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Teachers ask legislators to end graduation requirements and cut class sizes

Post by Katie Schmidt on April 4, 2011 at 3:07 pm with 8 Comments »
April 4, 2011 4:55 pm

As the state House of Representatives rolled out its two-year budget complete with $4.4 billion in cuts and reductions, teachers from around the state gathered in Olympia Monday to protest growing class sizes.

A group of about 200 teachers organized by the Washington Education Association came to the Capitol to ask legislators to eliminate the requirement that students pass state tests before they graduate 12th grade and use the money to reduce class sizes in elementary school, a move they said would bolster student performance later on.

“These are incredibly tough economic times and we know that every segment of our state will see cuts, but the worst thing that could happen in these budget cuts would be to do permanent damage to our schools,” said Mary Lindquist, president of the Washington Education Association.

She said finding funding to reduce class sizes in elementary schools would improve student performance and decrease drop out rates, and teachers who attended the protest agreed.

Liz Warren, a 6th grade teacher from Stella Schola Middle School in Redmond said large class sizes in elementary school classrooms meant students weren’t prepared by the time they made it to her classroom.

“I have students coming to me who don’t know how to multiply, don’t know what a noun is,” she said. “You can’t move on if a student doesn’t have the basics.”

Protesters estimated that eliminating state tests as a graduation requirement would save about $50 million, mainly because requiring high schoolers to pass before they can graduate means schools have to provide expensive re-takes.

The budget that state representatives proposed Monday would eliminate funding for class-size reductions for kindergarten through fourth grade and suspend Initiative 728, which would allocate a per-student amount to school for reducing class sizes or adding early-learning and other programs. Doing so would save about $1 billion over two years.

The budget would provide about $25 million, however, for lower class sizes in high-poverty schools.

Rep. Kathy Haigh, a Shelton Democrat and the chairwoman of the House Education Appropriations and Oversight Committee, said funding for that was probably contingent on the passage of two bills in the Legislature, House Bill 1410 and 1412 that would cut some math and science tests as high school graduation requirements in the coming years.

House Bill 1412 already made it through both houses of the state Legislature and would allow the graduating classes of 2013 and 2014 to take one end-of-course math assessment rather than two in order to be able to graduate.

House Bill 1410, though, has not made it out of committee. It would move the requirement that students pass a science end-of-course assessment to the class of 2017, rather than the class of 2013.

Lewis McMurran, a lobbyist for the Washington Technology Industry Association, said he was concerned about the idea of saving money by removing high school testing requirements for graduation because he thought it would jeopardize student improvement in science and math.

He suggested ending seniority-based layoffs for teachers as a way to cut costs in education instead.

Washington Education Association Spokesman Rich Wood said lawmakers seemed to be taking steps in the right direction with the budget announced today, but teachers also wanted to see the state repeal reading and writing tests as a graduation requirement, a proposal that so far has not made progress in the Legislature.



Leave a comment Comments → 8
  1. truthbusterguy says:

    The teachers union doesn’t want anything to do with accountabilty.

    They are so afraid of the graduation rate because it is proof of their failure as a group. We need to try a new system to show our kids can learn. When will we wake up and introduce competition into the school system.

    Other parts of the nation are doing this and it’s working. The unions will tell you it’s not but ask the parents that line up to apply for these schools and seek escape from their public school system.

    When wil we do this in WA State. We owe it to our kids to push the WEA to the sidelines and push forward for some real changes in the system.

    These unions are destroying America, one kid at a time.

    Their failure to graduate these kids id filling our prisions. Fire them NOW!!!

  2. tree_guy says:

    Easy to fund smaller class sizes for the elementary grades. Reduce teacher pay and use the savings to hire more teachers. I’m sure the teachers won’t object, according to the story this is very important to them. Problem solved! Next?

  3. SuperSteve says:

    The voters passed separate initiatives to reduce class sizes and raise teacher COLAs – each by larger majorities than a typical Tim Eyman initiative.

    So where’s all the “respect the will of the voters” rhetoric now?

  4. nokoolaide says:

    “So where’s all the “respect the will of the voters” rhetoric now?”

    Obviously once the bill came due, the “voters” realized they simply cannot afford that nonsense.

  5. truthbusterguy says:

    well said nokoolaide

  6. BigSwingingRichard says:

    Wow, the union rally got 200 teachers to protest in Olympia, out of how many total WEA members, about 15,000? Good job, WEA.

  7. mommy_of_2 says:

    Yes, only 200 teachers showed up. Teachers can’t just get time off to go to Olympia and many teachers want to stay in their classrooms while a smaller group represents them.

    Teacher unions are not the enemy. They are there to help protect teacher rights and stand up for teachers when district administration or school administration is being unfair. Are they perfect? No. Do we need change in how unions function? Yes. But it’s not a black and white issue. Teachers are expected to educate EVERY student, not just the students who go to school ready and willing to learn. Many students walk through the doors who barely speak English, who have specific learning difficulties and who don’t get enough to eat. Students need individualized attention and cutting funding for reduced class sizes will reduce the amount of time a teacher can spend with each student. There are many factors that lead to the drop out rate, a number of which are out of the control of schools (home life, study habits, eating habits, extracurricular activities, transportation, etc.).

    What we really need is to get more community members involved in the lives of students, especially those students most at risk for dropping out. But I don’t think we can make an initiative for that.

  8. Rollo_Tomassi says:

    Liz Warren, a 6th grade teacher from Stella Schola Middle School said…

    “I have students coming to me who don’t know how to multiply, don’t know what a noun is,” she said. “You can’t move on if a student doesn’t have the basics.”

    The real question should be “How does a child who can’t multiply or identify a noun get promoted to the 6th grade?” (And it’s follow on “If the student doesn’t master those skills by the end of the 6th grade, will you take the path of least resistance and promote the child to the seventh grade?”)

    The problem of sub-standard education will never get solved unless teachers like Ms. Warren take a stand and refuse to promote students who have not mastered grade level material.

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