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Wash. House Approves Plan To 'Deregulate' Schools

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The Washington House has given overwhelming approval to a measure that would "deregulate" the state's schools.

Under the measure, schools and districts would be allowed to apply for automatic exemptions from most state requirements.

The legislation is similar to a bill supported by Gov. Booth Gardner last year, which died amid partisan conflict between the Democratic Governor and House leadership and the Republican-majority Senate. (See Education Week, July 31, 1991.)

The new bill also creates a statewide panel that would determine what students need to know and select the assessments that would measure whether students are meeting these goals. Both the requirements and assessments would be in place by the 1997-98 school year. The composition of the assessment panel was a major point of contention between the two chambers last year.

The bill would also repeal a 1987 law, scheduled to go into effect in August, that requires teachers seeking continuing certification to have a master's degree. Novice teachers can be certified with only a bachelor's degree, but the 1987 law requires those seeking secondary certification after seven years to have a master's degree.

Repeal of the masters requirement is supported by the Washington Education Association, which argues that the cost of a degree and the inadequate number of graduate programs in the state have made the requirement a burden to many teachers.

Mary McKnew, the Governor's education adviser, said Mr. Gardner supports most of the House bill's provisions. "There are certainly parts of the bill that we are strongly interested in," she said.

The bill's fate in the Senate is not clear. Senator Cliff Bailey, the chairman of the Education Committee, is sponsoring a school-reform bill that would repeal the master's requirement and establish "parents' rights." Mr. Bailey's bill was not adopted by Feb. 18, the deadline for bills to be approved by their chamber of origin, but still could be added to the House bill as an amendment.

Sentiment to pass a school-reform measure this year appears to be running high in both the House and Senate. But some observers suggest that reform efforts may be delayed until the 1993 legislative session in order to take into account the recommendations of the Governor's blueribbon panel on education, which is slated to release a report later this year.
--E.F.

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