Archives for category: Washington State

This is one of the strangest political alignments ever: George W. Bush put annual testing into federal law, a practice unknown in the high-performing nations of the world. And Democrats–including President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and Washington State Senator Patti Murray–are fighting to keep George W. Bush’s policy in place. In the case of Senator Murray, her role is especially puzzling because Washington State has been a stronghold of opposition to high-stakes testing–from the Garfield High School teachers’ refusal to give the MAP test to the Legislature’s refusal to evaluate teachers by test scores, which led to Duncan withdrawing the state’s waiver from NCLB. Now, in accordance with NCLB, every public school in the state of Washington is a “failing” school, having not reached the goal of 100% proficiency on state tests of math and reading. But Senator Murray blithely defends the obnoxious annual testing policy that has so infuriated educators in her home state.


Here is the latest from


GLIMMER OF HOPE FOR NCLB?: No Child Left Behind’s spectacular sputter in the House last week overshadowed headway being made in the Senate: HELP Committee aides working to craft a bipartisan NCLB bill have been inching closer to an agreement on Title I, according to several aides and lobbyists. An announcement could come as soon as today. What will the compromise deal look like? Tough to say. But HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray has been firm about keeping statewide annual tests and getting rid of the bill’s Title I portability provisions, so it’ll be interesting to see what the Washington Democrat is ready to give up to strike a deal.
- Of course, getting a bill through both chambers won’t be easy. Take last week’s House debate. Members approved an amendment from Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that would allow local assessment systems but chose not to take a recorded vote. It signaled that Democrats and Republicans expected the amendment to pass easily, and potentially with ample Democratic support. And it’s a sign that even if the Senate preserves annual statewide testing, the House may rebel and demand more flexibility for local districts.
- One more testing note: Political advocacy group Education Reform Now, a partner of Democrats for Education Reform, is calling out the National Education Association for a video [] aimed at persuading lawmakers to scrap the annual testing mandate. ERN’s own video [] tries to “fact check” the NEA ad – and warns the union’s stance “could cost you your child’s future.”

To friends in Washington State: Join the struggle against high-stakes testing at a rally in Olympia on February 16. Now is the time to speak and be heard in alliance with other teachers and parents. Enough is enough!

In Denver last July, the National Education Association Representative Assembly supported a campaign that would end the test, blame, and punish system that has become prevalent in public education over the past ten years. The resolution to end “toxic testing” is a powerful statement and a step we must to take to protect our students. Along with this business item, another passed that would share with educators, the rights parents have when it comes to standardized testing and their children.

At the Washington Education Association Representative Assembly in Spokane, support for parents who refuse testing for their children, also passed. A strong connection between parents and educators needs to be fostered and nurtured if the removal of toxic testing is to be realized.

To that end, a group of parents, teachers, education support professionals, and concerned citizens have banded together and are ready to step it up in order to raise awareness about testing, parental rights, and how to get support when opting out. A rally is planned for February 16, noon-3PM, in Sylvester Park in Olympia. The event includes speakers and entertainment. All who attend are encouraged to set up meetings to lobby their legislators, in an effort to end testing madness.

We need you to join us in this battle! Getting educators, parents, and students to the rally is very important. Raising awareness of parental rights is powerful. So many teachers are scared to say anything about this option due to repercussions from their districts. Concerned citizens from all areas of public education must work together so that the message can ring loud and clear: Stop toxic testing!

What we ask from you:

1. Share with your organization

a. The rally is on Presidents’ Day so what better way to make a statement than to get people to show up!

2. Get involved—Contact Becca Ritchie at if you would like to help with planning, logistics, or any other part of the rally.

3. Reach out to parents, community members, and educators who would be willing to learn about testing and/or join in this action.

4. Arrangements for donations to cover organizing costs to can be arranged through Michael Peña at

5. Have a sign making party to share ideas for signs to use the day of the rally.

6. Contact Shannon Ergun at when your organization endorses the rally.

Let’s stand together, and with a collective voice, let it be known that we will not subject our students to the toxic testing environment that has overshadowed the many joys of teaching and learning.

In Solidarity,
All 720 Washington BATs

Anthony Cody reports that Democratic leaders in Washington State passed a resolution condemning the Common Core standards.

“The Central Committee of the Washington State Democratic Party has passed a resolution that roundly condemns the Common Core standards. This is the first time a statewide Democratic Party committee has taken a public position against the Common Core, and it happened in the back yard of the Gates Foundation, which has provided the funding that made the national standards project possible. This could signal a sea-change for the beleaguered standards, because up until now, political opposition has been strongest in the Republican party.

“More than 200 delegates representing 49 legislative districts, from 29 counties, gathered at the Red Lion Inn in the state capital, Olympia on Saturday, Jan. 24, where there was a showdown between “new Democrats” and a scrappy coalition of education and labor activists. Activists mixed in with the delegates, and carried homemade signs expressing their opposition to the Common Core. They also arrived early and made sure there were flyers on each chair carrying their message.”

Wayne Au and Joseph J. Ferrare have published an interesting article in the TC Record about the passage of charter school legislation in Washington State.


The intriguing aspect of the charter referendum in 2012 is that a similar proposition had been presented to voters three times in the recent past and voted down three times.


In 2012, however, billionaires and venture philanthropists and their allies created a huge fund to support the charter initiative, over $10.9 million. You will not be surprised to learn that Bill Gates supplied over $3 million of the total, followed closely by Alice Walton, heiress of the Walmart fortune, at $1.7 million. What is startling is that almost 98% of the $10.9 million was contributed by only 21 individuals.


We have seen a number of elections where extraordinary individuals managed to overcome a huge spending disadvantage to win a school board seat. This was not one of those elections where the power of the people beat the power of the purse.

The state of Washington rejected charter schools three times. But in 2012, Bill Gates and his wealthy friends like a Walton and a Bezos, spent $10 million and barely got their legislation passed.

The state’s first charter is in big trouble.

According to the Seattle Times:

“Just months after it opened, First Place Scholars, the first charter school in Washington state, is in turmoil.
Its first principal resigned in November, more than half of its original board of directors have left, too, and the state’s charter-school commission has identified more than a dozen potential problems that need to be fixed soon if the school wants to keep its doors open.

“Among them: hiring a qualified special-education teacher for the roughly two dozen students who need those services, and completing background checks on some of its nonteaching staff.”

The Washington Policy Center, a free-market advocacy group, insisted that the charter school was not in trouble and the law is working just fine.

In an earlier post, I expressed the concern of parents in Seattle that the selection of a permanent superintendent was moving too quickly. Some parents, always suspicious that Bill Gates is trying to buy their schools, feared that he was involved in the rushed process. I regret that I cast aspersion on Dr. Larry Nyland, the interim superintendent who is under consideration for the post of permanent superintendent. I have it on excellent authority that he is an experienced educator of impeccable integrity. If the board slows down, listens to parents, and engages the public in this important decision, it will build trust and good will.

Here is a statement from Seattle parent leaders. They do not oppose Dr. Nyland. They want public engagement, which is a precondition for building trust.

Dear Seattle School Board Directors,

As strong advocates for family engagement, we are concerned about the timing and rushed nature to appoint Dr. Nyland permanently through 2017.
Our council board feels that a search for a Superintendent could provide other qualified candidates, however we also believe that providing consistent leadership and stability for staff and families also has value for our district at this time. When asked to provide support for a contract extension for Dr. Nyland as interim Superintendent, we agreed. Dr. Nyland’s commitment to stewardship and accountability of SPS resources, closing the opportunity gap, providing better customer service, and responding to parent concerns is encouraging. However, when appointing a permanent Superintendent these criteria and commitments should be fully assessed through a formal process.

SCPTSA did not realize the School Board would be voting on this action so quickly without providing time for families to engage. The specifics of the contract extension, specifically to make this a permanent appointment, and the process for hiring the Superintendent, were unknown even to us. Families have been led to believe that there would be a full and transparent search process for the appointment of a new Superintendent. Five days’ notice over a holiday weekend is simply not enough time.

The School Board should move at a more deliberate pace. This rushed action will likely perpetuate distrust of the School Board and the District. Rushed decisions continue to force parents to react instead of being able to engage effectively in their children’s education.

We ask the School Board to delay this vote to explain the decision process to parents and school communities and allow sufficient time for response. It is vital the School Board takes the proper time to confirm the right person is being hired as the permanent Superintendent of our schools.


Seattle Council PTSA Board
Katherine Schomer, President
Cassandra Johnston, Vice President
Dianne Casper, Secretary
Jenny Young, Treasurer
Eden Mack, Advocacy/Legislative chair
Julie van Arcken, Central Area Director
Cecilia McCormick, Special Education Director
Annabel Quintero, South West Area Director

CC: PTA Board Leadership for all 82 PTA Local Units in Seattle

It has to annoy Bill Gates that he has not yet been able to buy the schools of Seattle, where he lives. But the stars are aligning for him. He is pushing behind the scenes for a mayoral takeover–which is a sure path to charters and corporate reform. Nothing like killing off democratic control of public education to clear the way for corporate reform.

Next on the docket is a rushed process to make the interim superintendent, Larry Nyland, the permanent superintendent. He seems like a pliable sort, and he is surrounded by Broadies left over from an earlier superintendent who was Broad-trained.

The school board announced hearings just a few days ago, while everyone was thinking about Thanksgiving, that the future of Nyland will be decided Wednesday. Forget about the national search the board promised.

Citizens should turn out, ask questions, and insist that the public schools belong to the public, not to Bill Gates, Eli Broad, or their billionaire friends.

Parent activists in Seattle are wary of Proposition 1B, a proposal for “Preschool for All,” fearing that it means a scripted curriculum and standardized tests for tots.

They have learned that the money for the proposition is coming from hedge fund managers and corporations that have been mainstays of the charter school movement.

Parents worry that the Gates Foundation is behind the proposal and that it is a prelude to mayoral control, for-profit schools, and TFA. are they right? Read: 11 Reasons to oppose Prop 1B.

This Washington State preschool teacher explains why he will vote against Prop 1B.

Arne Duncan issued waivers to 43 states to allow them to avoid the sanctions of the No Child Left Behind Law, passed in 2001, signed into law in January 2002. NCLB is an utter disaster, recognized as such by everyone except the people who had a direct hand in writing it. It requires that 100% of all children in grades 3-8 must be “proficient” on state tests of reading and mathematics or the school will face dire consequences.


In no nation in the world are 100% of all children proficient in reading and math. Congress’s mandate was a cruel joke on the nation’s public schools.


In order to get Duncan’s waiver, states had to agree to Duncan’s terms. One of them was that the state had to create a teacher evaluation system based on test scores. Washington State initially agreed, but as the research accumulated showing that this strategy was not working anywhere, the legislature refused to pass such a system.


Duncan revoked the waiver he had in his lordly manner extended. Now almost every school in the state is a failing school and must spent at least 20% of their federal funding on private tutoring or allow students to transfer to “non-failing” schools, if they can find one.


This article by Motoko Rich in the New York Times shows the ugly consequences of Duncan’s policies have been on the public schools of Washington State. Schools that have shown dramatic improvement in recent years are now declared failures. Duncan says the state must suffer the consequences of its failure to follow his orders.


This man is not fit to be Secretary of Education. He is a promoter of privatization and high-stakes testing. His period in office has been marked by massive demoralization of teachers and educational stagnation (his own term). From his actions, it appears that he doesn’t care for public education and hopes it will be replaced by privately managed charters and vouchers. His action in this case has caused harm to the students and teachers of Washington State. The headline of the article says he put schools “in a bind.” It would be more accurate to say that Duncan has rained chaos on the schools and children of Washington State. The sooner he is out of office, the sooner we can turn to realistic ways of helping children and schools.

The Education Law Center reports on a major ruling in Washington State:


Orders State to Comply in 2015 Legislative Session

On September 11, 2014, in McCleary v. State, the Washington Supreme Court held the State in contempt for failing to obey a court order for a phase-in schedule for fully funding the components of “basic education” by the 2017-18 school year. The Court ruling was unanimous.

As reported by the Associated Press, Thomas Ahearne, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said Thursday’s order “wipes out all the excuses that legislators tell themselves as to why they don’t have to do anything. I think the attorney general is now going to be telling legislators, ‘Guys you are in a box.'”

In an earlier McCleary decision (2012), the Court found the State was not meeting its “paramount duty … to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its border,” as stated in the Washington Constitution. The Court commended the Legislature and agreed with its chosen means of reaching a constitutional level of funding. The Court ordered the State to implement the agreed on changes within the 2018 deadline the legislative body had set.

Since 2012, however, the State has not made “sufficient progress to be on target to fully fund [basic] education … by the 2017-18 school year,” the Court concludes in this decision. And, “the State admitted that it did not comply with the court’s … order.”

The Court also points out that “The State, moreover, has known for decades that its funding for public education is constitutionally inadequate,” and warned that, “If the contempt is not purged by adjournment of the 2015 legislature, the court will reconvene and impose sanctions or other remedial measures.”

The cost to pay for basic education in Washington has been estimated at $4 billion or more in each biennial state budget. Underfunded educational resources that the Legislature has identified as basic education include full-day kindergarten, more instructional hours for high school students, pupil transportation, a new formula for school staffing levels for smaller class sizes, and more state support for school equipment and supplies.

Education Justice Press Contact:

Molly A. Hunter, Esq.
Director, Education Justice
voice: 973 624-1815 x19

Copyright © 2014 Education Law Center. All Rights Reserved.


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