Censorship for Preschoolers?

I got a letter last week from an organization opposed to censorship. They were concerned about some language in one part of our “Early Achievers” rating system for childcare quality that has led some providers to believe that we will deduct points from their score if they have the “wrong” books on their shelves. The standard in question says “books that glorify violence in any way or show frightening images are not considered to be appropriate.” The letter raised concerns that “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak would be one of the “wrong” books.

This standard is part of a national set of standards called the “Environmental Rating Scale” that is one of the two big parts of “Early Achievers,” Washington’s award-winning quality rating and improvement system. I’m not sure what the people at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (the authors of ERS) are thinking that language means, but it most certainly does not mean that any of Maurice Sendak’s books are broadly inappropriate for children. As with all literature, teachers should make sure that kids are ready for what they’re reading, but DEL is not in the business of censorship today, nor will it be in that business tomorrow. We can’t change the text in the ERS, but we are certainly not enforcing anything like this.

“Where the Wild Things Are” was my absolute favorite book as a child. My mother tells me that she thinks it was because I was something of wild thing myself, but that was a long time ago. I’ve included a link to the book at the King County Library so providers can check out a copy and read it to their kids. They have 132 copies, so it seems like it’s somewhat popular. 🙂

There may be confusion in the field about how to interpret the standard and the Department will make significant efforts to ensure that providers and teachers know that having only insipid books is mind-numbing for both children and adults. We’re thinking about a regular newsletter for providers with DEL staff favorite book picks. When I asked the Early Achievers staff about this they listed off their favorites, and there were certainly frightening images in most of them.

Reminder: SR 520 highway closes this weekend from 11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14, to noon Sunday, Aug. 16

_MG_0405From 11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14, to noon Sunday, Aug. 16, crews will close all lanes and ramps of SR 520 between 92nd Avenue Northeast and Montlake Boulevard. The westbound SR 520 transit lane between 84th Avenue Northeast and Evergreen Point Road will be closed from 11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14, to 5 a.m. Monday, Aug. 17. Transit riders should check Metro rider alerts for the most up-to-date information on where to catch their bus this weekend. During this closure, WSDOT crews will perform annual maintenance activities on the existing bridge including testing of the existing drawspan.

We encourage travelers to plan ahead during a busy Seattle summer weekend of sporting events and festivals. When SR 520 is closed, use alternative options like I-90, transit and carpools, as needed. To see a list of the major events and closures in the region in August, check out WSDOT’s interactive closure and event calendar.

Legislature Still has Work to Do

You may have read in the press that the Legislature got a budget done by midnight on June 30th, allowing the state to continue providing unemployment assistance, Medicaid, childcare, public schools, college classes, and all of the other things that we have decided to do collectively. I am frustrated that we were unable to come to an agreement more quickly, but pleased that we got it done. I’ll write more about the budget and what’s in it over the next few weeks.

However, we have work to do before we sign off. The Senate is high-centered on I-1351. I predicted that it would be difficult to come to a 2/3 vote on this issue and was proven correct by Tuesday night’s activities. Melissa Santos has a reasonable summary in the Tacoma News Tribune.

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(Almost) Post-Session Advice

You’ll start getting some (almost) post-session notes from me now that I have time to digest what happened and what still needs to be finished. I have not had time recently to keep up with posting the advice cards I got from kids at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue so I’ll release several as catch-up. I believe this one is the 13th in the series. I have another dozen or so in reserve and will put them up as I get to it. These almost deserve a book of their own – to be handed out to legislators as they take office.

Advice Card 11

Bills I’m Hearing About – Voting Rights, Erin’s Law, Solar and Front License Plates

I’m getting a lot of mail about a handful of policy bills that did not pass during the regular session. While most of them seem like reasonable policy to me, it’s difficult to imagine that the Legislature will come to agreement on them at this point since we were unable to in the regular session or the first special session. From today we have 10 days until the end of the fiscal year to agree on a budget, and every iota of work is going into coming to agreement on that.

The Legislature has ruthless deadlines to ensure that we can get our work done on time. ALL of these bills have passed all the deadlines and regardless of their importance it would be extraordinary if they came up for a vote by the end of the session. Continue reading “Bills I’m Hearing About – Voting Rights, Erin’s Law, Solar and Front License Plates”

Answers to Popular Education Emails

I’ve been swamped with email on education issues and want to consolidate my responses to a number of popular questions as I think it’ll give a better sense of what my positions are on your issues. I’m hearing about:

  • Basic Education funding, including ensuring that we adequately fund our McCleary obligation.
  • Funding and implementation of Initiative 1351
  • The “waiver”, or making use of state-wide assessments for evaluations of teachers.
  • Senate cuts to teacher retiree benefits. In particular, a 27% cut to the Medicare subsidy, a flat dollar amount that’s part of the retirement benefit for teachers.
  • Testing and our graduation requirements. There are a number of proposals to change (reduce) the amount of testing we do. I address this in a different post.

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Budget Negotiations to Start Monday

_MG_0217We’re now entering the budget negotiation phase of the session. The Senate and House are in pretty significantly different places. The top level difference is only about a billion dollars, but the underlying differences are much greater than that. We need to come to agreement by Wednesday the 22nd to be able to get the mechanical part of the process completed if we’re to finish on the 26th, the 105th and final day of the regular session.

On Thursday the budget negotiation teams met with the Governor. This meeting happens every year and it’s an opportunity for the Governor to lay out what he expects in a budget. He has a lot of leverage over the process as he can veto individual parts of the budget he doesn’t like or, if he really doesn’t like the product can veto the entire thing, sending us back to work. This doesn’t happen very often, but is definitely part of the process. There are ALWAYS vetoes of individual line items in the budget.

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