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Senate passes Tom's proposal for student-focused approach to K-12 education

The Senate recently passed a proposal offered by Kirkland's 48th District Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, to move the teaching profession toward a performance-based model that rewards effectiveness in the classroom.

Under the measure, rather than using seniority as the sole measure in determining teacher layoffs during tough budget times, school districts would instead make workforce reductions based on teachers' performance in the classroom.

House Bill 1443, legislation sponsored by Rep. Marcie Maxwell, was amended to include provisions within Tom's earlier reform effort, Senate Bill 5914, the "Excellent Teachers for Every Student Act." The amended bill uses research-based best practices to improve the quality of instruction in schools.

"Given our current budget crisis, the harsh reality is we’ll have cuts to education that result in teacher layoffs. With increased class sizes, now more than ever, we need to ensure that our kids have the most talented and effective teachers possible," said Tom.

"It makes absolutely zero sense to layoff a third year teacher of the year in lieu of a tenured teacher who is on probation,” Tom added. “With less than 1 percent of our teachers on probation, that should be the first place we look when doing layoffs.”

In order to avoid high turnover rates among teachers in high poverty schools, the bill would also require a principal's consent before placing teachers in low-performing schools. According to Tom, this provision is essential in closing the achievement gap that hasn’t budged in over 30 years, despite massive amounts of money that have been directed at the effort.

"The gap between the best and worst schools in our system is immense and widens each year," he said. "We've got to find a better way to serve our low-performing schools to bend this curve and set all our students up for success."

The bill also calls for a study of the current system for teacher compensation to examine performance-based models as opposed to compensation models based solely on years of service and a teacher’s degree attainment.

In light of the looming April 24 end date for the Legislature, Tom urged his colleagues in the House to take swift action on the measure.

"To ensure a more student-centric education system, we've got to move quickly. I urge members of the House to take action on this critical proposal as soon as possible," he said.

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