Sen. Fred Jarrett’s response to common concerns

March 9, 2009 at 1:58 pm Leave a comment

Sen. Fred Jarrett (D-Mercer Island) has posted his response on his Web site to common criticisms and concerns to the major reforms proposed this session.

Read the full post here.

Concern: Reading the bills several times I do not see where the funding is going to come from.

[Fred’s Comments] We are working on how to finance the program.  The funding, that is the apportionment of money to schools, is assure once the bill is passed.  To unfund the bill would take a specific vote to do so, with each legislators’ vote recorded.  That doesn’t happen today.  Today, funding is in the budget along with everything else the state does and legislators take one vote for the whole package.  There is no accountability.

We believe that the financing requires a legislative accountability package such as that.  We have reduced funding for education in this state consistently for 25 years; we’ve gone from the top of the nation to the bottom of the nation in funding, both on a per student basis and teacher compensation.  We need to reverse that. We think holding the legislature accountable is a necessary part of that.

Concern: It sounds like a lot of added things that have no funding that will take away from the students. Like the people that will come around and observe teachers, sounds like more money taken away from useful things and instead given to bureaucrats that know nothing about teaching.

[Fred’s Comments] I think you’re referring to the mentors and evaluators for beginning teachers.  If so, they aren’t bureaucrats, they’re teachers.  The idea is a peer evaluation system where teachers have more control of their profession.  Not bureaucrats.

Concern: I have never seen a law maker come to my school and see what it is actually like to be an educator. It is so easy to sit in Olympia and make these decisions without really knowing what is going on.

[Fred’s Comments] Invite me and I’ll come.  I regularly visit schools and make presentations to students about what we do and, I hope, learn something about what you do.  I have great admiration for teachers, especially after a day in the classrooms.  My daughter is a third grade teacher, my wife a school psychologist in an elementary school, my sisters retired teachers in a high school and a community college and my parents were both in adult education.

Concern: Do you think it is a coincidence that teachers are against this? I talk with my fellow teachers and our hearts are breaking for our students at the possible passing of this law.

[Fred’s Comments] No, it’s not a coincidence.  I think you’ve been given a lot of misinformation.  I’ve read the “information” out of the WEA and the Uniserves and it breaks my heart, too.  For example, some districts have heard that we authorize charter schools.  We don’t.  To even find charters in the bill requires a twisting of the plain language of the bill.

Concern: We already do not have enough support in our schools and now with the budget cuts we are probably going to have even less.

[Fred’s Comments] You are right on both counts.  As I say above, we’ve consistently reduced investment in education for decades.  And this year will be brutal.  We are hearing from superintendents of RIFs unheard of in my lifetime.  K-12 will likely receive the smallest reductions of any area of state government – social programs will take the hardest hit.  We are currently planning on an $8.5 billion shortfall in revenues. That’s a quarter of the state’s operating budget.

Concern: It is not a coincidence that it is the low income schools not making AYP and all the upper class schools are.

[Fred’s Comments] You’re right.  We expect 228 schools to be in that category this year.  That’s why our bill suggests an alternative, the so called “index”, which reduces that number to a few very poorly performing schools – schools which perform significantly below the performance of their demographic peers.  And why we provide significant increases in the time teachers have with at risk children and those acquiring a new language.

Concern: So I invite you to go to a school that is filled with kids that see drug dealers on the streets, that do not know when their next meal is going to be (unless they are at school), watching their parents die from Aids, being physically abused…these are the realities for my students. Before you make decisions impacting the lives of these students come meet them. Ask the teachers what they need.

[Fred’s Comments] I think you’ll find that we have.  We propose pay increases in the neighborhood of 20%, increased staffing, lower class size, additional resources for technology, teaching materials and supplies, and higher funding for the kids you specifically mention.  The proposal is for somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 billion.  Today, $5.6 billion is constitutionally guaranteed.  Another $1.4billion is in the budget for things like LEA and equalization. Our bill proposes $11 billion, phased in over six years.  It would be the largest increase in resources in the country.

Before you dismiss, remember this year Washington State will invest $4 billion in transportation investments, the largest construction program of any state in the nation.   We’re doing that because we went through a process very similar to the one we’re going through now.  We made decisions about what we were going to do in 2001-3, then based on those decisions, not before those decisions, raised gas taxes by nearly half and began construction projects in 2005-6.  This year and next will be the peak of those projects.

We are following the same path here.  Decide what we want to do, SB 5444, then finance the improvements over several years ending with a system funded at 50% of the budget (10% higher than today) and at the mean for the US not the bottom.

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Entry filed under: News Updates.

Town Hall Meetings This Week in the Legislature: Update from Jim Kainber

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