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Bill 'Deregulating' Schools Clears Wash. Legislature

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In a last-minute move at the end of its session, the Washington legislature approved a measure that would "deregulate'' the state's schools.

A similar measure had passed the House last month, but faced an uncertain future in the Senate. Last minute compromises, however, kept the bill alive. (See Education Week, Feb. 26, 1992.)

The final version of the bill closely resembles legislation backed by Gov. Booth Gardner last year, which died amid partisan conflict between the the two chambers.

A spokesman for the Governor said he has not stated if he will sign the bill, or if he will allow only sections of the bill to become law.

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

The bill also creates a nine-member commission on student learning that would determine what students need to know and be able to do, as well as assessments to measure this knowledge, by the end of 1996.

Students would have to obtain a "certificate of mastery'' in the essential learning areas outlined by the panel by the time they graduate from high school.

Judith A. Billings, the state superintendent of public instruction, questioned whether the recommendations of this new panel would pre-empt recommendations from the Governor's blue-ribbon task force on education, which is due to make a final report in December. She also objected to the composition of the new commission, which includes three members appointed by Mr. Gardner--who is not running for re-election this year--three appointed by his successor, and three appointed by the state board of education.

The bill also repeals a provision of a 1987 law, which was scheduled to go into effect in August, that would have required teachers seeking continuing certification to have a master's degree. The 1987 law allowed beginning teachers to have only a bachelor's degree, but required them to get the higher degree if they wanted secondary certification after teaching for seven years.

The Washington Education Association had strongly urged the repeal of the law.--E.F.

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