State news roundup for February 21, 2014

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New Jersey – NJEA weighs in on Newark plan

NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan delivered a strong message to members of the Legislative Black Caucus in Newark last night:  It’s time to stand up against the “One Newark” plan that is closing public schools, causing social and political upheaval, and opening charter schools at an alarming rate.

That plan, being force-fed to Newark’s parents, students, teachers, school staff, and neighborhoods by the Christie administration’s hand-picked Superintendent of Schools, Cami Anderson, has the city in an uproar.


Blistan told a large crowd that “we must hold the Department of Education accountable for its abject failure to fund our urban schools (and) for its 20 years of bungled leadership in Newark.”  Her remarks signified NJEA’s public entrance into the mushrooming controversy, where the vast majority of teachers and school staff are represented by an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

Find out more at

Wisconsin – Senator Hansen and Representative Genrich introduce private pension plan based on Wisconsin Retirement System

WEAC President Betsy Kippers and Senator Dave Hansen.

Surrounded by workers, retirees and small business owners at a capitol press conference, State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and Representative Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay) announced Wednesday (February 19, 2014) the introduction of legislation [ed note: pictured above] that would create a pension plan for private workers, small businesses and farmers that would be based on the Wisconsin Retirement System.

“There is a retirement crisis in our country and Wisconsin is not immune. It is estimated that there are nearly 1.5 million workers in Wisconsin that do not have a retirement plan, and many who do have a plan are underfunded. Our plan will help people take control and responsibility for their own retirement security,” said Hansen.

The Wisconsin Private Secure Retirement Act would create a separate board and fund from the one that oversees the Wisconsin Retirement System, the pension fund for public employees and teachers. However, the private board would be required to create a private plan as similar as possible to the WRS including providing a defined monthly benefit to plan participants.

“Economic Prosperity is impossible without opportunity and security. All Wisconsinites – farmers, small-business owners, and the self-employed – deserve access to a safe, secure retirement option. This bill offers just that, economic opportunity for our young people and families and security for our retirees,” said Genrich.

Read more about the proposed legislation at

Washington – Senate votes down bad evaluation bill, 28-19

Washington WEA our voice logoIn the final vote before a crucial bill deadline, a majority of Washington state senators voted against a misguided, politically motivated teacher evaluation bill.

Senate Bill 5246which WEA members oppose, failed by a bipartisan vote of 28-19. That means the bill is dead, although other versions could resurface. The vote took place just before the Tuesday afternoon deadline for bills to pass out of their original chamber.

The bill mandated the use of state test scores in teacher evaluations, a change proponents say is needed before US Sec. of Education Arne Duncan will renew Washington’s waiver from outdated federal regulations related to No Child Left Behind (aka ESEA). WEA and the state’s Democratic congressional delegation are urging Duncan to renew the waiver without more major changes to teacher evaluations in our state. Educators also urge the Legislature to focus on fully funding K-12 education as ordered by the Supreme Court.

“We now have a chance for Washington students to become even more successful because we have a teacher and principal evaluation system we all can stand behind and make work,” said Kim Mead, WEA president.

Visit for updates on other bills that are moving in Washington.

Florida – Proposed changes to grading system just cosmetic

FEAlogoFlorida Education Association (FEA) President Andy Ford said Tuesday that the changes to the grading system before the State Board of Education are merely tweaks that don’t address the real problems with an unreliable, untrustworthy accountability system.

“Instead of listening to teachers, administrators, school districts, school boards and parents, the state is proposing minor cosmetic changes that don’t address the real concerns of everyone involved in public education,” Ford said.

Ford, who was joined by Clara Cook, FEA Secretary Treasurer; Vanessa Tillman, St. Lucie Classroom Teachers Association and Classified Unit, president; Debra Wilhelm, Palm Beach Classroom Teachers Association, president; Federick Ingram, United Teachers of Dade, president and Sharon Glickman, Broward Teachers Union, president, said the formula to calculate school grades has been continuously manipulated, making comparisons about the quality of public schools and teaching and learning meaningless. He added that today’s proposed changes only add to the confusion.

“Florida needs a pause in this madness,” Ford said. “School grades are underpinned by high stakes testing. Even with the education commissioner’s proposed grading simplification, grades will still be largely based on high stakes testing – a test we don’t even have yet.”

Find out more about the proposed changes at

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