More than 500 people enjoyed a Sunday afternoon of song and dance as part of the eighth annual Really Big Shoe fundraiser organized by Olympia-based Entertainment Explosion to help homeless and needy children throughout Thurston and Mason counties.
The money goes toward the eight school districts in the two counties as well as Community Youth Services in Olympia. There are about 1,700 homeless and needy children in the region, according to information distributed at the show.
Entertainment Explosion is a 60-member group of seniors — 45 were in Sunday’s show at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts — who volunteer their time to perform, director Derek Werrett said.
Sunday’s goal was to raise $25,000, he said, and the group has met that goal the past four years.
Not including Sunday’s total, the group has raised more than $160,000 in the eight years Entertainment Explosion has staged a Really Big Shoe, which is both a reference to the way former TV variety host Ed Sullivan pronounced the word “show” and the idea of providing shoes to needy children, Werrett said.
This year’s show theme was “EE Goes to the Movies,” with the group’s volunteers singing and dancing their way through several show tunes over two acts.
Opening numbers included songs from “Annie Get Your Gun” and “The Music Man,” but then things really swung into gear when three women took the stage and tap danced their way through “Stayin’ Alive” from “Saturday Night Fever.”
There were also solo performances of Tina Turner’s “We Don’t Need Another Hero” from “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and “Rainbow Connection” from “The Muppet Movie.” The soloist in that scene, Jerry Marsh, sang with Kermit the Frog perched on his knee.
Sharon Williams of Olympia, 76, was set to tap dance to a song from “Victor Victoria,” she said prior to the 2 p.m. show start.
“I like the cause and I like to dance,” she said, adding that she didn’t take up tap dancing until she was 59. Williams, who has diabetes, was encouraged by her doctor to get more exercise.
After watching her granddaughter take tap dancing lessons, Williams was inspired to do the same and has been dancing ever since.
“I have to exercise, and tap dancing is a good way to go,” she said.
Another performer was Jim Parker, 67, of Tumwater, who was set to perform with a musical group called the Smoothies.
Parker also is the leader of an 11-member band — the Briggs YMCA Music Matters Band — that entertains guests in the lobby of the center and during intermission with a series of upbeat songs to get the crowd in the mood, he said.
He also performed in the show, playing songs from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Ghostbusters.”
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 email@example.com
The scaffolding is gone, repairs are complete and students have moved back into Madison Elementary School in Olympia.
Now it’s time to celebrate.
Parents and staff at the school have organized a community open house from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The event, which will include information about the school’s programs, tours and a chance to mingle with staff, is open to the public.
“We’ve had lots of questions about our facility because we were out of the building for several months,” Principal Domenico Spatola-Knoll said. “We’ve worked hard in cleaning up and getting everything ready for kids, and the building is looking really nice.”
Madison reopened in January after being shut down for almost six months while crews repaired moisture damage in the building’s stucco exterior.
Total construction cost is about $3 million, according to Rebecca Japhet, a spokeswoman for the Olympia School District.
The emergency repairs were paid for with the district’s unrestricted capital funds, but officials plan to recoup that money.
“Our attorney is still working through the details of the multiple insurance policies,” Japhet said. “Because the time frame spans many years, and because many companies worked on building the school, there are multiple insurers and policies involved.”
It could take a year or longer to reclaim the reimbursement, she added.
According to Olympian archives, Madison Elementary School was built in 1999 for $5.8 million. It was scheduled for a new paint job last summer, but during preliminary work crews noticed some cracking in the school’s exterior.
In September, the school’s fourth- and fifth-graders were moved to Roosevelt Elementary School, and its K-3 students met at New Bridge Community Church, which was the original Madison school. Its preschool program was held at the Olympia Regional Learning Academy.
By January, all of the students were back at Madison, but repairs continued on its play shed.
As of last week, everything except a few punch list items such as touch-up paint was finished, Japhet said. Madison’s Y-Care after-school program recently returned, too.
Spatola-Knoll said he hopes the community open house will be informational for Madison families, prospective parents and people who live in the neighborhood.
“It’s just to show who we are, the kinds of things we do (and) show off our facility,” he said. “It’s good to be back.”
If you go
What: Community open house, featuring tours and information about Madison Elementary School’s programs and recent repairs.
When: 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Madison Elementary School, 1225 Legion Way SE, Olympia.
Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 firstname.lastname@example.org @Lisa_Pemberton
Students at East Olympia Elementary School oohed and ahhed as 10-year-old Jonavin Barta was handed a giant check for a $1,000 scholarship Friday during the school’s award assembly.
It was for taking first place in the state in Bonnie Plants’ annual third-grade cabbage-growing contest.
Barta’s prize-winning cabbage filled a wheelbarrow.
“He listed the weight as 38.48 pounds,” said Joan Casanova, a spokeswoman for Bonnie Plants.
Last year, more than 11,000 students in the state participated in the program. And more than 1.5 million kids received Bonnie Plants’ cabbage plants through the national program in 2013. (Third-grade teachers can sign up for the program at bonnieplants.com.)
“It’s a fun activity,” Casanova said. “I think it provides a lot of different lessons for young kids.”
Bonnie Plants began the contest in 1995 in Alabama and expanded it to a national program in 2002, Casanova said. The company ships the plants to schools during peak growing seasons, Casanova said. Each state’s agriculture department selects a winner from “best in class” entries submitted by schools.
Barta planted his cabbage plant at his grandma’s house in Ephrata, where he stayed last summer.
Growing a giant cabbage requires the right mix of sunshine, water and good dirt, he said.
“He spent the whole summer taking care of his plant,” said his grandma Mary Catherine Koppang.
East Olympia third-grade teacher Cindy Tobeck said it’s possible to grow a humongous cabbage in South Sound too.
In fact, last spring she took one of the extra plants — and her daughter Rosalyn ended up taking first place at the Washington State Fair in September. Her cabbage was 57.5 pounds.
A first-place cabbage isn’t just about size; it’s about look, leaf color and a variety of other attributes. Tobeck said one of the reasons she selected Barta’s cabbage for best of class was because he provided excellent documentation.
“He kept really great records, with the weights, the measurements and the pictures,” she said.
So whatever happened to the colossal cabbage?
“I ate some of it,” Barta said, noting that he prefers the fresh corn and watermelon that’s grown at his grandma’s house.
“I made a lot of coleslaw,” Koppang said with a chuckle.
Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 email@example.com @Lisa_Pemberton
Gov. Jay Inslee and state schools chief Randy Dorn said last week they’d be introducing a bill to bring Washington state’s teacher evaluation system in line with federal demands.
That bill showed up Monday. Sponsored by House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, House Bill 2800 would require that student scores on statewide tests be used in teacher and principal evaluations — a fix the federal government has requested if Washington state is to keep its waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act.
But a second bill to address the waiver issue also made its debut in the state Senate Monday, and it lays out a plan that departs from the one preferred by Inslee and Dorn.
The legislation Inslee and Dorn introduced would delay the requirement that teacher evaluations incorporate statewide testing data until 2017-18. It also would require that districts use the statewide testing data in evaluations only if Washington state remains exempt from cumbersome parts of the federal law.
Meanwhile, the Senate bill wouldn’t delay the new requirement, nor does it include language that that would void the change to Washington’s teacher-evaluation system if the state doesn’t keep its waiver.
Senate Bill 5880, sponsored by Republican Sen. Andy Hill of Redmond, is scheduled for a public hearing and a vote Monday in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. The legislation closely resembles a bill that the state Senate voted down last month.
Besides not allowing for a two-year delay before evaluations must use the statewide tests, Hill’s proposal also would direct the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to provide “state-level assessment information” to school districts so they can determine student growth for the purpose of teacher evaluations.
That language is absent from the Sullivan bill backed by Inslee and Dorn.
The state’s teacher and principal evaluation system already requires school districts to use student test results — also known as student growth data — as part of evaluations. But districts can choose which tests they will use; it’s not mandatory that they use the statewide tests.
The U.S. Department of Education told state officials in August that the Legislature must change state law to require the use of the statewide tests, or else Washington could lose its waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act.
That would mean that about $38 million in federal education funds for low-income students would have to be redirected to private tutoring efforts, and nearly every school in the state would be labeled as failing. Schools would also have to send letters home to parents informing them that their child attends a failing school.
A package of legislation that will be introduced Monday in the state Senate finally puts a transportation tax plan in bill form.
But with just 11 days left in state lawmakers’ 60-day session, negotiations appear to still be stuck. Democrats appeared no warmer to this Republican proposal than the last one.
Lawmakers are hung up more about process than about the substance of the Republican plan to raise the gas tax by 11 and a half cents to fund projects like a state Route 167 extension while making fund shifts and policy changes.
The bill represents an offer Sen. Curtis King of Yakima, Senate Republicans’ leader on transportation, made to his Democratic counterpart Sen. Tracey Eide of Des Moines on Feb. 21.
King said in an interview Saturday that it makes major concessions to Democrats compared to his previous offer a week earlier, while the other side hasn’t budged.
"It is my hope that we will have a public hearing in the near future on this new package and the important reform bills that have been a priority for our caucus," King said in a statement.
Eide, who has been pushing for a gas tax increase, demanded that King first prove that a majority of his 26-member majority caucus would vote for it. She wants to be assured that both sides will pitch in to pass the package.
She said she was disappointed that the only two lawmakers signed on to the bill were King and Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, the breakaway Democrat who leads the mostly Republican caucus.
"The agreement was that they would have 14 names on the pink sheet, but he dropped a bill with two names on it," Eide said in a statement. "That’s a far cry from 14."
King said there was no such deal. "I told them I wasn’t going to give them the names until I had an agreement," he said.
"…That hasn’t changed. I’m not going to hang my people out if (Democrats) don’t want to continue to negotiate."
But he did say that he believes he still has at least 13 votes of support, half of his caucus.
King’s latest proposal would add more money for mass transit sought by Democrats. While it would still shift sales tax revenue on highway projects from the state’s general fund to transportation, something Democrats oppose as raiding money from education and social services, it wouldn’t make the shift until 2019.
Eide has been blocking Republican policy measures until they have an agreement on a revenue package.
She said that’s not what’s holding up a deal.
"Rodney Tom and the Republicans don’t have an Eide problem, they have a policy problem," she said. "Their proposal is so unpopular, they can’t even get a majority of their caucus behind it," she said.
UPDATED 2:15 p.m.
A new shared leadership arrangement in a state Senate committee turned contentious Thursday as co-chairwoman Jan Angel adjourned the panel abruptly, slamming the door on a push to maintain funding for preventing homelessness.
At issue is a $40 fee on home sales that funds housing for the poor through public-housing programs and vouchers for private landlords. The fee is scheduled to drop to $30 next year if nothing happens and then to $10 two years later.
The renewal could re-emerge in last-minute deal making before the session ends March 13. The program has been a priority of Speaker Frank Chopp, and Gov. Jay Inslee’s Department of Commerce was asking for the renewal.
But it couldn’t get past the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee in its last meeting before a Friday deadline for bills to advance. Angel, R-Port Orchard, who was named mid-session to lead the committee along with former sole chairman Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, gaveled the committee to a close.
That’s when the TVW video feed cut off, but advocates for the bill sent out the audio, available here. You can hear Angel arguing with Benton, Hobbs and Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson about whether all interest groups had agreed to a deal.
"To abruptly adjourn this meeting without protecting the homeless really, really bothers me," Nelson said, "and it will affect those who need a voucher just for housing over their head on a cold day."
The two chairs disagree about whether there was a directive from the top of the Senate to kill the bill.
"(Senate Majority Leader) Rodney Tom told me he felt the bill needed work or wasn’t good," Hobbs said. "Which is also to me kind of stunning because I thought committee chairs had control in the committee."
Angel said there was no request from leadership. "Even if leadership ever asked me and said I’ve got to do this, I work for the people of my district," she said.
Her opposition was not exactly a surprise, despite the expressions of shock afterward. Angel and Hobbs had been at odds about whether House Bill 2368 would even be on the committee’s schedule.
Hobbs says interest groups had dropped their opposition to the bill after Tacoma Democratic Rep. David Sawyer and Vancouver Republican Sen. Don Benton worked out a bipartisan deal that would renew the fee temporarily and make some other changes.
But Sawyer said he and Benton agreed to advance a permanent extension — something Realtors have not supported. And a lobbyist for landlords, John Woodring, said they didn’t agree to a deal. He said they want to make sure the money designated for landlords in the form of private housing vouchers is actually going there.
Angel said the proposal had problems but they can be worked out next year and she vowed to help.
"I have a real passion to help these folks," Angel said of the homeless, "because I tell you what, I was a half an inch away from being there myself."
Minority Senate Democrats tried a procedural move Friday to bring the bill to the Senate floor, but it was rejected.
House Democrats released their supplemental budget proposal at the Capitol on Wednesday, echoing the new-revenues plan outlined a day before by minority Democrats in the Senate. They would give cost of living pay adjustments to public-school teachers and raise $100 million in new revenues by closing four tax exemptions.
The tax plan is identical to one outlined Tuesday by minority Democrats in the Senate.
The proposal is half the size of Gov. Jay Inslee’s, which sought to raise $200 million a year by closing seven exemptions. Those tax breaks targeted by the House and Senate Democrats are exemptions for recycled fuel products used by refineries, for bottled water sales, for out-of-state shoppers, and for re-sellers of prescriptions.
House Appropriations Committee chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said his proposal is “a modest budget. It doesn’t do a whole lot.’’
A Republican lead on education funding, Sen. Bruce Dammeier of Puyallup, declined to comment until he had a chance to review the proposals.
Budget writers in the Senate – both Democrats and Republicans – have embraced a base supplemental budget plan that does not raise new revenues and adds about $38 million for materials, supplies and operating costs in K-12 schools. That compares to $60 million in the House plan.
Democrats in both chambers favor the cost of living increase for teachers.
House Democrats also would bump up community mental health funding by $10.4 million and add $20.5 million for contracts with child-care providers. Links to House budget documents are here and links to Senate documents are here.
The Republican-dominated Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has resisted calls to raise revenues this year.
Both chambers are working on funding plans to give to the Supreme Court by April 30 showing how the state would meet its obligation to fully fund public schools by 2018.
UPDATE: Also released by the House is a bipartisan school construction proposal that would shift a share of state lottery proceeds to pay for $700 million in bonds. The money would provide hundreds of K-3 classrooms at districts statewide and make sure the state had classrooms ready in 2017-18 when class-size reductions are anticipated, according to Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, and Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union.
We’ll have more for the morning paper.
All statewide and local elected officials could soon be required to undergo training in the Public Records Act.
Senate Bill 5964 would require members of the governing body of a public agency to undergo training in Open Public Meetings Act within 90 days of assuming office and complete training every four years for the duration of their tenure. Those in statewide or local elected office would have to go through training in the Public Records Act within 90 days of assuming office and again every four years.
The proposal was heard in the House Government Operations and Elections Committee Tuesday morning. Sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, the bipartisan legislation passed out of the Senate 45-2 on Feb. 18.
Nancy Krier, the assistant attorney general for open government, testified in favor of the legislation during the public hearing. She said the attorney general’s office recently launched an open government website, including 22-minute long video in public records training.
“We’ve had quite a number of hits on training page since we launched on Jan. 14,” Krier said. “People are coming back.”
Bill Will of the Washington Newspapers Publishers Association also supported the legislation Tuesday. Having gone through mitigation for public records disputes, he said that litigation could be avoided if more people were trained in the act.
“80 percent [of litigation is] due to the fact that there was some confusion about public records law,” Will said.
The Attorney General’s Office would be responsible for providing training in public records and records management, and the legislation would allow for remote training.
“It’s great for all kinds of reasons…such as distance learning, cost and accessibility,” Krier said.
While those at the hearing agreed that the legislation is necessary, James McMahon of the Washington Association of County Officials warned that the legislation isn’t a fix-all.
“I hope that you all don’t enact this public records training bill and check that box that you’ve fixed that problem,” McMahon said.
A companion bill, House Bill 2121 passed out of the House Feb. 12. The House version would apply the training to state legislators as well.
Katie Blinn of the office of the Secretary of State said they support records retention training, and asked that the committee amend the Senate bill to mirror the House version.
Senate Bill 5964 is scheduled to be voted on in committee Wednesday. If passed out, it could move to the House floor for a vote.
Gov. Jay Inslee, left, announces Feb. 25, 2014 that he will introduce a bill to tweak Washington’s teacher and principal evaluation system in an effort to keep the state’s waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The federal government has said Washington must mandate the use of statewide tests — not just local ones — in evaluations or lose its waiver. Joining Inslee at right is Randy Dorn, the state superintendent of public instruction.
MELISSA SANTOS — Staff writer
Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday for the first time that he is convinced that lawmakers must tweak the state’s teacher evaluation system so Washington can keep its waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Inslee said he will introduce legislation in the next few days to meet the demands of the U.S. Department of Education, which has said Washington could lose its waiver and its control over roughly $38 million in federal education funds if state lawmakers don’t act.
Inslee’s announcement comes one week after the state Senate shot down a bill that would have addressed the issue by requiring teacher and principal evaluations to incorporate students’ scores on statewide tests.
Inslee said Tuesday that his new legislation will similarly propose mandating the use of statewide tests in evaluations, but he wants to delay the new requirement until the 2017-18 school year.
Prior to Tuesday, Inslee’s office said he was hopeful that state officials would be able to persuade the U.S. Department of Education to renew Washington’s waiver without an act of the Legislature. But after meeting with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan over the weekend, Inslee said he now believes a legislative fix is necessary for Washington to remain exempt from certain onerous provisions of the federal law.
"We would need to pass a bill," Inslee said Tuesday.
The governor said he is working with lawmakers to come up with a solution that the Legislature can support, and his office hopes to have the legislation ready in the next day or two.
The federal government’s concern relates to which tests Washington school districts use in teacher and principal evaluations. State law already requires that student test scores play a significant role in evaluations, but schools can choose which tests they will use: classroom-based, district-based or statewide.
The U.S. Department of Education says the Legislature must mandate the use of the statewide tests, or risk losing Washington’s No Child Left Behind waiver for the 2014-2015 school year.
Losing the waiver would mean that at least $38 million in federal education funds for low-income students would have to be set aside for private tutoring efforts, and nearly every school in the state would be labeled as failing.
Inslee said Tuesday that delaying the requirement that school districts use the statewide tests in evaluations would give districts time to transition to a new type of statewide assessment. Schools throughout the state will begin administering tests that align with the new Common Core curricula starting in the 2014-2015 school year.
Inslee said Duncan "expressed a willingness to consider" a delay of the testing requirement, as long as legislative action is taken to address the teacher evaluation issue before lawmakers head home in March.
"We explained to him that (a delay) made sense because it would give us two years of baseline data, it will allow us to complete our teacher evaluation program, and we will be in a much better position to implement it at that time," Inslee said Tuesday.
The state is using a new teacher and principal evaluation system for the first time this year, and some lawmakers have said they are hesitant to disrupt it.
A bill to require the use of state tests in evaluations failed 28-19 in the state Senate Feb. 18, with all but one member of the minority Democratic caucus joining with seven Republicans to vote no.
One of the senators who voted against the bill, Democratic Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe of Bothell, wouldn’t comment extensively on Inslee’s proposal Tuesday, but indicated she was supportive of his idea to delay changes to the evaluation system.
"There is a good option he came back with as far as timing," McAuliffe said.
Sen. Steve Litzow, a Mercer Island Republican who chairs the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, said it is encouraging that Inslee and other Democrats now seem to agree that the Legislature needs to act for the state to keep its waiver. Litzow sponsored the bill that failed in the Senate last week.
Lawmakers are still quibbling about some details of the legislation Inslee is drafting, though, Litzow said.
"We’re all trying to get a bill out that we can all get behind," Litzow said.
Randy Dorn, the state superintendent of public instruction, said retaining the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver remains a top priority for his office, and he is working with Inslee to come up with the new plan to put before the Legislature.
"If we don’t do this, it definitely would move the state backwards," Dorn said Tuesday. "It would not be good for the state or the kids in our educational system."
The state teachers union still has concerns, however, spokesman Rich Wood wrote in an email Tuesday.
"Teachers still believe mandating the use of state test scores in teacher evaluations is premature and will undercut the collaborative work we’re doing to successfully implement the new evaluation system in Washington," Wood said.
This is updated.
Senate Democratic leaders proposed Tuesday to close four tax-code exemptions – including one used by oil refiners – that would collectively raise $100.6 million for K-12 public schools this year and $202.9 million over the following two years.
Their move came just one day after minority Democrats’ budget writers embraced a supplemental budget plan that includes the addition or extension of several tax breaks worth about $10.3 million.
The proposal to close tax breaks is less ambitious than that of Gov. Jay Inslee, who targeted seven to produce upward of $200 million a year in new money each year and $400 million over a biennium. But it does foreshadow what House Democrats are likely to propose formally when they outline their supplemental budget and tax plan on Wednesday at the Capitol.
“We just felt this is a proposal that is realistic and has support,” Sen. David Frockt of Seattle said of the reason Senate Democrats chose a smaller array of tax breaks than Inslee did.
The proposal includes cost of living pay adjustments for teachers who otherwise would go six years without them in 2014-15.
Republicans who dominate the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus have not shown interest in closing tax breaks or raising new revenue this year, and Senate Ways and Means Committee chair Andy Hill, R-Redmond, reiterated Monday that 2014 is a supplemental year that should be focused on a budget that addresses emergent needs.
Hill and Democrats announced their bipartisan spending plan in a joint press conference.
But Hill and the leaders in the Senate majority coalition have said they do want to write a school funding plan that addresses the Supreme Court’s recent concern the Legislature hasn’t adequately laid out how it plans to get to full funding of K-12 schools by 2018. That plan is due to the court by April 30, and a dozen lawmakers from both houses and parties have been meeting with Inslee to talk about how to get there.
The Republicans’ approach has been to say K-12 obligations under the state Constitution should be funded first from existing revenues.
Senate Democratic leader Sharon Nelson of Maury Island said lawmakers need to identify ways to raise up to $5 billion in new revenues for K-12 schools. She, Frockt, Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe of Bothell, Sen. Andy Billig of Spokane, Sen. Christine Rolfes of Bainbridge and Sen. Jamie Pedersen of Seattle attended the press conference, arguing their tax plan is a piece of that map toward full funding. Their proposal – which they have put in Senate Bill 6574 – builds on past legislation that outlined in a linear or year by year way that the Legislature could ramp up its funding for K-12 schools.
Although the plan raises $100.2 million in new revenue, it spends about $139.6 million over the supplemental budget year remaining. Update: The difference is roughly $38 million for school materials, supplies and operating costs of local districts, which is already contained in the Senate budget plan rolled out on Monday.
The rest of the new investment breaks down this way, Democrats said:
- $21.5 million would go for reducing second-grade class sizes in high-poverty schools to 20.85 students, down from 24.1;
- $27.9 million would be used to increase the share of schools offering all-day kindergarten to 57.5 percent, up from 43.75 percent;
- $51.7 million would go for cost of living pay increases for teachers.
The targeted tax breaks include:
- An extracted fuel exemption worth $31.7 million this year and $59.1 million in the next biennium. The exemption was meant for pulp mills in 1949 but used by oil refineries once they moved into the state starting in the 1950s.
- A sales tax on bottled water that voters rejected a few years ago in an initiative that also targeted a pop tax. It would raise $24.3 million this year and $48.2 million over two years.
- A sales tax exemption for out of state shoppers from states with low sales taxes. It would be worth $29 million this year and $61.3 million over two years.
- A preferential tax rate would end for re-sellers of prescription drugs, which Democrats say would require that out of state firms warehousing medications in Washington would pay the same rate others pay. It could raise $15.6 million this year and $34.3 million over the next biennium.