Do you ever feel like you are underappreciated?
Last week as the snow and ice closed schools, I took time to watch our legislators once again attack public schools and you. With the decision from the state Supreme Court fresh in everyone’s minds, you would have thought they would get to work on the crisis in school funding. After all, the Court told them clearly that they had failed to amply fund their paramount duty.
How did they face this ringing condemnation from the courts? They failed again and did nothing about funding. Instead, they introduced legislation to allow charter schools, restrict due process when it comes to layoffs, change evaluation to allow student performance to be used, allow school districts to shorten the school year but not the amount of hours you work, and to take over the K-12 health care system reducing your options and increasing your costs. The legislature failed to deal with the funding crunch and instead spent its time attacking your rights as if the education crisis was your fault.
The Washington voters have defeated charter schools three times already, but in the legislature’s infinite wisdom it proposes to take public money from public schools and give it to private business. There are hundreds of innovative public schools already working to help struggling students. We don’t need private business to take money from our public school students; we need the state to amply fund basic education in our state for the first time. Maybe if the legislature did fully fund education as it has been ordered to since the 1970’s we would be in this mess now. Maybe if legislators did their jobs rather than accusing you of failing in yours, there would never has been any reason to consider charter schools. You have increased student performance every year while they have reduced funding for education every year.
By the year 2014 there will be a new system of evaluation for teachers and administrators in place. This new system is being researched and tested to be fair and accurate. The legislature’s effort to make it easier to fire teachers and administrators is unnecessary. Currently the process to help struggling teachers is effective and safeguards rights. The contracts negotiated all across the state do not prevent the districts from terminating teachers. These contracts simply protect teachers’ rights to due process. If you lose the right to use the contract to support teachers, you will be forced to rely on the courts. The court process is costly, time-consuming, and inefficient.
Last, what is with the effort to strip away our K-12 health care? Our health care system is currently better than the state employees’ health care program. The legislature is proposing to take away our right to negotiate locally for health care and lump all teachers into one statewide program that will be controlled by a state board with only token representation from you. Currently our district puts additional funds into the pool for employees over and above what the state pays. There is no way of knowing what will happen if the state takes over. The best estimate is that the new health care will cost you more and provide less coverage than you currently have.
There you have it. I know I feel underappreciated right now. But, I know what I will do. I am going to contact my legislators and let them know how I feel about their poor decisions. I want my legislators to finally establish a stable base of funding for education that meets the Supreme Court’s definition of ample funding. I want them to stop attacking public school employees as if you were the problem. Public schools for all children through 12th grade is one of the greatest innovations America ever created.
Please take the time to look at the bills on the table and then go to Our Voice http://www.ourvoicewashingtonea.org/ and tell your elected representatives how you feel about their performance.
Please also go to our web site http://www.bethelea.net/home and read the important information about your health care.
Key education bills in Olympia
President Tom Cruver