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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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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.

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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.




DREAMing Leads to REAL Hope
February 10, 2014

By Tania de Sa Campos, DFER-WA Deputy State Director

This week may signal a crucial turning point for undocumented students in Washington State. Following a long battle, legislators are poised to approve a measure that will bring the dream of college far closer to thousands of young people.

Since 2003, in-state tuition has been available to undocumented students who have lived in the state for at least three years. An important step, yes, but here’s the catch: undocumented students don’t currently have access to state financial aid and many can’t afford even in-state tuition. And as higher education costs continue to rise, the problem only magnifies. The fact is, a college degree can simply be unattainable for an undocumented student who does not have access to financial aid.

After being held up by state Senate Republicans since last year’s legislative session, a bill to extend eligibility for financial aid to undocumented students in the form of State Needs Grants got a name change-The REAL Hope Act-and five million dollars, and it could finally become law as early as this week. Whatever the name, Democrats for Education Reform strongly supports the initiative and urges our legislators to make this dream a reality.

However, we won’t be doing undocumented students, or any student for that matter, any favors if we don’t make sure that they’re ready for college in the first place, which is why it’s also crucial for the legislature to seize the opportunity this session to implement a true college and career ready diploma. Right now in Washington, too many students graduate from high school lacking the minimum requirements to attend a public university. In fact, fewer than half of our graduates meet those requirements, so it is somewhat unsurprising that as a state we rank 46th in the nation in sending our students to college. Let’s honor our DREAMers and all of the students in Washington by ensuring that they have a real path to college, and financial support when they get there.

Extending the promise of opportunity to young DREAMers is a no-brainer. Many have lived in the U.S. for nearly their entire lives and have only been educated in American schools. They, like every citizen, make up the fabric of our communities. They are American in every sense of the word—that is until they try to do what their friends, classmates, and neighbors do to move ahead, like applying for financial aid to college. The fact that college is out of reach for so many only underscores the arbitrary, unjust reality of what it means to be “undocumented.” It casts intelligent, hardworking students into perpetual limbo—and, frankly, that’s un-American.

Let’s take a crucial step for Washington by setting all of our students up for academic success and giving them the opportunity and encouragement to keep going—regardless of where they’re from.

Stay tuned.

Tania de Sá Campos joined DFER Washington (DFER-WA) in April 2013 as Deputy State Director. In her role, Tania engages with a growing constituency of active, reform-minded Democrats and works with partners and allies to position Washington state as a leader in the next evolution of the movement to give every child a great education. Read more about Tania here.




Washington’s New Charter Schools: Doing it Right
January 31, 2014

By Tania de Sá Campos, DFER-WA Deputy State Director

It was an exciting day in Washington yesterday—the state commission on charter schools approved seven proposals for new schools, which will begin to open as early as fall 2014. With the approval of Pride Prep in Spokane last week, this brings Washington’s total of new charters to eight. This is a huge accomplishment, given that just two weeks ago that number was zero—but it’s just the beginning of an exciting journey for the new school leaders and the children and families they will serve.

The commission was careful and deliberate in their review of each of the 19 proposals and the recommendations of the review teams, which reflects a statewide commitment to getting it right when it comes to charters. Ultimately, they chose not to follow the recommendation of the review teams in only one instance, approving SOAR Academy for Tacoma (after some pretty moving words from founding school director Kristina Bellamy-McClain) with conditions that must be met before the commission’s next meeting in February.

Some applications that weren’t approved in the end had received significant public support. This clearly demonstrates that families are looking for more options for their kids, and the commission acknowledged the stronger proposals and encouraged them to work on their applications and reapply in the future. Local organizations like WA Charters reminded applicants that they stand ready to support them throughout the process.

These new schools, with the blessings of the charter school commission and Washingtonians across the state, will soon begin changing things for the better for students and families who will benefit from more options, more accountability, and more opportunities. Washington’s doing it right—and that’s the most exciting thing.

Tania de Sá Campos joined DFER Washington (DFER-WA) in April 2013 as Deputy State Director. In her role, Tania engages with a growing constituency of active, reform-minded Democrats and works with partners and allies to position Washington state as a leader in the next evolution of the movement to give every child a great education. Read more about Tania here.




Democrats for Education Reform Commends Spokane School District for Approving Washington State’s First Charter School
January 24, 2014

Devin Boyle | 202.445.0416 | Devin@dfer.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Democrats for Education Reform Commends Spokane School District for Approving Washington State’s First Charter School

SPOKANE, Wa. - January 24, 2014 - Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) issued the following statement from Deputy Washington State Director Tania de Sá Campos congratulating the Spokane School Board and Spokane Public Schools on the approval of Washington State’s first charter school, Pride Prep.

“The Spokane school district has taken a critical, decisive step in improving the future of education for children here and in Washington State as a whole. We are very happy to see Spokane leading the way by bringing an exciting new option to its students, all of whom deserve to be challenged by the best educational practices and teaching methods in the country.

“It is no accident that it took until today to approve the state’s first charter school, even though voters approved a measure in 2012 to make Washington the 42nd state with a charter school system. Pride Prep and the other applicants went through a rigorous democratic approval process with a thorough public discourse to make sure all voices were heard and all options were considered. Pride Prep’s approval after a strong showing of support at the public forum is a testament to a united community committed to providing the very best for its students and future leaders.

“We are excited to follow Pride Prep’s progress as it works to open the first charter school in Washington and look forward to watching more communities and districts embrace the opportunity to expand educational options for families and offer new, high-quality public school options for our students. Congratulations to Spokane for being the first of many in the state to put Washington’s schoolchildren first.”

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.

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