Governor-Elect Dino Rossi, Transition Office, State of Washington

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Forward Washington REFORM FOUR:

Reform education by sticking to standards, rewarding our best teachers, and fostering an environment for learning by giving teachers the ability to control their classrooms.

Hard Facts:

  • A new report out this week says that more than one-third of all public high school students don't graduate from high school within four years. Even more troubling, there's an "achievement gap" with minority students. African-American, Latino, and Native American students graduate at much lower levels that the average rate.
  • After a series of lawsuits and legal decisions in the late 1970s and early 1980s, state education funding formulas and the definition of "basic education" became rigid and inflexible. Many of the funding formulas are at least 20 years old and haven't been updated or changed.

Real people:

  • Scott Carlon teaches at Rogers High School in Spokane. He says his school feels the pinch of budget shortfalls and he thinks my reforms, coupled with priority-based budgeting, could help provide more funding for important school programs like after-school and summer sports to help build student health and self-esteem. Mr. Carlon teaches business and computer classes at Rogers, including an English as a Second Language keyboarding class. He also supports more flexibility with the WASL.

Concrete solutions:

  • I will explore ways to help the WASL achieve our goal to help all children be better prepared upon graduating from high school. I will not support any efforts to lower expectations.
  • I will support giving school districts more flexibility and control at the local level. Whenever possible, we need to let the districts make the decisions.
  • To create a better system for compensating our teachers, I want to our reform our antiquated teacher salary structure. Instead of being based on tenure, teacher pay should be based on a teacher's skills and achievements. There's no reason an excellent teacher in our state shouldn't be making $100,000 a year. But that's impossible with our current system.
  • Next, we all know that most teachers are hard-working, dedicated, and committed to the education of our students. There aren't many failing teachers…But there are a few. A failing teacher endangers the future of his or her students. I want to reform state law so local school districts can remove those failing teachers.
  • Third, we need to give teachers and principals at the local level greater authority to remove trouble-making students from the classroom-without fear of lawsuits.
  • Once these reforms are in place, I'll push for a state constitutional amendment to guarantee, at a minimum, yearly inflationary increases for K-12 spending. This doesn't mean that K-12 would only get the bare minimum every year--this amendment would make sure K-12 funding never gets cut.


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