01/17/2012: "Rep. Lytton On Edu Funding"
(IG file photo)
“This is the reason I came here: to help Washington have the best students, teachers and schools in the nation,” and to that end State Rep. Kristine Lytton (D-Anacortes) has authored a trio of bills that, if successful, would help teachers and principals grow in their careers, give school districts greater spending flexibility with their limited resources, and increase state funding for all-day kindergarten programs.
Lytton, a freshman Democrat from the 40th legislative district in northwest Washington, is vice chair of the House Education Committee.
House Bill 2334 sets up a statewide plan to implement revised principal and teacher evaluation systems. To craft the legislation, Lytton and her cosponsors analyzed the results of pilot projects conducted in several school districts around the state. The bill directs the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to implement an evidence-based system to rate teachers and principals on a four-point scale ranging from unsatisfactory through basic, proficient and distinguished, and then lay out clear steps for helping educators climb higher on the scale or, if necessary, transition out of the field.
“I want to stress that the great majority of Washington educators are talented, skilled professionals doing a very important job that is difficult and, all too often, thankless,” Lytton said. “I think most teachers who struggle tend to recognize quickly that they may be in the wrong profession, and they leave for a career that fits them better. So this bill really isn’t about ‘weeding out bad teachers.’ It’s about helping good teachers and principals become great ones, so they can help good students become great students.”
Another Lytton bill, HB 2333, which she calls her “unfunded mandate bill,” reduces state requirements on local school districts, potentially freeing up tight dollars to enhance a school’s ability to fulfill its core mission of educating students.
“More than ever,” she said, “every dollar we spend needs to be focused on student achievement. It’s that simple. My bill tells local administrators and school boards they can look at certain currently required activities and decide whether they feel that’s the best possible use of time and resources. They might feel that it is; that’s fine. The point is, we should allow for flexibility, for innovation.”
Lytton’s third bill, which has yet to be assigned a number, is designed to “keep our promise” by dedicating potential out-of-state sales tax revenue to fund all-day kindergarten programs in Washington communities. The size of that revenue stream, which the bill would create by repealing a tax break that allows shoppers from other states to avoid paying sales taxes on purchases made in Washington, wouldn’t be known for a while, but Lytton believes it would generate scores of millions of dollars to help the state fully implement all-day kindergarten statewide by its target date of 2018.
She acknowledges that, in Washington’s current budget crisis, there would be strong competition for whatever cash the repealed tax break created. “Clearly, there are lots of wants,” she said, “but what do we need? It’s been proven time and again that kids with more time in kindergarten do better throughout their school careers, so I’d put this in the category of a need. It’s better and smarter and more economical to fund good kindergarten programs now than to do last-minute interventions and pay for remedial efforts when someone is about to drop out. I realize it’s a cliché, but this really is the ounce of prevention that can save us a pound of cure somewhere down the line.”
HB 2334 is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Education Committee next Thursday (Jan. 19) at 8 a.m. The other two bills will be heard later in the 60-day session.