Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Update on “Our Schools Coalition”

This is a historic week in education reform in our state and across the nation.

The Obama administration recently announced that Delaware and Tennessee won hundreds of millions of dollars in the first round of Race to the Top funds. Combined, these states were awarded $600 million, which leaves $3.75 billion for Round 2.

This announcement shows that the Obama Administration is serious about rewarding states that take bold actions necessary to reform their school systems. Both states submitted applications that had comprehensive, statewide plans positively impacting all students with wide support from their respective unions and school boards. In return, Delaware and Tennessee will receive significant funding from the federal government to help increase student learning and close achievement and opportunity gaps.

Several months ago, Washington was not in a good position to apply for Race to the Top funding. But this past Monday, Governor Gregoire signed into law education reform legislation which gives Washington state a chance to secure Round 2 Race to the Top money.

Now that the legislation has become law, the real work begins. School districts across the state will now have a chance to sign on as partners with the state, and we have only a few weeks to put together a strong Race to the Top application that will be our blueprint for student success in the future.

Here in Seattle, the Alliance has convened the “Our Schools Coalition.” This coalition is a natural extension of the work the Alliance has been doing on teacher quality for some time now. This coalition is broadly representative of parents, students, local employers, and the community at large, and as such is reflective of the Seattle Public Schools District constituency in these negotiations. Many of these representatives had constituents attending teacher quality forums over the past month. From these forums and from teacher focus groups, the coalition formed based on the following core principles:

  • A strong teacher corps is the most valuable asset within any school system;
  • Teachers are respected as individuals, professionals, and community leaders, and
  • With professionalism comes the acceptance of responsibility for results

The Alliance is in a unique position to leverage relationships with SPS to move this dialogue forward.

All eyes are on Seattle as this is the first teacher contract negotiations taking place since the signing of the Race to the Top legislation. And not only is it the first negotiation, it’s happening in the largest school district in the state.

Stay tuned for more updates on the Coalition.

Mark Yango, Director of Communications, AFE

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