Washington's Supreme Court drops big decision on charter schools. Seattle teachers go on strike. Nevada opens its wallet for schools. California suspends graduation exams.
THE BIG NEWS
A strong blast of education news swept over Washington state this week, nearly as big as the recent wind storm.
First, at 4 p.m. on the Friday before the Labor Day weekend, the state Supreme Court ruled, nearly a year after oral arguments, that the charter school law voters approved in 2012 is unconstitutional. That means the state’s nine charters — eight of which opened this school year — aren’t entitled to any public money. That was a big win for charter opponents, and a big surprise for supporters – including the families of the 1,200 charter-school students.
The day after Labor Day, Seattle teachers announced they would go on strike for the first time since 1985 (not counting one-day walkouts to protest the state Legislature). The following day, teachers donned red shirts and waved picket signs at every school in the district.
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A REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR RAISES TAXES FOR SCHOOLS
That’s what’s happened in Nevada. A report in Politico heralds Gov. Brian Sandoval for his success in getting lawmakers to approve a $1.1 billion tax hike a few months back, reportedly the biggest in that state’s history. Cigarette taxes went up, and some temporary business taxes have been extended.
Raising taxes for education has not gotten off the ground in this state, even with lawmakers under a contempt order for failing to raise education spending to the minimum required under the state constitution.
Politico points out that Nevada is feeling a lot of pressure to improve its schools, given that it ranks low in many areas. Forty percent of that state’s high school students don’t graduate in four years, it said.
And as part of the deal, Sandoval also succeeded in passing a voucher bill, allowing parents to use public funding to pay private school tuition, something Washington’s Supreme Court clearly would not allow. A group of Nevada parents and the ACLU each has filed suit challenging that law’s constitutionality.
NO MORE EXIT EXAMS — FOR NOW
California has suspended its requirement that high school students pass state exams to graduate, and also appears poised to retroactively award diplomas to students who met all other requirements except for passing the tests. There’s been some talk of doing that in Washington, but so far, that idea hasn’t gained a lot of traction. The state Board of Education recently set new passing scores that students must earn on this state’s new Common Core tests to graduate.
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- Facebook is getting into the education business, creating free software in partnership with Summit Public Schools, a California charter school group that now also operates in Washington state – although the Supreme Court’s decision may mean it’s not here for long. The company says students won’t have to have Facebook accounts to use the programs.
- Teachers sell each other lesson plans.
- A group of districts in California is developing new ways to measure school quality, with goal of moving away from a narrow focus on test scores.