State must find way to meet federal education mandate

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The No Child Left Behind Act is unnecessary meddling from the federal government.

Unfortunately, it is the law and Washington state has little choice but to jump through the required hoops if it wants to control how $44 million is spent on helping disadvantaged students.

Essentially, the state has to go along to get along.

Yet, an odd alliance of liberals and conservatives have stuck a banana in the tailpipe of the federal government’s latest mandate. Some don’t like that the federal government is mandating standardized test scores that must be used as part of the performance evaluations of teachers and principals. The Washington Education Association, the teachers’ union, is firmly against the plan.

And others oppose it simply because they believe this is none of the federal government’s business.

The concerns are valid. Washington state, and local school districts, should set school policies.

But we support Gov. Jay Inslee’s effort to bring a resolution to this impasse so local districts can retain control of where the Title 1 money is spent. The goal of Title 1, a federal program, is to improve the academic achievement of the disadvantaged. The local officials are in a far better position to identify who needs help and how to help them.

Inslee met with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan over the weekend to talk about options regarding the waiver and teacher evaluations. Duncan, who has not allowed other states to ignore the test-evaluation concept, told Inslee he wanted a change in Washington state law before he would grant the waiver.

Inslee said Tuesday he has reached a deal with Republicans and Democrats to work to revise the state’s teacher evaluation system in a way that will satisfy the federal government.

Bringing the two sides together for final approval will be a challenge, but getting them talking is a huge step forward.

The new proposal would extend a waiver from the federal government from rules of the No Child Left Behind law through the 2017-18 school year. It would allow Washington to continue working toward an alternative system of school accountability and keep control of more than $44 million in federal dollars, according to The Associated Press.

“We are encouraged that the governor and Democrats are finally realizing that we must make it a must,” said Sen. Steve Litzow, the Republican chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Protests on principle have their place, but given the high stakes here, this is not one of those places. A variety of factors already go into the evaluations of teachers and principals. The requirement does not have to be onerous if the legislation is written correctly.

Lawmakers need to make this happen.

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