New law has state intervene in struggling schools

OLYMPIA — One of the first Republican-sponsored education reform bills became law Tuesday and will give the state more power to intercede in schools where student performance on basic skills tests is persistently poor.

Under the legislation signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, the superintendent of public instruction will provide technical assistance to schools where student scores on reading and math assessments are consistently poor for a period of years.

If the extra attention doesn’t improve student performance, the superintendent can impose a multi-year action plan on the school that prescribes such things as teaching methods and curriculum as well as how federal and state funds are spent on campus.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said it is a “solid bill” which will enable the state to partner with targeted schools and shift to a leading role down the line if needed.

The prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5329 did not attend Tuesday’s signing but issued a statement calling it “a great step toward ensuring that all children are successful.”

“This was one of the important ways we can go about making sure our public-education system is serving all children and preparing them for the demands of an increasingly competitive job market and global economy,” said Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, who is chairman of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.

What Inslee signed is a far cry from the bill introduced by Litzow. That version required Dorn’s office to take over and manage poor performing schools starting in January 2014.

Pressure from House Democrats and the education establishment led to much revised language, which focuses on letting each school try to turn itself around before the state intervenes.

“We just don’t believe takeovers are a long-term solution to enacting real improvement in student achievement,” said Ben Rarick, executive director of the state Board of Education.

The final version sailed through the Senate on a 45-3 vote and passed the House on a comfortable 68-29 margin. The law takes effect in July.

In the House, opposition came from liberal Democrats, who thought it gave the state much power to intervene in local schools, and conservative Republicans who thought it did not go far enough.

Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, voted to advance the bill out of the House Education Committee on which he serves then voted against it in the end.

He said it was being revised and improved from his perspective as it made its way through the House but did not reach the point where he could support it.

“We have overloaded schools with so many requirements, all in the name of accountability,” he said. “I am of the mindset that we need to give schools more leeway to get the job done. We have to give them the ability to teach.”

Meanwhile, Litzow and Senate Republicans are still pushing for action on a number of other education reform bills in special session.

One of those would evaluate the performance of every school using letter grades of A-F like on a report card. Student achievement is one of the measures that would be used in determining the grade.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, said the law signed Tuesday lays the foundation for such a system. “I think they complement one another,” he said. “In order to have a grading system that is meaningful you have to have clearly spelled out accountability standards.”

Inslee said the door is open for dialogue.

“I don’t think that this bill obviates the wisdom of continuing to look at some better ways to evaluate our schools,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the last of the discussion in that regard.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

More in Local News

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

Street-legal ATVs approved for some roads near Sultan

Supporters foresee tourism benefits. Opponents are concerned about injury and pollution risks.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Merger would make Providence part of health care behemoth

Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are said to be talking. Swedish would also be affected.

5 teens in custody in drug-robbery shooting death

They range in age from 15 to 17. One allegedly fatally shot a 54-year-old mother, whose son was wounded.

Most Read