as long as they provide students with 1,000 hours of instruction.

Basic education: HB 2261 would broaden the definition of basic education to include all-day kindergarten and other programs, oblige the Legislature to fully fund that broader definition by 2018-19 school year and develop new standards for evaluating teachers.
The last is by far the most controversial measure; the WEA is pressuring the governor for a veto, since the bill proposes massive changes without even a smidgen of foreseeable funding.

All in all, the legislature passed a record 583 bills in the 105-day session.

That's an average of over five per day.


And yet they still couldn't provide districts a way to preserve at least 3,000 teaching positions by lifting the levy lid.

Crazier still.

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