Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: education

Nov.
16th

Tighter school days might offset shorter school year

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

How bad do the state’s looming budget cuts look? So bad that many Washington school superintendents – people who understand the connection between classroom time and learning – are urging a shorter school year.

A terrible idea on the face of it. But it may be less terrible than what it might avert: A drastic cut to the levy equalization money that helps children in property-poor school districts get an education comparable to what their peers get in wealthier districts.

To help close a $2 billion revenue shortfall, the governor has proposed to cut levy equalization by half. This would strip millions from Tacoma, Puyallup, University Place and other districts with lean tax bases. Well-off districts – think Seattle, Mercer Island and Edmonds – wouldn’t be touched.

A coalition of 29 Puget Sound superintendents say that a shorter school year for all districts – 175 instead of 180 days – would spread the cuts more fairly. The idea is to squeeze schools equally across the state rather than heap the pain on the districts that can least afford it.

If lawmakers are forced to choose between equalization and a shorter school year, equalization should not be sacrificed. Time spent in the classroom does matter.
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Feb.
12th

Seniority-based teacher layoffs hurt schools, students

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Here’s a multiple choice question for anyone concerned about the quality of Washington’s schools:

With teacher layoffs almost guaranteed because of looming cuts in state funding to school districts, which teachers should be the ones to get pink slips?

A. Those with the least seniority, even if they’re among the best and teach subjects – such as math – that districts have difficulty finding teachers for.

B. Those whose evaluations indicate they are the weakest and least effective in the classroom.

For parents, students and some legislators, the answer is a no-brainer: B. Keep the best and lay off the problem teachers.

In a recent telephone poll commissioned by the Partnership for Learning and the Excellent Schools Now Coalition, 81 percent of the 500 voters contacted agree with the statement: “If a district is facing layoffs, teachers should be retained based on their performance in raising student achievement, not how many years they have been teaching.”

Unfortunately, that’s not how it’s done in Washington. When layoffs are required, they’re done strictly on a seniority basis. Read more »

May
14th

Letter writers ding Arizona boycott, argue teacher seniority rules

What issues got letter writers writing this week?

No. 1, by far, is the Tacoma City Council proposal to boycott Arizona over its tough new immigration law. And there’s almost no disagreement among the contributors: All but one think a boycott is a really dumb idea.

No. 2 is the teacher seniority issue prompted by the article about a young, much-loved Mount Tahoma teacher who will be displaced to another school because of teacher union seniority rules. The letter writers were split on this one, with a couple seeing value in experience (one even said the young

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April
22nd

How about ‘Leave Your Daughter or Son in School Day’?

The timing of “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” – smack in the middle of the school year – was lunacy from the day the event was launched in 1993.

Nothing wrong with taking a daughter or son to work, if it’s possible. But why the third Thursday in April? Why yank kids out of classes when you don’t have to? Why in heaven’s name not hold the event in July?

Educators, after playing along gamely for years, have begun pushing back against an event designed to hijack an entire school day and override carefully planned

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March
30th

A trip at the Race to the Top finish line

This editorial will appear in the Wednesday print edition.

It’s report card time for Race to the Top: “A” for theory, an “A” for effort but a shaky “B-” on the final exam.

The Obama administration set out to shake up the educational status quo last year when it put up $4.35 billion in prize money for states on the front lines of school reform. So far, it has partially succeeded, even among some foot-draggers like Washington.

Proof lies in the education bill Gov. Chris Gregoire has just signed into law. For Washington – an important qualifier – the bill is a big move. For the first time, the state will be able to intervene in schools and districts that just can’t seem to deliver a decent education. New teachers will remain on trial for three years, not two. Read more »

March
17th

Don’t test those sleepy students

I won’t use the name of the Wilson High School student who e-mailed the following letter to the editor. No sense in needlessly embarrassing him. This is exactly how it came in.

There is a simple way to improve test scores across the State,and it’s free ! Do not give it the week of the time change. There is some sleepy students at 7:35 am around here.

My guess is that writing isn’t this student’s strongest suit. At least I hope not. However, the basic premise of his letter is sound: It could be a good idea to avoid giving

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March
8th

Race to the Top: A low bar that Washington can’t clear

The Washington Post complains here that the Obama administration’s “very, very high bar” for Race to the Top education grants has actually proven to be a very low bar.

Fifteen states, plus the District of Columbia, were selected last week as finalists for the money, which is supposed to reward states that are pioneering successful education reforms. Fifteen finalists out of 40 states doesn’t sound like an exclusive club.

But – Washington not only didn’t make the cut, it wasn’t in the running. Gov. Gregoire withdrew the state’s bid last year after it became apparent we were too far

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Jan.
2nd

Our 2010 agenda for community action

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Human needs, education should be top priorties

Yes, The News Tribune’s editorial board does have an agenda. And here it is.

The guiding principles behind our editorials are no secret. We publish them at the beginning of January, each and every year.

This civic agenda is our way of emphasizing priorities we consider essential to the health of the South Sound’s communities.

It evolves each year to reflect changing circumstances, but the underlying principles largely remain the same: educational opportunity, responsive and responsible government, the protection of natural resources, help for the hurting. No region can prosper if such fundamentals are neglected.

The dawn of a new year is a fitting occasion to take stock of the progress made in the last 12 months and set sights for the coming year.

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