Education Equality Act, SB 5607 – EEC Analysis

With regards to Senate Bill 5607, publicly distributed on Saturday, January 28th 2017, the Equity in Education Coalition signed-in in support of the concept of transitioning the prototypical model currently being used in Washington State to fund education to a Student Centric Locally Controlled Funding Formula. There are, however, too many holes and questions under this proposal to receive the full support of the EEC.

Please read the Equity in Education Coalition’s full analysis of the bill here: EEC SB 5607 Analysis

2 thoughts on “Education Equality Act, SB 5607 – EEC Analysis

  1. Donna Squires

    Thank you for the work you are doing on behalf of the students in our state. I commend you for fighting for their rights. I have been following the work of this group of a while and feel the staff works hard to look at the issues in education in a fair, thoughtful, even bi-partisan manner. I was excited to see the members of this group involved in the task-force to make true changes to the outdated education funding system in our state. However, I was disappointed in the coalition’s view on one point as being a ‘positive note’ and that is the ‘bonuses for the highest performing educators.’ I am not sure how carefully the coalition looked at the language in the bill or fully thought out the reality of implementing the “Top Teacher Recognition Grant Program”. There are so many things here that are misleading and damaging to students and downright disrespectful to educators as a profession in addition to being vague and unclear in implementation language.

    I would like to address line items directly from the bill:

    (1) The top teacher recognition grant program is established to encourage excellence in the classroom teaching ranks and to recognize the most outstanding classroom teachers in Washington state.
    To me this makes the assumption that teachers are some how NOT seeking excellence in the classroom currently and are in need of rudimentary cash awards to coax us into doing our jobs at a high level. That feels disrespectful.

    (2) Subject to available funds provided specifically in the omnibus appropriations act for this purpose, in each odd-numbered year, every educational service district must identify, based on merit as determined by the educational service district, the top five percent of teachers who are teaching in a school district within the educational service district.
    This section has very odd language in my mind.
    1 – What does ‘Subject to available funds’ mean? That sure feels like a loophole for being able to get out of paying anything to anyone. When I look at the number of teachers in the state; 64,323 and do the math as stated later that works out to be $64,323,000 for the top 2% and another $48,242,250 for the 3%. I just don’t see a viable way to secure those types of funds.
    2 – ‘in each odd-numbered year’? So we only want to “encourage excellence” every other year? I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around the logic there. Again, it feels like a halfhearted attempt to throw too little funds at a problem without full understanding the real issues at hand. (more on that later)
    3 – ‘based on merit as determined by the educational service district’ Why are the ESD’s making these decisions? What criteria will they use to judge the merit? Test scores? Growth rates? It’s all very unclear.
    4 – ‘the top five percent of teachers who are teaching in a school district within the educational service district’ – Does this mean 5% of the number of teachers in an ESD or every school district? Once you start doing the actual math you see how few students this would actually impact. While I am guessing the rational in thinking is that ALL teachers will work harder to try to get their hands on this money, therefore ALL students will benefit (from harder working teachers), it doesn’t add up. It is a sad and cheap way to squeeze more from professionals that are already stretched to limits by the rigors of the profession and the stress of under compensation.
    My understanding is that there are also private school served by most ESD’s. Are those teachers eligible for these “grants” as well? With approximately 64,323 classroom teachers in the state and the math mentioned above, I again, do not see this as a realistic solution. How about putting that money into fully funding healthcare insurance? We would be be able to give de facto ‘raises’ to most teachers whose take-home pay could increase by a significant amount each month.

    (3) The teachers identified in the top five percent shall be chosen and certified by the educational service district board of directors from a list of nominees submitted by each school district’s board of directors. The school district board’s nominees must be selected from a list of candidates submitted by school principals using selection criteria and a process developed by the school district’s board of directors, after receiving input from their the community.
    1 – ‘shall be chosen and certified by the educational service district board of directors’ Isn’t this what National Board certification is all about? Why would we need to have another more destructive way to determine the caliber and merit of our teachers? How many resources will the management of this type of system divert from responsible spending that will make a real change?
    2- ‘The school district board’s nominees must be selected from a list of candidates submitted by school principals using selection criteria and a process developed by the school district’s board of directors, after receiving input from the community.’ School principal already have huge demands on their time related to teacher performance rating and evaluation. Again, this only diverts time and resources from our students.

    (4) The teachers identified in the top two percent shall receive a one-time award of a fifty thousand dollar top teacher recognition grant. The rest of the teachers who are identified in the top five percent shall receive one-time awards of a twenty-five thousand dollar top teacher recognition grant.
    1 – ‘the top two percent shall receive a one-time award of a fifty thousand dollar top teacher recognition grant.’ A professional spends years honing craft and serving students and is suppose to feel ‘recognized’ by a ‘one-time award’? The rationale here is lost on me. What is to say you are recognized and then what – stop caring and do a sub-par job the rest of your career? If the only thing that will ‘encourage excellence’ is the reality-show style ‘recognition’ – lottery payout of $50,000, then what will encourage those who have received it once? Can they be recognized again (every other year, remember)? It is not part of collective bargaining nor can it be used in calculating retirement. Don’t we want education teams working TOGETHER, not competing over desperately needed compensation?
    2 – This top two/five percent identification has the slight feel of commissioned sales. Many in the public may have had some experience with this and on first glance think it is not such a bad proposal. That is until you look deeper at how a commission or ‘bonus’ may really work. First off, a classroom is not a sales floor. Students are not commodities or ‘client accounts’ in the same sense as in the business world. Teacher are there to educate EVERY child, not just the ones that will improve their profit margin or sales percentage. As a commissioned sales person, you would have the ability to choose how and who you spend time with in order to ‘hit the numbers’ needed for your commission or bonus. Do you want teachers picking and choosing some students over others to ‘hit’ numbers? I know, in many respects you may say, “YES” teachers will focus on the kids that need it most. But is that what will really happen? What about programs that are already in place that group students based on need to better serve them. If you have a classroom of Highly Capable students are you going to be judges on their scores, which most reasonably will be higher than a classroom of students to learning disabilities. Do we really want our students looked at in this way? I doubt there are any sales people who are told – you get your commission or bonus only if EVERY customer who walks through that door buys X amount of product. That would be insane, as is this proposal.

    I hope these points are put out to the public. I hope there is more though and care put into a proposal that shows respect, care and dignity to our students and educators.

    Reply
    1. Sharonne Navas

      Donna,

      Thank you so much for your in-dept analysis on this section of Substitute Senate Bill 5607. We hope you join the EEC so you can work with us on further analysis to ensure we help create the best education for our kids of color in WA State!

      Reply

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