Education Roundtable

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”
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9 Responses to “Education Roundtable”

  1. kenteducationassociation Says:

    To put a tag on this, I have a couple of things I’d like to add, more along the lines of editorializing about this meeting. First, I can’t say enough about how well informed Pat Sullivan is on the subject of Educational Politics. Even the others on the panel gave him his due and deferred to his knowledge and experience on the subject. Mark Hargrove had little to add and continually said that there is enough money out there, if only it was being spent more wisely. He made some statements about how great it would be for his daughter, apparently a teacher in Auburn, to teach if they just gave her the $30,000.00 that it takes to run her classroom for the year. I’m sure she doesn’t need things like a building, classroom, heat, desks, transportation, etc., etc. It’s very easy to oversimplify a complicated concept but the point is lost if you make no sense. Cathy Dahlquist had little to say, but did misrepresent the Kent Teachers strike resolution as containing a big increase in pay (?) that caused the Enumclaw School Board, of which she was or is a member, considerable difficulty in trying to match it. At least on that point she did not know what she was talking about. At other times she said, “Ditto,” a lot, in apparent agreement with previous speakers. Joe Fain, on the other hand had much to say, and while I was and am a staunch Claudia Kauffman supporter, I was intrigued with Mr. Fain for a couple of reasons: He comes across as being very smart and is quick to respond and to make reasonable pronouncements about issues. He’s not afraid to say that he doesn’t have answers for things and, while I will always have philosophical differences with him because of party affiliations, I was somewhat impressed and I hope my impression is correct in viewing him as being willing to listen to other viewpoints before making decisions. I might add that other people that I have shared this with do not agree with me at all about Mr. Fain. We shall see.

  2. Baffled in Kent Says:

    Hm….very long article, so I had to read quickly. As far as Fain and Stand Up for Children, I am not surprised by their answers. And from what I’ve been reading about ed reform and from listening to Gates, Oprah, Arne Duncan, it seems we have people making decisions and offering strong opinions for fields they are not working in, thus, are not qualified to render an opinion. The problem with education is, it isn’t fully funded, and any support that is needed for classroom teachers is either minimal at best, or non-existant at all. Also, targeting teachers as the “problem” only delays finding a true solution. IF anyone truly believes that what happens in a child’s home life does not affect their performance in school, they are really, really out of touch or lacking common sense. It is the experienced teachers who have seen it all in education; the trends, the novelty curriculum, that often proves ineffective without time and support for the classroom teacher. We are shooting ourselves in the foot each decade or generation, when we THINK we have found the solution (i.e. those damn teachers–being sarcastic if you couldn’t tell). As family structures continue to change from two parent families to one parent families (which seems to be the norm), we need to address this and put it into the equation. We need to meet the child’s emotional needs first. When school districts claim to teach the WHOLE CHILD, I want to scream! All I see is the child being taught from the neck up!! Instrumental music is disappearing along with our librarians and eventually our counselors. OUR COUNSELORS. OMG, talk about who helps to address the whole child….if anyone, it’s our counselors.

    • kenteducationassociation Says:

      It IS a long article and I apologize for that, but any editing might have either left out something important or given the impression that I was trying to direct the dialogue. I appreciate your staying with it and adding good comments. Check back with us frequently and tell your friends and co-workers to have a look, too. As I look at it, there is much that is wrong with education today at all levels and areas, beginning with loads of misinformation, no impetus to fund, improper use of data (and so-called data-derived) comparisons and the scapegoating of teachers, among many others. We have a tremendous job in front of us.

  3. I Teach Therefore I am! Says:

    Very disappointed in this group called, “Stand for Children”. They obviously did not do their homework and do not understand that administrators often use tactics to get rid of even the good, outstanding teachers. Without tenure, those outstanding teachers who are also forthright and outspoken about improving education (but are perceived as insubordinate when they do speak up), are “shown the door”, without honest reason or proof they are ineffective or incompetent in their jobs.

    • kenteducationassociation Says:

      It does seem that some groups have the mantra of “getting rid of bad teachers” as their primary focus. This is a problem of perception that has become prevalent and one that we need to refute whenever we can. The correct response is that administrators can get rid of “bad” teachers now, if they do their jobs correctly. Unfortunately, as you state, principals sometimes abuse their powers or go after teachers for the wrong reasons. Some, for a variety of reasons, do not do their jobs of observing and evaluating correctly or appropriately. I know firsthand of one principal who writes evaluations on teachers that she has not observed at all (and I mean never entered the room at all that school year). She merely makes up a date and tells the teacher, “You remember. I was in that day…” Getting rid of teachers should not be easy, and teachers’ unions must see to that, but blaming a few teachers (or administrators, for that matter) for the problems facing education in the U.S. is outright scapegoating. There are far too many factors involved for it to be that easy. IF education was fairly, equitably and fully funded perhaps we wouldn’t need scapegoats at all.

  4. Teacher Says:

    This was a lengthy article, but I am glad KEA has posted this information for us. What I don’t understand is this hyper-focus on teachers and making sure they are held accountable for student test scores and performance. Forgive me for saying this, but we are NOT miracle workers. We are well trained teachers and savvy with the newest and greatest resources that support our curriculum. I feel I am a great teacher, but will stop at saying I can bring 80% of my students up to grade level when my classroom is comprised of ELL newcomers, autistic students, some with chronic behavior problems, and students who are really in “survival mode” when their home life is dysfunctional. To add insult to injury, my Tiered Intervention reading group has 23 students in it!! How do I bring up students who are not reading on grade level, when I sit with this high number?

    I say this to all politicians, President Obama, and Arne Duncan: YOU show me how it can be done with each class, each year, comprised the way it typically is of many varied learning styles and challenges. If YOU can teach with these particular challenges and bring up their scores for at least 5 years in a row, then I will agree with you that it CAN be done. Until then, this is all theory and I do not wish to be a lemming and follow along with a philosophy that defies LOGIC.

    • kenteducationassociation Says:

      Well said. In a recent Post Intelligencer story, it was noted that according to an Associated Press-Stanford University poll, 68% of adults believe “parents deserve heavy blame for today’s education ills.” More than half the survey respondents view student discipline and violence as a key concern and only 35 percent suggest teachers are to blame for education problems. This tells me that there is a “squeaky wheel” hard at work here, most likely agenda driven, and most likely well funded, that is attempting to scapegoat teachers and public education as the problem. The press reports this as news and enough people accept it to where opinions get shifted and teachers get shafted. The fact that the public is still mostly on our side (although I had always heard that teachers in general had around an 80% approval rating so their noise seems to be working somewhat) says volumes about how the truth is still understood by most. Be your own squeaky wheel. Talk to people, write letters to editors, to politicians, to anyone that might listen and advocate for your profession. There are a lot of teachers out there who are sitting on their hands (or wringing them) when they should be using them to sway the public consciousness and to defeat the self interests of the “privatization” folks.

      On the topic of TI (Tiered Intervention), KEA has listened to many of you and is now in the process of compiling your thoughts, concerns and wishes to share with teachers and administrators alike. In the interests of not stepping into that arena until that information becomes public, I’ll bite my tongue for the moment, but I have plenty to say about TI, some of it good, some not so good. I also know that many of you also have much to say and I invite comment on this topic. The KEA findings should be ready soon, so watch for that.

  5. Thinker Says:

    Someone tell me why the demands on teachers continue, but the support keeps getting cut? I wear many hats. I am a teacher, psychologist, counselor, mother, father, police officer, secretary, nurse, parenting expert, social worker, a friend, a listener, a hand-holder, a protector, etc, etc to my students. What do I get in return for all the time I devote to my students? I get to be scrutinized, criticized, demoralized, devalued, bullied, intimidated, humiliated, threatened, and unsupported by my administrators, and the public leaders who think they know more about my job because they have a few million in the bank.

    • kenteducationassociation Says:

      You are “scrutinized, criticized, demoralized, devalued, bullied, intimidated, humiliated, threatened, and unsupported by (your) administrators, and the public leaders who think they know more about (your) job because they have a few million in the bank,” because WE (yes, you and I) have allowed it to happen. Not to place blame (the fingers would be pointed in all directions), and for all I know, you may be a brand new teacher who has just inherited this wall of words describing a demoralizing situation, but it is something that has come about over time and will be difficult to change, but not impossible. The problems that exist are nationwide, but are particularly difficult to swallow in Washington State because we used to have one of the finest education systems in the nation. Likewise, KSD used to be one of the finest school districts in the state, but I doubt there are many outside administration who would give it that notoriety today. Funding is, and will continue to be an issue that affects all areas of education, but in and around your daily life as a teacher, there are things that can be done that would eliminate many of those descriptors that you use. Support and respect come immediately to mind, and those concepts need to be well defined and in place in order to get past the difficulties you are experiencing. A change in the culture of KSD administration will help, and we are seeing some of that right now, but much more is necessary. There is hard work that needs to be done and this is why you are unionized. Individually, your voice will barely be audible, but with our members standing together we can make change happen. Attend your building meetings, stay current with topics we are examining, consider volunteering to help with a job that needs to be done and talk to your rep. Be involved and encourage others to be involved. It’s your voice that will make things change.

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