Archive for December, 2010

Education Roundtable

December 15, 2010

On November 30, the PTAs from Auburn and Kent held an Education Roundtable discussion with all of our local state Representatives and Senator.  The meeting was held at the KSD Boardroom and in attendance were Pat Sullivan, incumbent 47th District Representative, Mark Hargrove, new 47th District Representative, Cathy Dahlquist, new 31st District (Enumclaw/Auburn) Representative, and Joe Fain, new 47th District Senator.  Interested groups in attendance were:  Kent Area Council of PTAs, Auburn Council of PTAs, Auburn School Board, League of Education Voters, Stand For Children, WSPTA Region 9, Kent School Board, Auburn Education Association, Kent Education Association, Enumclaw School District and Board, Communities in Schools of Auburn and the Auburn Association of School Principals.  Each group developed one question that was asked of each politician and answers were given in a predetermined rotational order.  The meeting was an opportunity to hear all four of our local politicians speak on education issues.  I took a lot of notes and my intention was to post those here, but in the interim, I was given a copy of a set of notes taken by another teacher, this one from Auburn and in my humble opinion, a better note taker than me.  I compared both of our notes and his were a bit more complete and understandable so I asked for and received permission to reprint them here.  Understand, please, that these are notes taken at a relatively fast moving meeting and are, by design, a bit sketchy, as notes will be.  They are understandable, though, and I present them to you with very little editing to preserve the original form and intent.  They do provide a very complete picture of the  meeting that night and you should be able to figure out what was going on.  One note:  The complete text of each question is only replicated for Pat Sullivan as his responses are listed first.  In the interests of space, the rest only have a shortened version.  Please read on…

Pat Sullivan

1.  (from Kent Area Council of PTAs)  Approximately 30% of Washington’s students drop out before completing high school.  The socioeconomic and ethnic minority achievement gap remains persistent.  Our big businesses like Microsoft hire most of their employees from other states and countries, because our kids just don’t measure up.   What is your number one goal for educational reform for which we can hold you accountable?

  • Premise of question regarding Microsoft hiring is not true. 
  • We do need more science and math majors. 
  • Achievement gap is growing

 2.    (Auburn Council of PTAs) We fund Enumclaw classrooms $6k less than our Washington State average.  Kent classrooms are $14k less and Auburn classrooms are $17k less than State average.  And yet we’re raising our wealthier districts’ Levy Lids and cutting our poor districts’ LEA funding.  Do our South County kids deserve less State funding than our more prosperous neighbors’ kids?  What can we do about it?

  • A new salary workgroup is forming/meeting to address equalizing the state salary schedule

 3.  (Auburn School District Board of Directors)  With the Erlich decision that Basic Education Funding is not adequate or ample, and is a paramount duty of the state to do so, how will you approach your constitutional duty in the context of the fiscal crisis?

  • We need to stop calling things “not basic education”
  • I-728 was cut two years ago because it’s funding was not protected
  • I will work to protect education funding

 4.  (League of Education Voters) Washington State ranked 32 out of the 36 RTTT applications.  Should we work harder, smarter to improve education, or give up because there is no more money?  How do we keep Education reform moving forward?

  • I was “disgusted” with how the RTTT applications were evaluated
  • WA lost points because we didn’t have “charter schools” even though we have many innovative things going on in the state

 5.  (Stand for Children) With continued budget deficits, future teacher layoffs are a looming reality.  Currently in Washington State, decisions about which teachers to layoff are based only on seniority.  This means great teachers are let go, more teachers are let go and class sizes grow.  Will you support legislation that ensures reduction in force focus on performance, not solely on seniority?

  • We need more teachers – and we need to address the lack of minority teachers

 6.  (WSPTA Region 9) With our demographic and financial challenges, how can our South County children compete more successfully with their peers across Washington State, the U.S., and Internationally?

  • We have a growing area with many languages spoken
  • Changing standards and tests hurts progress

 7.   (Kent School District Board of Directors) Would you support a requirement that all legislation mandating K-12 programs or services provide full funding for all costs, including incidental, administrative, non-employee, and other related program or services costs?  Additionally, if adequate funding is not provided to school districts to comply with currently mandated programs or services, would you support eliminating those mandates until such funding becomes available?

  • Yes, but tough.

 8.  (Auburn Education Association) According to our state constitution, it is the paramount duty to provide full and ample funding for the public education of all children.  What are your plans to introduce legislation that provides a reliable, on-going, dedicated source of revenue to fully fund education in the state of Washington?

  • Cuts will be outside of basic education
  • Initiatives are a possible way to raise revenue
  • Push has to come from the business community
  • We need a coalition

 9.  (Kent Education Association)  The budget forecast is dismal, what will you do to ensure that the constitutional duty to fully fund schools is upheld so that further cuts do not impact student learning?

  • I will fight for full funding of education
  • Need to get more funding dedicated to basic education

 10.  (Enumclaw School District Superintendent and Board)  As a district, what advice would you give us in terms of process and strategy that would help truly impact state legislative decisions regarding educational issues (i.e. adequate funding, unfunded mandates)?

  • Getting to know your legislators is critical

 11.  (Communities in Schools  of Auburn)  The drop-out rate in our state has been consistent for a long time at between 25-30% by the end of high school, resulting in a tremendous negative impact on our state’s economy.  Shouldn’t reducing the dropout rate be a top priority for the state’s legislature?  Do you think we should use proven organizations like CIS to improve graduation rates?  Should it be part of basic education funding?

  • Yes, mentors are very important
  • Touts drop-out early-warning program

 12.  (Association of Auburn School Principals)  Last week, Governor Gregoire called for a retroactive $81 million cut to public schools for K-4 class size reduction, as well as retroactive cuts of $18 million in levy equalization dollars going to property-poor school districts.  She also proposed delaying a K-12 apportionment payment until July.  What will you specifically do to help resolve the state’s budget crisis while ensuring that Washington’s children receive the financial support they need?  (Editor’s note:  Mr. Sullivan’s comments for this question were missed.  We apologize.)

Joe Fain

1.  What is your number one goal for educational reform, for which we can hold you accountable?

  • Bipartisanship in the Senate is going to be important

 2.  Do our South County kids deserve less State funding than our more prosperous neighbors’ kids?  What can we do about it?

  • A serious problem that some districts get more money than others.

 3.  With the Erlich decision that Basic Education Funding is not adequate or ample, and is a paramount duty of the state to do so, how will you approach your constitutional duty in the context of the fiscal crisis?

  • Constituents need to be loud in communicating priorities

 4.   How do we keep Education reform moving forward?

  • Performance pay [acknowledges this is controversial]
  • Anti-seniority
  • “Some teachers are in the wrong line of work”
  • There are problems with the hiring and layoff policies
  • We didn’t do enough to win award of RTTT

 5.  Will you support legislation that ensures reduction in force focus on performance, not solely on seniority?

  • “Time in the chair” should not guarantee a job

 6.  With our demographic and financial challenges, how can our South County children compete more successfully with their peers across Washington State, the U.S., and Internationally?

  • Current tools are not sufficient to deal with current situation
  • Streamline education records of student progress for kids who move from district to district

 7.   Would you support a requirement that all legislation mandating K-12 programs of services provide full funding for all costs, including incidental, administrative, non-employee, and other related program or services costs?  Additionally, if adequate funding is not provided to school districts to comply with currently mandated programs or services, would you support eliminating those mandates until such funding becomes available?

  • Yes, Streamline federal and state reporting forms
  • Suspend some requirements

 8.  What are your plans to introduce legislation that provides a reliable, on-going, dedicated source of revenue to fully fund education in the state of Washington?

  • ”Take me to school” to teach me how to do this.

 9.   (KEA)  The budget forecast is dismal, what will you do to ensure that the constitutional duty to fully fund schools is upheld so that further cuts do not impact student learning?

  • I have my vote.
  • I will not vote for a budget that makes draconian cuts to education

 10.  (Enumclaw SD Superintendent and Board)  As a district, what advice would you give us in terms of process and strategy that would help truly impact state legislative decisions regarding educational issues?

  • Persistence
  • Networking

 11.  (Communities in Schools  of Auburn)  Do you think we should use proven organizations like CIS to improve graduation rates?  Should it be part of basic education funding?

  • Yes, and yes.
  • We need more public/private links

 12.  (Association of Auburn School Principals)  What will you specifically do to help resolve the state’s budget crisis while ensuring that Washington’s children receive the financial support they need?

  • “I don’t know”

 

Cathy Dahlquist

1.  What is your number one goal for educational reform, for which we can hold you accountable?

  • Agrees with Sullivan that premise of question is untrue with reference to Microsoft hiring
  • Unfunded mandates are a concern

 2.  Do our South County kids deserve less State funding than our more prosperous neighbors’ kids?  What can we do about it?

  • Levy lid lift was unfair

 3.  With the Erlich decision that Basic Education Funding is not adequate or ample, and is a paramount duty of the state to do so, how will you approach your constitutional duty in the context of the fiscal crisis?

  • Expand definition of “basic ed”

 4.  How do we keep Education reform moving forward?

  • Evaluations need to mean something
  • We need to develop better evaluations
  • Parent choice [aka:  school choice]
  • “Choice” schools need to meet same requirements as public schools

 5.  Will you support legislation that ensures reduction in force focus on performance, not solely on seniority?

  • Supports performance-based evaluations – details are important
  • Enumclaw contract was tougher to negotiate because of Kent settlement – districts are competing for teachers
  • In questions from the audience, she was asked how the Kent settlement made Enumclaw’s negotiations tougher.  Her response was that KEA had negotiated a “really big raise” and that Enumclaw has to compete for teachers with competitive salary.

 6.   With our demographic and financial challenges, how can our South County children compete more successfully with their peers across Washington State, the U.S., and Internationally?

  • [mix up on questions – answered another, unrelated question]

 7.  Would you support a requirement that all legislation mandating K-12 programs of services provide full funding for all costs, including incidental, administrative, non-employee, and other related program or services costs?  Additionally, if adequate funding is not provided to school districts to comply with currently mandated programs or services, would you support eliminating those mandates until such funding becomes available?

  • Yes, and yes.

 8.  What are your plans to introduce legislation that provides a reliable, on-going, dedicated source of revenue to fully fund education in the state of Washington?

  • We already have revenue
  • Fund education first, then cut from everything else to balance the budget

 9.   (KEA)  the budget forecast is dismal, what will you do to ensure that the constitutional duty to fully fund schools is upheld so that further cuts do not impact student learning?

  • “Ditto, ditto” to Sullivan’s comments
  • Business puts people into office
  • We need to get business community to put more efforts into education

 10.  (Enumclaw SD Superintendent and Board)  As a district, what advice would you give us in terms of process and strategy that would help truly impact state legislative decisions regarding educational issues?

  • Email, call
  • I won’t look at 500 emails that all the same
  • Write individual comments/emails

 11.  (Communities in Schools  of Auburn)  Do you think we should use proven organizations like CIS to improve graduation rates?  Should it be part of basic education funding?

  • Not familiar with CIS, so I looked it up online
  • Has no experience with organization

 12.  (Association of Auburn School Principals)  What will you specifically do to help resolve the state’s budget crisis while ensuring that Washington’s children receive the financial support they need?

  • “Heels are dug in” for education funding

 

Mark Hargrove

1.   (Kent Are Council of PTAs)  What is your number one goal for educational reform, for which we can hold you accountable?

  • The word “accountability” is intimidating
  • Pro-“Innovation schools” [not to be confused with charter schools]
  • Speaks against seniority
  • Pro performance-pay [new term for “merit pay”?]
  • Schools/teachers need to be given “latitude” with regards to curriculum

 2.  (Auburn Council of PTAs)  Do our South County kids deserve less State funding than our more prosperous neighbors’ kids?  What can we do about it?

  • Need to reevaluate funding to be sure money is appropriated well
  • Makes an “Almost Live” reference to how they used to talk about Kent as a hick, redneck town, but now it’s a very culturally diverse city

 3.  (Auburn School Board of Directors)  With the Erlich decision that Basic Education Funding is not adequate or ample, and is a paramount duty of the state to do so, how will you approach your constitutional duty in the context of the fiscal crisis?

  • Need to be more efficient with how money is spent
  • “I’ve got some ideas”

 4.   (League of Education Voters)  How do we keep Education reform moving forward?

  • Teachers need more freedom
  • More accountability
  • Merit pay
  • Principals at buildings can best decide who the best teachers are

 5.  (Stand for Children)  Will you support legislation that ensures reduction in force focus on performance, not solely on seniority?

  • Founding member of the Instructional Pilots Union at Boeing
  • Supports RIF based on performance

 6.  (WSPTA Region 9)  With our demographic and financial challenges, how can our South County children compete more successfully with their peers across Washington State, the U.S., and Internationally?

  • We need more motivating principals so teachers aren’t dragging into work each day unhappy or unmotivated

 7.   Would you support a requirement that all legislation mandating K-12 programs of services provide full funding for all costs, including incidental, administrative, non-employee, and other related program or services costs?  Additionally, if adequate funding is not provided to school districts to comply with currently mandated programs or services, would you support eliminating those mandates until such funding becomes available?

  • There is a division between funding and mandates
  • Yes

 8.  What are your plans to introduce legislation that provides a reliable, on-going, dedicated source of revenue to fully fund education in the state of Washington?

  • We need stable sources of funding
  • Helping small business will help keep funding stability

 9.   (KEA)  The budget forecast is dismal, what will you do to ensure that the constitutional duty to fully fund schools is upheld so that further cuts do not impact student learning?

  • The key phrase is “impact student learning”
  • Things can be cut that don’t impact student learning
  • “I’ve got some ideas”

 10.  (Enumclaw SD Superintendent and Board)  As a district, what advice would you give us in terms of process and strategy that would help truly impact state legislative decisions regarding educational issues?

  • Inform him with facts as to how suggestions will improve education
  • Wants facts and data
  • Wants ideas that have no cost

 11.  (Communities in Schools  of Auburn)  Do you think we should use proven organizations like CIS to improve graduation rates?  Should it be part of basic education funding?

  • Show me facts/data that it works

 12.  (Association of Auburn School Principals)  What will you specifically do to help resolve the state’s budget crisis while ensuring that Washington’s children receive the financial support they need?

  • Problem in WA state is spending
  • Small business pays more in taxes to the state
  • I am a strict constitutionalist
  • One way to save money is to combine printing orders and privatize printing
  • Refers to the “student product”
Advertisements

Caseload Arbitration

December 6, 2010

You may not be aware of it, but we (KEA, aka, YOU), have taken several grievances that we could not solve at either the building or the superintendant level, to arbitration.  This means that we have gone before a professional arbitrator, usually a judge, and presented the case at length for that independant arbitrator to decide.  This is a lengthy process, requiring an incredible amount of documentation, witnesses for both sides and lawyers being lawyers.  The results?  So far, we are 5 and 0, meaning we have prevailed in our arguments ALL FIVE TIMES.  There are another couple of arbitrations that are in various states of argument, but we are continuing to work through these and we will let you know here about the outcomes as they come in.  We have a description below of one of those that deals with Caseload language in the contract.  Enjoy, and remember, we invite your comments on the topics presented or on any other thing that you feel needs to be discussed.

Caseload Language: Where Are We Now?

A significant piece of the 2009 bargain was the establishment of caseload language for all special education teachers and most ESAs. This was hard fought language settled in the last hours of the negotiation. Teams met and clarified the intent of the language and many proposals went back and forth to fine tune the wording.

The 2009 school year started with high hopes of providing a better learning environment for special education students, but by early October KEA leadership began hearing of a wide range of situations that violated the new language. Initial conversations with the district resulted in no changes and the violations multiplied. Some teachers still had no para time, some half time teachers had caseloads higher than many full time teachers, some full time teachers had caseloads far above the contract allowance, and while the caseloads grew and grew, fewer overload relief hours were allocated. A grievance was filed and after long meetings the district chose to deny the grievance. The KEA Executive Board and Grievance Committee then decided to pursue the issue through arbitration. Unfortunately, arbitration is not a quick process. The arbitrator heard the case in mid-October. WEA Advocacy and Grievance Specialists Mike Boyer and Mike McNett worked together to present the bargaining history and range of violations to establish KEA’s position. Final briefs have now been submitted and we (KEA leadership and members), as well as the special education students in Kent, are now waiting for the decision of the arbitrator.

Editorial Comment:

Regardless of the decision of the arbitrator, the final decision really lies in the hands of the Kent School District. Every day across the Kent school district teachers are pressed to accelerate learning of high-risk learners. Kent was already far behind many other districts across our region, state and country in establishing language that provides appropriate learning environments for special needs students. This fall many special ed. teachers have found their caseloads again increased by adding general ed. and ELL students to their instructional groups, but not counted as part of their caseload. Many special ed. students now receive “specially designed instruction” in groups of 15, 20 or even 25 students. All the while, the district Special Education Pathways document states that appropriate delivery model for special education is either small group instruction or one to one instruction. It is time for the Kent School District to fulfill its responsibility to our high needs learners. It is time for the district to provide appropriate staffing that will support teachers and ESAs in meeting the needs of all of our students.

We’re Baaack…

December 6, 2010

Hello again and welcome to the Kent Education Association Blog.  We’ve had some turnover and some change and as a result we dropped out of sight for awhile, but, as stated, we’re back.  We have some new focus and some new fire and we would very much like to invite you, the KEA members as well as the public at large, (but this is the KEA blog, after all) to speak and be heard.  This is a forum where you may speak your mind without fear of retribution or retaliation.  You may say what needs to be said here, although I do urge you to remember you are teachers and to keep the dialogue civil, even though you may need to vent.  We want people to hear our voices and we want them to pay attention to our words as they are the powerful statements that will get our messages across.  Your stories carry much more weight than any dozen retellings by KEA officials.  Let your voice be heard.  Visit often and say a few words or a few dozen and remember, this is a contract year and there are very serious discussions about to begin.  Again, let your voice be heard.