Training bill is big help to teachers

Teachers don’t have time to waste, but for many years they’ve been required to attend professional training sessions that often do just that. All teachers will tell you about having to attend “professional development” sessions that have little or nothing to do with the challenges they face in their classrooms.

House Bill 1345 was written to solve this problem and to ensure that all teacher professional development contributes to the goal of improving student learning.

The bill would require school districts to use effective professional development strategies such as coaching in the classroom by highly skilled teachers, focused training on the subjects teachers actually teach, and opportunities for teacher collaboration.

This bill could be a game changer for schools, kids and teachers, because improving teacher professional development can improve student learning. It can also improve teacher morale by treating teachers as respected professionals rather than cogs in a machine.

The bill passed the House with a 91-7 vote, but is now stuck in the Senate. Why? Not because anyone disagrees that this is a good bill, but because Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, who chairs the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, forced a poison pill down its throat. That was in the form of an amendment to also require that statewide student test scores be included as a factor in teacher evaluations.

The teacher evaluation and test score issue has become the bête noir of education policy — an issue on which the teachers’ union is at war with the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind rule that requires states to use state test scores in teacher evaluation or lose federal funding. Last year, the fact that the Legislature did not implement this requirement meant that the state lost control over how $40 million of federal funding was spent. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., are working together to change the requirement.

But no matter how strongly Sen. Litzow may feel about holding teachers’ feet to the fire over test scores, that is not enough reason to risk torpedoing a bill that will clearly improve student learning and support teachers’ universal desire to be effective in the classroom. We hope a way will be found to pass HB 1345 before this session ends.

City pot-shop moratorium

gets another six months

Olympia has wisely extended a temporary ban on new medical marijuana shops. The Legislature is still debating how to harmonize the state’s two parallel marijuana sales systems — one for medicinal use, which is virtually unregulated, and one for recreational use, which is heavily regulated and taxed.

Putting the two systems together would tax medical pot and raise its price, which some patient advocates oppose. Others welcome a single system that can discourage abuses and ensure that the federal government does not crack down on the state’s experiment with legal sales of pot for recreational uses.

The City Council voted last week to approve a new six-month moratorium starting May 6 and replacing the latest in a series of bans that began in late 2013.

Washington is one of four states allowing recreational marijuana sales and 23 allowing its use for medicinal purposes. The city has 13 medicinal pot shops.

Senate Bill 5052, sponsored by Republican Sen. Ann Rivers of La Center, unifies the markets and reduces amounts of pot that a medical user can possess. Other provisions include changing the name of the state liquor regulating agency to the Liquor and Cannabis Board. The House passed an amended version of the bill Friday, sending it back to the Senate for further action.