Local control of school funds is critical

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The state Senate this week rejected an educator-evaluation proposal that would have allowed the state to continue to be free from the onerous federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Lawmakers must find a way to come together to approve the evaluation proposal so Washington’s schools are free from many of the federal mandates under No Child Left Behind.

An unusual political alliance surfaced — conservative Republicans from the majority caucus and minority Democrats — to defeat 28-19 the proposal requiring statewide student tests be used as part of teacher and principal evaluations. Currently, the use of these tests as part of the evaluation process is optional.

The federal government says approving the change is necessary for Washington state to keep its waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act. It’s critical for local school districts that the waiver be kept intact.

The No Child Left Behind Act is a law. It, despite its grand sounding name, has unreasonable mandates that have unnecessarily driven up costs and created administrative headaches — all without improving education.

Education is not a federal responsibility. It should be left to state and local officials.

If the state does not accept this federal requirement, local school districts will be limited in how they can spend $44 million in federal dollars as part of the Title 1 program, which is aimed at improving the academic achievement of disadvantaged students. Locally, that means the Walla Walla School District would lose control of $261,000 a year, College Place $86,000, Dayton $29,000, Touchet $12,000 and Waitsburg $11,000.

Local school officials, who know their community and student population, are in the best position to know where the money can be used most effectively.

Democrats apparently opposed the use of testing for evaluations because of pressure from the teachers’ union. Having to use the tests as part of the evaluation process still provides some leeway.

Some conservative Republicans voted against the legislation because they have a philosophical disagreement with the federal mandates. Others are said to be irked that legislation allowing those who are not legal residents to get financial aid for college was passed

They all need to step back and look at the bigger picture.

The best way to get the federal government’s thumb off local schools is to keep the waiver from No Child Left Behind by agreeing to use the test as part of the evaluation process for principals and teachers.

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