Politics

Dispute Derails Education Reform Bills

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(Photo by Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE via Getty Images)

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SEATTLE (CBS Seattle/AP) — Washington’s education system will not get the overhaul it desperately needs due to squabbling amongst state lawmakers.

Two bills designed to reshape education in the state stalled in committee Friday, missing a key deadline.

Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, said education committee chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, refused to allow a vote on measures related to charter schools and teacher evaluations. Tom accused McAuliffe of simply following the requests of teachers’ unions and failing to consider the impacts on students.

McAuliffe disagreed with the description of their quarrel saying she opposes the charter school bill and will not allow it to pass out of committee, even though she acknowledged it would have the votes to do so. She said the seven members who support the measure — two Democrats and five Republicans — have told her they won’t take a vote on anything if she won’t allow the charter school bill to go forward.

McAuliffe said she and Tom have been negotiating for weeks and have not been able to come to an agreement on this issue. “I have told Sen. Tom I will compromise on these bills,” McAuliffe said. “They have not moved one inch.”

“They’re holding all of us hostage and that angers me,” McAuliffe added. She said she is not blocking the teacher evaluation bills or other education measures.

Business groups have been pushing the bills, and moderate Democrats have signaled they want to see such reforms approved before considering new taxes.

She promised the teacher evaluation proposals would not die.

“We will be able to pull this teacher evaluation bill up. It’s that important. It’s important to the governor. It’s important to us, to the members of my committee,” she said.

McAuliffe said she does not endorse charter schools because they have a mixed success record across the country and because Washington needs to focus on fixing the way it pays for its existing school system, not experiment with new ideas.

The charter school bill is complex. It would allow public charter schools in Washington state and create a new statewide school district to be used to take over failing schools and operate them like independent charters. If the bill becomes law, it would allow up to 50 charter schools in the state, with only 10 of these alternative schools established each year.

Two similar but not identical teacher evaluation bills would require school districts to lay off teachers according to their performance evaluations, instead of the current system that focuses mostly on seniority. The measure would also make some changes in a statewide revamp of the way teachers are evaluated. Previous legislators set that process in motion.

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