Rep. Pettigrew works to keep effective teachers in classrooms

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OLYMPIA – In an effort to keep the best teachers in our schools and improve educational opportunities for our ethnically and economically diverse students, Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-Seattle) introduced House Bill 1609.

“We must do our best to fill classrooms with teachers who go above and beyond to help all Washington students succeed,” Pettigrew said. “Effective teachers improve student achievement, and right now the achievement gap shows us that the chance of graduating our young people of color is like flipping a coin. This is a way to move forward in one of the most fiscally challenging times in our state’s history while keeping the most effective teachers in our schools.” 

With about 50 percent of African American and Latino students graduating high school in Washington state, closing the achievement gap is an ongoing challenge. That’s why Pettigrew sponsored House Bill 1609, which bases reductions in force due to declines in enrollment or revenue losses on teacher evaluations rather than seniority-based layoffs.

A recent study by Dan Goldhaber, an economist and professor at the University of Washington, and Roddy Theobald, shows that students whose teachers are retained based only on seniority lose two to three months of learning time compared to students whose teachers are retained based on effectiveness.

House Bill 1609 also ends the forced placement of teachers by establishing a policy where principals and teachers must agree on all teaching placements. Currently, a disproportionate number of forced placements happen in low-income schools, leading to difficulties in creating a cohesive, high-performing school culture.

“Demographics are not destiny,” Pettigrew said.We must provide a quality education for all students, regardless of background or zip code. Principals must have the authority to choose their staff and teachers must have the freedom to choose their school.” 

The House Education Committee heard testimony Tuesday on House Bill 1609, but executive action must be taken in order to move the bill out of the committee. A similar bill sponsored by Sen. Rodney Tom, SB 5399, awaits a hearing in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.

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