Do lawmakers have resolve to follow through on education reform?

The plans outlined in the Race to the Top application have some merit, but we are skeptical legislators have the political will to take action.


Washington state's latest education-reform plan is being praised by Gov. Chris Gregoire as a "guarantee that our kids are successful."

Yet, we've heard that before -- and not just from the governor. Legislators and education officials have time after time gushed over the "education reforms" adopted. Then, years later, those reforms are torn apart and repackaged.

In theory, much of what the Legislature approved this year would seem to be positive.

The reforms include a way for the state to intervene in schools that are failing, according to an Associated Press report. Intervention has been left to local officials until now. The legislation also changes the way principals and teachers are evaluated, bumps automatic teacher-tenure rights to three years instead of two years and paves the way for nonprofit organizations to issue teacher certifications.

Another piece of education reform legislation is said to overhaul the way Washington pays for basic public education. This, the AP reports, includes a new financing model for "prototypical" schools, phased-in smaller classes in kindergarten through third-grade by the 2015-16 school year, more state spending on maintenance and operations and a new payment method for student transportation costs.

When fully implemented, the financing plan will increase the state's commitment to education by billions of dollars.

While all of this sounds great, we are skeptical much, if any, of these plans will come to fruition. Where are these billions of dollars going to come from? And, perhaps more importantly, will lawmakers really muster the political will to take on the teachers' union and others who buck the actual implementation of changes -- major or minor -- at every turn?

The huge overhaul of education 15 years ago, which included using the WASL to test progress, has been pushed and pulled to the point it has not been allowed to succeed.

The latest reforms might be given less of a chance.

After all, the primary goal of the education legislation wasn't necessarily to fix problems but to qualify the state for federal dollars through the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program.

Washington didn't compete in the first round but several states did. Tennessee and Delaware emerged as the only two to get funds.

This money is not awarded on results, but on a plan -- on lofty (perhaps unrealistic) ambitions.

When one state is pitted against 49 others for education funding are those crafting these plans going to base it on reality? Of course not.

Let's hope Gregoire and lawmakers were truly looking beyond the Race to the Top and will exhibit the resolve necessary to put the plan in place.

Sure, it's a long shot -- like getting the Race to the Top dollars -- but at this point we have no choice but to hope for the best. It's the reform plan that's in place.


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