John & Shari: Bill to reduce in-person learning hours should go ‘down in flames’

Jan 21, 2022, 5:13 AM
Students attend class in person at a school in New York City. (File photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
(File photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

There is a proposed bill that would limit the hours of in-person learning required in Washington state by 20% for K-12 students.

How should Washington parents handle being asked to step in as substitute teachers?

The bill is from Senator Manka Dhingra, and would allow asynchronous instructional hours to count toward the number of hours required by the state for education.

KIRO Newsradio reporter Hanna Scott told the John Curley and Shari Elliker Show that the bill immediately got pushback.

“This seems kind of counter to the governor’s comments he made in his State of the State remarks this last week, where he acknowledged the importance of in-person instruction when he called for empowering educators to address how students have lost educational opportunities because of the pandemic,” Sen. Perry Dozier said. “We’ve seen numbers fall in test scores because of the fact that they aren’t getting that in-person instruction, yet this bill is looking at definitely giving a cut of in-person instruction, so counter to what the governor just told us last week.”

“In looking at the bill, we’ve got somewhat of a polarity here between the governor’s remarks and your bill that you’re bringing forward to us,” Dozier continued.

Dhingra pushed back, arguing that schools can still have in-person learning under the bill, and the asynchronous learning doesn’t have to be virtual.

“What it allows for is a different modality of teaching,” she said. “So it absolutely does not prevent anyone from doing in person. We’re just putting flexibility on what that in person could look like.”

Gigi Talcott — a former lawmaker who was on the House Education Committee for years — testified against the bill, and had some strong words.

“[While] it was well intentioned, it’s far more likely and even predictable that were this bill to pass as written, it would expand — not narrow — the achievement gap and opportunity gap. I’ve read and researched hundreds, literally thousands of bills in my 14 years in the House Ed, in the majority, the minority, and as co-chair, and I think that Senate Bill 5735 holds the distinction of being the single most disastrous for disadvantaged students,” Talcott said.

Others in support of the bill said a combination of being present with asynchronous days would allow students and staff “a breath of fresh air.” A student said “asynchronous Wednesdays” that started in the Lake Washington School District offered an extra day to catch up on work, study for tests, and attend office hours.

But, as Hanna noted, that doesn’t work for everyone.

John asked: “How do they justify that the teacher only works four days instead of five?”

“The teacher has more ability to do their prep, the things that they don’t have time to do now — that was what I heard,” Hanna replied.

“It’s a cut in learning time, it’s not a cut in teacher work,” she added.

“Will they be given enough homework for that fifth day to keep them busy?” Shari asked. “If nobody’s teaching them, what are they supposed to be working on for five, six, seven hours?”

“Let’s hope this thing just goes down in flames,” John said. “It’s ridiculous. If you say teachers are teaching in class Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and that’s good, that’s a good use of time that teaching in class, why not do another day? To all of a sudden say, ‘We’re going to let you do homework and then you be home if you want’ — this thing goes down in flames.”

Hanna said she does expect this will be voted on in committee.

Listen to John Curley and Shari Elliker weekday afternoons from 3 – 7 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

John Curley and Shari Elliker on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
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John & Shari: Bill to reduce in-person learning hours should go ‘down in flames’