THE state Legislature is at a fork-in-the-road moment on education policy. The teachers union is steering them wrong and lawmakers need to do their homework.

Lawmakers have just two days left in the 2014 regular session to pass a crucial bill requiring student-achievement scores to be counted in teacher evaluations. Without the bill, Washington would lose its waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law and lose control of about $40 million in funding to support low-income students.

The Washington Education Association
vehemently opposes the bill and is swarming the Capitol. On Monday, lawmakers were leafleted with copies of a news story about a recent federal waiver granted to California. The message: The feds backed off in California, and would do so in Washington.

That message is simply wrong. California’s waiver concerns a method of testing students, and is completely unconnected to Washington’s issue, which centers on use of the testing data in teacher evaluations.

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In fact, Washington already has a waiver similar to California’s, and that has not resolved the federal government’s concerns, said Gov. Jay Inslee.

“They have a very different situation than we do,” Inslee said Tuesday. “I’m convinced this is a real problem that needs a real solution.”

Inslee has championed a solution that would ensure control of the $40 million, incorporate student-achievement measures into teacher evaluations and preserve the federal waiver.

His is not the heavy-handed approach described by some opponents. If the bill passes, only two of the eight categories in the new teacher-evaluation system would incorporate student-achievement data. Local school districts could negotiate with bargaining units to determine the weight of those scores in evaluations.

Failure to pass this bill would have real political consequences. It is easy to imagine effective political attack ads this fall against lawmakers who vote no: They tossed away $40 million at the bidding of a group, the WEA, which doled out twice as much in political contributions to lawmakers as any other group.

Lawmakers should ignore the disingenuous arguments and make the right decision for students.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).