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Controversial School Reforms Could Complicate Funding Debate In Wash. State

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Washington lawmakers are in contempt of court over school funding. But it’s a couple of non-funding issues that could create a partisan rift.

Republicans are back this year with two controversial school reform measures. One would require teacher layoffs to be based on performance, not seniority. The other would make student performance on a statewide standardized test part of a teacher’s annual evaluation.

Republicans say it’s about ensuring quality teachers in every classroom. But the Washington Education Association vehemently opposes both proposals.

The teacher’s union says this is part of an anti-teacher campaign. On its website, the WEA says proposals like this are "disrespectful" and "punitive" and amount to an "attack" on teachers. The union also says that measures like this are a distraction from the Supreme Court mandate for lawmakers to fully fund public schools.

Washington lost its federal No Child Left Behind Act waiver last year. The requirement to make test scores part of a teacher’s evaluation is part of an effort to win it back.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.