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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Educators Pan Bill Aimed At Teacher 'Dance Of the Lemons'

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – It’s an idea that’s catching on around the country: give school principals the power to reject a teacher assigned to their building. Giving principals veto power has already passed the Washington Senate. But at a public hearing in the House Friday the idea faced opposition – and not just from teachers.

In the education documentary “Waiting For Superman” they talk about the dance of the lemons.

Waiting For Superman: “Principals have their lemons. These are teachers who are chronically bad: they know it, the other teachers know it …”

So, as the movie tells it, at the end of each school year principals get together and trade their lemons. But in testimony before a panel of Washington lawmakers a parade of teachers, principals, superintendents and school board members said that’s not happening in Washington. And they voiced their opposition to giving principals veto power.

“If they have a problem teacher we expect them to put that teacher on a performance plan and work to help that teacher achieve their greatest potential," says Tacoma School Board member Karen Vialle. "Not just shove them off on somebody else.”

Backers of the principal bill include the Washington Business Roundtable and the education reform group Stand for Children. Under the measure, teachers bounced from a building would have eight months to find a permanent slot in another school or face termination.

On the Web:

SB 5242: Teacher reassignments - Washington Legislature 

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."