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Originally published Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 5:54 PM

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Wash. Senate passes education reform bills

The Washington state Senate on Wednesday approved a series of K-12 education reform bills meant to strengthen schools and improve learning.

Associated Press

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

The Washington state Senate on Wednesday approved a series of K-12 education reform bills meant to strengthen schools and improve learning.

The measures passed by the chamber are in large part the fruit of a Republican takeover, together with two Democrats, of the state Senate this year.

"We're challenging the status quo," said Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup. "We're looking to in some cases do what I might call disruptive change."

Taken together, the bills would crack down on poor reading in young students, empower principals and spotlight schools that are not hitting their targets.

Among the bills passed is one that would require third graders with inadequate reading skills to repeat a grade, attend summer school or otherwise improve their reading before starting fourth grade. The measure would also authorize K-3 teacher training to help improve students' reading.

That measure passed by a 35-13 vote, with 12 Democrats joining a united Republican caucus in favor.

Another bill would give veto power to principals over teachers assigned to their schools. Under that bill, teachers without a school assignment could be deployed as substitutes or used in non-teaching roles and could eventually be fired. It passed by a 27-22 vote, with four Democrats joining all 23 Republicans voting in favor.

A third bill would set up an A through F grade scale for K-12 schools. The grading system would be set up as a pilot program in a handful of schools starting in the fall of 2013. After an evaluation, it would be implemented statewide the following year. It passed by a vote of 26-23, with four Democrats joining all but one of the 23 Republicans in voting in favor.

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Follow AP Writer Jonathan Kaminsky at http://www.twitter.com/jekaminsky

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