Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Stars Are Aligned!

It's Time! For decades, educators have been playing defense from state abuse: shrinking school budgets, no COLA for 6 years, much more work without additional days or compensation, outrageous class sizes, and inadequate support for our students. We're unwilling to accept more of this.

The good news: our stars are aligning! We have a window of opportunity in the coming months (this legislative session), the best in a generation, to increase school funding and compensation. Here's why:
  • The McCleary decision and contempt ruling: The state Supreme Court held the Legislature in contempt last fall and they will order sanctions if this legislative session does not make significant progress on implementing the McCleary decision. The state Supreme Court made it clear that McCleary includes school funding and large salary increases to bring educators professional salaries, much more than a cost of living adjustment (COLA). 
  • New class size law sent a message: With your help, the public passed I-1351. We now have a class size law on the books. 
  • The Governor proposed taxes: Gov. Inslee proposed several taxes that would raise over $1 billion for education. Taxes would be paid by the top 2% and by large corporations, both of which have a smaller tax burden compared to the rest of us.  
  • The public supports us: According to public polling, the public supports these proposed taxes and believes that education funding is the top priority. 
  • Bargaining opportunities are ahead: NSEA bargains next year, and this legislative session will determine the available dollars. NESPA (paras and nurses) and NEOPA (office staff) begin bargaining this spring.
What's missing? Your voice! Make yourself heard at the Education Forum and Rally.

Education Funding Forum and Rally
Join your colleagues from the Northshore, Edmonds, Shoreline, Seattle, and Lake Washington School Districts. Invite co-workers, family, friends, parents, and others. We are inviting state legislators to hear your stories and needs.

Saturday, March 21, 2015
from 10:00 am to 11:30 am
(Doors open at 9:30 am)

Nathan Hale High School
(North Seattle - 10750 30th Ave NE, Seattle 98125)
RSVP to your Building Rep or


Friday, January 16, 2015

2015 Legislative Session

The 2015 Legislative session began on Monday and will likely go through June. For education, it will be one of the most exciting and significant sessions in our lifetimes. Here are some of the issues you’ll want to watch and communicate with your legislators about. Get updates, email your legislators, and read our statewide WEA legislative goals at www.ourvoicewashingtonea.org.

Adequate Funding: Last fall, the Washington Supreme Court decided that the Legislature is “in contempt” for failing to create a plan for funding our schools at the level required by the State Constitution by 2018. The Court chose to await the outcome of this session before determining what penalties or consequences to impose if the Legislature fails again. Between $4 and $8 billion (estimates vary) more is needed by 2018. We can safely predict that substantially more funding will be the outcome, but how much, how it will be paid for, and what strings will be attached are decisions to be made in the coming months.

Class Sizes and Staffing: Voters approved Initiative 1351 (thank you to those who gathered signatures!) and it changed the definition of “basic education” which must be funded, by law. Though it only brings Washington State to 26th in the nation in class size (from 47th currently), some legislators are complaining that it costs too much. These same legislators voted to give Boeing billions in tax breaks without complaint. A decent education does cost money; it’s a necessary investment that pays off. Tell your legislators to follow the law and the will of the voters, and to fund I-1351. To repeal any part of I-1351 would take a 2/3 vote of the Legislature in this Session (or a majority after 2 years).

Compensation: Increases in the State allocation for teacher salaries of $15,000 to $25,000 per year (varying by years of service and degrees) were recommended by the Compensation and Technical Working Group, a committee established by the Legislature. They further recommended increases of about 40% for paraeducators, secretaries, and other non-certificated school staff. The Supreme Court ruled last January:

 “Nothing could be more adequate than basic pay. The inescapable fact is that salaries are no better now than when this case went to trial. This despite the report (of the Compensation and Technical Working Group)concluding that the State needs to invest at least a billion dollars a year—above inflationary adjustments—to bring salary funding in line with actual costs.”

 Press your legislators for implementation of these recommendations, which would enable educators to get pay comparable to other similar professions. Also press for additional funding for our medical benefits as costs rise.

 Where will the money come from? In its starkest form, the decision to be made is whether $4 to $8 billion for education will come from more cuts in services or whether new revenue will be created to invest in the future. 

Evaluations and Teaching as a Profession: Expect to see the usual teacher-bashing this session. There will be another attempt to tie our evaluations to student test scores, and we’ll need to educate our legislators again on why that won’t work. Expect to see attacks on our job security, professional judgment, and more in exchange for more funding. We will need to stand together, rise up, and demand what’s best for our schools and students.

Please do your part by checking in weekly at www.ourvoicewashingtonea.org.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Degrees Not Debt!

At current levels, student debt isn't just a burden; it's becoming a barrier to the American Dream. Current federal programs to ease student debt burden include both income driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs for those who work in public service, including teaching. As the U.S. becomes more diverse and income inequality grows, public service shouldn't only be a career option for those who can afford it. You shouldn't need to have millions in your pockets to fuel the public service in your heart.

Income-driven repayment and loan forgiveness programs ensure that all Americans can be teachers or social workers or police officers. One-fourth of the workforce may be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), but many qualified borrowers are often not aware of their debt repayment options;  this is why NEA has launched Degrees Not Debt to support students, educators, education support professionals, their families and communities.

With so many NSEA members fresh out of college, school debt and loan forgiveness are hot topics.  The NEA’s Degrees Not Debt emphasis can help you!  

·         Degrees Not Debt: www.NEA.org/DegreesNotDebt 

Reduce Your Student Loan Debt

Monday, October 13, 2014

Represent NSEA at WEA-Rep Assembly

WEA Representative Assembly 
April 23-25, 2015 
Bellevue, Washington 

Nominations are now open for NSEA delegates to the WEA's annual Representative Assembly. Acting as a delegate is a great way to get involved, to learn more about how WEA operates, and to help shape WEA's direction.  Click here for the delegate nomination form.

WEA-RA is the annual gathering of representatives from WEA affiliates around the state to decide on policy, positions, and the business of WEA. It's a great way to see the "big picture" of what happens within WEA. No previous experience is needed.

This year's RA will be held in Bellevue from Thursday, April 23 through Saturday, April 25, 2015. NSEA will pay your expenses, including release time, carpool mileage and parking, and meals. NSEA has budgeted to send 11 delegates to WEA-RA this year.

Complete the nomination form (due to NSEA by Friday, November 14) for consideration. Elections will be held in December.

Questions? 
Contact Lydia King at lking@washingtonea.org

Friday, September 19, 2014

Elementary October Conferences Are Coming

October Parent Conferences are the same format as last year, as in the contract, Article 18.8.2: “ …. to ….enhance the teachers’ understanding of the students’ needs, interests, and learning styles and establishing a partnership with parents or guardians. Teachers may elect to use student-led conferences.”

There is no requirement for any kind of “goal-setting.” However, informally setting a joint goal or two with the family might be a good way to “establish a partnership.” More info below.

There is no requirement or expectation of sharing any assessment data at this conference.

In our current contract (no change from last year), NSEA and the NSD Administration agree: 

18.8.2: Elementary parent-teacher conferences shall be held in the afternoons for four half-days of instruction in early October and two half-days of instruction in early February. October conferences shall be offered to the families of all students. The purpose of these conferences is to enhance the teachers’ understanding of the students’ needs, interests, and learning styles and establishing a partnership with parents or guardians. Teachers may elect to use student-led conferences. The February conferences shall be initiated for students selected by the teacher as being most likely to benefit from an additional conference. 

NSEA and the District bargaining teams agreed that (1) teacher knowledge about the student (needs, interests, and learning style) and (2) a relationship and partnership with the family and are both essential keys to each student’s success in our classes.

We agreed to replace the old system of conferences because those conferences were organized around different principles: The teacher was the “expert” informing the parent about their child by providing them with data. Information about the child from the parents was not the central purpose of the old conferences. It often did not result in a partnership, and in many cases teachers felt that they had to spend a great deal of time preparing a defendable data “case” to present to the parents, who might dispute any “negative” information about the student.

Thus, conferences take place early in the school year, and they are not about sharing data. They have been uncoupled from the report cards so that the sharing of data is not the central focus. However, to the extent that you have data (and in most cases, elementary teachers will have student work, IRRs, and a math benchmark score), you can use them if you wish. There is no need or requirement to prepare a presentation on data, as it is not the purpose of the conference. Use any data you have as you wish. Having it available so you can discuss it would be prudent.

The purpose of the October conference is to build the relationship, a partnership with the parent to help the student succeed and reach their maximum potential for the school year.

As for “goal-setting,” this is one way to create such a partnership, and it is one option for you to use if you wish. It is not an expectation. Examples? You know what the learning goals are for the year. You might pick one, and make it a goal. It might be “to learn the multiplication table.” If the parent is concerned that the student dislikes school, it might be a goal around liking school more. If the student is having difficulty making friends, perhaps a goal around building friendships. If the student comes unprepared for class, perhaps a goal around limiting TV or computers, and doing homework would be useful. You might think in terms of a joint goal, to create the partnership to help the student.

There is no expectation by the administration or anyone that the goals be written on a form and signed. There is no expectation that the goals be detailed, data-linked, or anything else. There is no expectation for goal setting at all. We suggest asking the parent (or student) how they feel the school year is going so far, and let the conversation develop. You don’t need to come to the conference with a pre-determined goal or goals. Your purpose is to learn about the student, and build a relationship with the parent that will help the student succeed. If the conversation results in a joint goal or two, that will help build this relationship.

 If the information in this email conflicts with information that your school administrator has provided you, please let us know.