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Letter from WEA President

posted Oct 20, 2011, 3:24 PM by Joseph Vellegas
ESEA Reauthorization:  As you have probably heard,  President Obama and the Department of Education, fed up with the slow pace of Congressional ESEA reauthorization, announced that states could apply for a waiver from Average Yearly Progress, (AYP) as long as they agreed to meet certain conditions.   This effort circumventing Congress triggered a Senate action in the form of a bi-partisan, 860 page comprehensive amendment to the existing ESEA. Informally called the Harkins (D-Iowa)/ Enzi (R-Wyoming) bill, the 860 page document is being analyzed by NEA and WEA staff after its release earlier this week. 
The legislation appears to be a very mixed bag for us.  In 860 pages there is a lot to love (changes to AYP) and a lot to hate (linking teacher evaluations to student test scores).  It is likely to be a very long process, starting yesterday when 150 amendments were proposed, many of which reflect our concerns.    NEA believes a final version won’t pass until after the  2012 elections, but that the 860 page Senate bill will be the vehicle for the eventual ESEA reauthorization.  NEA and state affiliates are working hard to get it in the best possible shape before the vote occurs.
Senator Patty Murray is one of the Senate ESEA negotiators and, has repeatedly reached out to WEA over the last week.  WEA staff and I have been in daily contact with her office.  Our message:  We insist that  1)  bargaining protections  be included throughout the bill, 2) the bill insures state affiliates like WEA are full partners in the redesign of any  new state accountability system. Other NEA state affiliates are also weighing in on the bill as it impacts them.
At this point, we're asking you to click the link below and email Senators Murray and Cantwell the NEA message and in addition, tell them to sponsor the NEA bargaining amendment.  It's imperative that they know that educators in Washington are monitoring the Senate process. NEA will update the general message throughout the process, so I encourage you to monitor the NEA website regularly.   
Waivers:  As the reauthorization of the ESEA grinds through the legislative process, the Administration’s proposal remains in effect.  States will have to decide if they will request waivers under the conditions Obama outlined.  Among the conditions is the requirement that teacher evaluation rankings be linked to student test scores. Superintendent Randy Dorn has indicated his intent to apply for a waiver, although that does not commit the state to follow through on the application.  Our conversations with his office and the Governor's office suggest they are both very reluctant to apply if securing a waiver undermines our good work on strengthening our evaluation system.
If Washington does apply,  it will not be until February, allowing us to benefit from the experience of round one states.  WEA will be doing its own cost-benefit analysis to determine where we stand on the waiver and how we lobby OSPI.   Fortunately the waiver application requires evidence that the state has consulted with the state educator union in its decision to apply and the waiver application gets additional points if it includes a letter of support from the union.
I’ll keep you posted on our state’s discussion of the waivers.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions or concerns. 
Best wishes,