Senate GOP resurrects school grading, student expulsion issues

Senate Republicans today revived two controversial education reform ideas hours after it appeared House Democrats had buried them for this session.

Measures to assign schools a letter grade based on various performance metrics and to collect data on student suspensions and expulsions are part of an omnibus bill introduced today by the leader of the Senate education committee.

A hearing on Senate Bill 5901 is set for 3:30 p.m. today in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Republican Sen. Steve Litzow of Mercer Island, the prime sponsor, said most of the content is drawn from bills which passed the Senate and died when the House did not pass them before a Wednesday deadline for action on non-budget bills.

“I just wanted to make sure we still have a vehicle to keep these policies alive,” he said today.

For example, Gov. Jay Inslee didn’t like the Senate bill on school grading but is interested in the idea, Litzow said.

“This bill provides a vehicle for the governor, the House and the Senate to get together to make school grading work,” he said, adding he’s not wedded to the details in the bill dropped today.

Earlier this month, Inslee appeared to ping-pong between his comments as a candidate supportiing grading schools on an A-F basis and opposition he expressed as governor to the bill pushed by Senate Republicans.

But the governor sent a letter (attached) to members of the House and Senate education committees laying out his criteria for a “fair, transparent and understandable education accountability system that supports schools in their efforts to improve.”

Other elements of Senate Bill 5901 would eliminate the use of open-ended suspensions and collect data on the number of students suspended and kicked out of school. It also erases several state mandates imposed on local school districts and creates a new legislative committee to study salaries of teachers and staff, and local levies.

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