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Bill Aimed At Regaining No Child Left Behind Waiver Will Get A Hearing In House Committee

A Teach for America trainee in a Florida classroom in 2008. Seattle Schools are voting on a proposal to allow TFA corps members in their classrooms.
A Teach for America trainee in a Florida classroom in 2008. Seattle Schools are voting on a proposal to allow TFA corps members in their classrooms.

A Washington State House committee will hear a bill requiring student scores on statewide standardized tests to play a role in teachers' evaluations next week, a member of the committee said Tuesday.

But the proposal from Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, aimed at getting back the state's waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law, has gotten a chilly reception among House lawmakers — and the bill's supporters fear they're running out of time.

U.S. Department of Education officials pulled Washington's NCLB waiver last year after the legislature failed to pass a similar measure tying test scores to teacher evaluations. Without that waiver, Washington school districts lost the flexibility over how they spent roughly $40 million in federal funds.

'This Is What's Best For Kids: Funding For Schools'

Supporters say Senate Bill 5748 is sufficient to get that waiver back. It specifies school districts can bargain with local teachers unions on how to include test scores in their teacher rating systems.

The changes wouldn't take effect until the 2017-18 school year, and school districts could still fulfill the bill's requirements even if they decide test scores would play a miniscule role in rating teachers.

But to make it to the full chamber, the bill would have to pass the House Education Committee by April 1 — and the committee will not hold a hearing on the bill until March 30.

Cary Evans, director of government relations for the non-profit advocacy group Stand for Children, worries that's too late for the committee to schedule a vote on the proposal.

“There’s absolutely no argument this is what’s best for the kids: funding for schools. It’s almost shocking the teachers union [the Washington Education Associaton] is opposed to it,” Evans said.

'What Is This Really About?'

Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, sits on the Education Committee. He says it is inappropriate for the state to change its teacher evaluation system to fulfill the U.S. Department of Education's wishes as Congressional lawmakers consider a re-write of the No Child Left Behind law.

Additionally, Reykdal wondered, if "the other side will do anything to get a bill, even if they bargain it to such a small percentage that it has no impact, then what is this about? ... Is this about getting a toe in the door for the federal government and the state government can mandate essential elements of bargaining? In that case, it is such a slippery slope."

Washington Education Association spokesperson Rich Wood added that the bill was "bad education policy" and distracts from bigger issues of school funding related to the Washington Supreme Court's McCleary decision. 

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.