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January 28, 2015

If you think Washington could not become another Wisconsin, think again. Blue states turn purple. Then they turn red. Our Democrats should be worried about 2016. But first they need to get their heads out of the sand, and get serious about improving our public schools.

At the very time when the voting public in WA ranks education as the number one issue, some Washington Democrats are acting like idiots.

Exhibit A: This anti Common Core resolution passed overwhelmingly on Saturday by the Central Committee of the WA State Democratic Party.

Republican strategists have to be gloating right now. This resolution is an embarrassment, full of inaccuracies and innuendo. It also flies in the face of public opinion.  70 percent of Washingtonians support Common Core, our college and career ready learning standards that are currently being used in schools all across our state.

This is not the time to put people with a tenuous grasp on the facts and limited political acumen in charge of policy positions. The Democratic party looks completely out of touch and we turn off voters.

A November 2014 poll and report by Third Way, a centrist think tank, concludes:

“Democrats have gone from a 25-point lead to single-digit edge on education. They can no longer assume that voters will trust them on education by default. Changing the subject by blaming poverty or a lack of funding won’t cut it. To regain their historic edge on the issue of education, Democratic policymakers and candidates must show they are willing to shake up the status quo in real ways…”

Exhibit B: In last year’s elections, Washington Democrats failed to win any of the contested Senate races and lost four House seats, thereby eviscerating what used to be a sizeable House majority. Three of the four House losers had ties to the Education Committee, which seems to be out touch with what voters want on improving education.

Washington’s Democratic leaders quickly blamed others for the recent electoral losses - an unpopular president, low turnout, allies who did not work hard enough - but where is the self-reflection and for god’s sake where is the adult supervision?

When you stray from your ideals, when you blame others, when you don’t put forth a compelling vision and rally people around it, you turn off voters. And then you lose elections.

Democrats should be leading the education charge, always looking for ways to improve our public schools and help teachers across the state. We need to change methods that are not working and expand the ones that are working so each and every child has access to a great public education.

Staying silent about the things that matter in education is a recipe for more Democratic electoral losses. And that will hurt the other things we care about as Democrats: climate and clean energy, raising the minimum wage, gun safety, choice, marriage equality and more.

No Struggle, No Progress
January 27, 2015

Please join us for an evening with Dr. Howard Fuller as he tells the story of his civil rights work and journey from empowering poor, black communities in North Carolina to being on the forefront of education reform in America.

 Tuesday, February 10th 2015


University of Washington Tacoma - William W. Philip Hall
1918 Pacific Avenue
Tacoma, WA 98402

 RSVP here.

Dr. Fuller is the Distinguished Professor of Education and Founder/Director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University. The mission of the Institute is to support exemplary education options that transform learning for children, while empowering families, particularly low-income families, to choose the best options for their children. His new book, No Struggle No Progress - A Warrior’s Life from Black Power to Education Reform, was released in September, 2014.

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland will open the event. A champion of public education, Mayor Strickland created the Mayor’s Education Task Force to promote innovation, civic engagement and improved outcomes for student achievement in Tacoma. She also serves on the U.S. Conference of Mayors Public Education Task Force.

This is a free event sponsored by:

Democrats for Education Reform | League of Education Voters | Black Education Strategy Roundtable | Washington State Charter Schools Association

Registration is now open!

Statement from DFER-WA on yesterday's remarks from Senator Patty Murray on ESEA
January 14, 2015


Statement from DFER-WA on yesterday's remarks from Senator Patty Murray on ESEA

Democrats for Education Reform Washington applauds Senator Murray's floor speech yesterday regarding the renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The families and students of Washington state are experiencing firsthand the repercussions of a No Child Left Behind law that is painfully outdated. With the loss of our waiver, districts and schools across the state lost control of approximately $40 million dollars and with that the flexibility to provide students with the resources they need. Forced to follow the rules an outdated mandate prescribes, districts like Tacoma lost teachers and other key in-school staff. Senator Murray took a strong stance today to support an ESEA renewal that gives our students the resources they need to succeed such as access to early childhood education, high standards and accountability, and increased funding for schools that serve our low income communities.

You can read the full text of the Senator's speech here.

DFER-WA Commends Representatives DelBene, Larsen, Kilmer, Smith and Heck for Voting to Support Public Charter Schools
May 9, 2014

Devin Boyle | 202.445.0416 | Devin@dfer.org


DFER-WA Commends Representatives DelBene, Larsen, Kilmer, Smith and Heck for Voting to Support Public Charter Schools

DFER Washington released the following statement on the passage of the bipartisan "Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act" (H.R. 10) in the U.S. House of Representatives:

“We are thrilled H.R. 10 passed through the U.S. House of Representatives today, with all but one Washington State Rep. voting in favor of the bill. In 2011, only one Democratic member of Congress representing the state voted in support of the bill. Today, five of six WA D's voted yes. The increase in Democratic votes is indicative of the changing attitudes toward public charter schools in Washington.

"We thank Democratic Reps. Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Adam Smith, and Denny Heck for voting to ensure all of our state’s children have access to a high-quality public education, regardless of where they go to school."

About Democrats for Education Reform

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is a political reform organization with 13 state offices that cultivates and supports leaders in the Democratic party who champion America's public schoolchildren.


Collateral Damage
April 25, 2014

By Lisa Macfarlane, DFER Washington State Director

The U.S. Department of Education announced its decision yesterday to terminate the waiver that exempted Washington state from key provisions of No Child Left Behind. Yesterday's action by the USDOE was both predictable and preventable.

In 2010, we overhauled our antiquated two-tiered evaluation system to provide more meaningful, relevant feedback to teachers and principals. The new system is significantly better than what we had, and much work has gone into implementing it well, and fairly. Student growth is now one of the multiple measures by which teachers and principals are reviewed.

That said, the use of student growth scores from common, statewide student assessments in the revised system is not mandated, and because of this Washington’s evaluation system does not adhere to the requirements of our NCLB waiver. After being put on notice by the USDOE to remedy this issue, we still have not amended the law to require the use of the data from statewide assessments (that students already take) in evaluations.

The NCLB waiver gave our school districts flexibility by allowing them to spend certain Title 1 funds (to the tune of $40 million statewide) to better serve their students.

Policy makers were made aware of the potential consequences of losing our waiver from all the onerous provisions of NCLB. Governor Inslee and Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn strongly urged lawmakers to amend our law. The superintendents of Seattle and Tacoma urged legislators to make the required change so that their students would not become collateral damage in what was clearly an adult power struggle.

Governor Jay Inslee (D) and Superintendent Dorn introduced joint request legislation that would have allowed us to keep our NCLB waiver, but in our democratically controlled House, the bill did not move out of committee. Why? The Washington Education Association (WEA), one of the largest contributors to political campaigns in Washington state, vigorously opposed the change.

The WEA’s fleet of lobbyists delivered the message early and often to legislators that any changes to the evaluation system were unacceptable. Period. Waiver be damned. And, as a result, no changes were made and our waiver was revoked.

We see a sad irony in the fact that the group who tries to make a lot of hay about students being over-tested, and rightly demands better funding for our schools is actually resisting changes that would result in fewer, fairer tests for our students, and pushing away money that is needed to help schools most in need.

Resisting common state assessments leaves districts with the burden of inventing their own measures of student growth and we end up with multiple local tests, the onerous costs of which are borne by school districts and local taxpayers.

We’re seeing a lot of finger pointing at “the feds” but the bottom line is simple. To get a waiver, our state made a commitment. Many districts negotiated contracts and implemented systems that comply with that commitment. Then, under pressure from special interests, our state reneged on that commitment. And we don’t see any winners here.

For more info, check out Ann Hyslop's piece in Real Clear Education.

Lisa Macfarlane is the Washington State Director for Democrats for Education Reform, a co-founder of the League of Education Voters, a past President of Schools First (Seattle's levy and bond committee), the sponsor of two statewide education funding initiatives, and a PCO in the 46th District. Read Lisa's full bio here.

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