A SHAKE-UP of legislative leadership in the state Senate improved the quality of conversation around education and produced a package of substantive reforms.
Some of the drama from years past of suppressing good ideas has been replaced with thoughtful and bipartisan cooperation. House Democratic leaders are considering Senate-passed reforms. Before the fragile cooperative spirit dissipates, lawmakers should remember the important linkages between reforming Washington’s K-12 system and investing more in it.
Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island and chairman of the Senate K-12 Education and Early Learning Committee, moved worthy bills through the Senate. Among them is a bill to provide academic support for students in kindergarten, first and second grades as a way to keep students on track for reading proficiently by third grade; one to automatically enroll high-school students in advanced classes, and another to end the harmful practice of indefinite suspensions.
Plenty of Democratic senators voted for these measures. They should walk over to the House and urge their compatriots to pass sound policies.
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Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, former chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, offered a legislative plan to better track the effectiveness of educational efforts. It passed unanimously.
Indeed, that may have spurred the Bothell Democrat’s optimistic remarks to the Yakima Herald Republic: “I think that the Republicans on the other side of the aisle are really trying to do the right thing; they really want to do something to make a difference for those kids that struggle.”
A House-passed school discipline bill, authored by Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, would go far beyond Litzow’s measure in getting schools to tackle racial disparities in school discipline. Litzow’s response is not to kill Santos’ measure, but try and meld it with his.
This is a huge sea change from last year when Democrats shut Republicans out over measures about charter schools and teacher evaluations. Former Gov. Chris Gregoire had to broker an agreement between the two parties over tougher teacher evaluations.
The Senate has done considerable work restructuring the educational system in advance of more robust state investment. The House should take the Senate proposals seriously. If not, Gov. Jay Inslee should step in.