Earlier this week I detailed the seniority issue at the center of the Tacoma teachers' strike. Clearly though, the issue isn't isolated to the Tacoma Public School District. When I got home last night I found a flyer in my daughter's weekly take-home envelope (she attends school in the Northshore District) from the Washington State Parent Teacher Association.
The group is conducting their annual "issues survey" to determine the organization's legislative platform. Included on the survey is a proposal to change the groups position on teacher compensation. The WSPTA's current stand is worded this way:
The Washington State PTA shall initiate and/or support legislation or policies that lead to a new research-based teacher compensation model that emphasizes rewarding teacher effectiveness in improving student learning.
Bill Williams, Executive Director of the WSPTA, says some teacher members of the organization made it clear they aren't happy with that platform. They have proposed an amendment which reads:
The Washington State PTA shall initiate and/or support legislation or policies that reward teachers for academic credits and degrees as well as years of service to students.
While the issue in the Tacoma School District is strictly over teacher reassignments, whether the district can transfer or reassign teachers based on a performance-based model rather than one of seniority, the issue of changes to Washington's teacher compensation system is one being debated state-wide.
Revising the teacher compensation plan is part of the state's attempts to garner federal Race to the Top monies. The Obama administration has made it clear, if states want federal education dollars they have to agree to "reform and improve teacher preparation, revise teacher evaluation, compensation and retention policies to encourage and reward effectiveness." The goal is clearly stated - the administration wants "the most talented teachers placed in the schools and subjects where they are needed the most."
In Washington, teacher pay is based strictly on years of service and education and accounts for about 80-percent of most school district budgets.
The Washington Education Association, the state teachers' union, argues that any compensation plan that is based on what they call "subjective" data is unfair. In fact, using single factors to measure student growth or achievement, such as the state's Measurement of Student Progress test, in the evaluation process is prohibited by state law.
In the 2011 legislative session, lawmakers considered several proposals dealing with reforms to teacher compensation. None made it out of committee.
Also on the State PTA issues survey is a proposal concerning charter schools. If approved, the organization will lobby legislators to allow for the operation of public charter schools in Washington State. WSPTA's Williams acknowledges that voters have turned down charter schools in the past, but says it's an issue his members feel is important.
The State PTA will finalize their legislative platform at meetings in mid-October.