Public Ed is Wedge Issue for WA Dems

Washington State Dems have one thing that we don't like to talk about - that's the state of public education.  It is a schism within the party that everyone knows about, snipes about but no one seems to want to find a way forward.
While charters have seemingly dominated the conversation for months, McCleary full-funding for our schools has been assigned the "kick me" sign.  (The other big story? Pre-K.  We'll have to have a conversation about that.)

On one side you have the big money people - League of Education Voters, Stand for Children, Washington State Charter Schools Association, DFER Washington, CRPE - all fixated on charter schools. And strangely silent on full funding for our schools. 

What is means is that Governor Inslee may be in a very tight spot in a day or so.  He has consistently been against charter schools and yet, been quite coy lately on his stand.  It could come back to haunt him in this election year.

On the other side, today I see there are the following groups lining up against the charter legislation.

Labor unions - Short and sweet letter today
Dear House of Representatives Member,

The 89,000 members of the Washington Education Association and their thousands of union brothers and sisters request that you vote no on SB 6194, or any other version of a charter schools bill. A yes vote will be registered as a bad vote.

Public school students, over 1.1 million strong, have long been waiting for their schools to be fully funded. The McCleary ruling is clear; it is time to fully fund public schools for all students.

The charter school initiative has been ruled unconstitutional.

Please vote no on any charter proposal.


Kim Mead, President, Washington Education Association; Jeff Johnson, President, Washington State Labor Council; Karen Strickland, President, AFT Washington; John Scearcy, President, Teamsters, Local 117; Lee Newgent, Executive Secretary, Washington State Building and Construction Trades; Todd Crosby, President, United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 21; Diane Sosne, RN, President, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW; Tricia Shroeder, Executive Vice President, SEIU Local 925; Adam Glickman, Secretary Treasurer, SEIU 775; Kent Stanford, President, Washington Public Employees Association; and Greg Devereux, Executive Director, Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28

Also this from the AFL-CIO:

On behalf of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and our 450,000 affiliated rank-and-file members, I ask you to vote no on SB 6194 and on any variation of this bill. Our constitution clearly states that K-12 education is our state’s paramount duty. It doesn’t say that funding charter schools is a fundamental priority.

Let’s fix the real problems before us in K-12 education — fully funding of public education, fixing the teacher shortage crisis, providing wrap-around services for students, lowering class room sizes, etc. — before addressing other issues which divide us and divert our attention from fulfilling our constitutional mandate to the public and our school children. 

From the NW Progressive Institute, a pretty thoughtful letter that talks about what is happening in other parts of the country because of charters.

Dear Representatives:
We are troubled to hear that the House of Representative may vote on a bill to provide public money to private charter schools.

We write to urge you to vote NO on Senate Bill 6194 or any other bill that would provide taxpayer money to charter schools.

Approving such a bill would be the first step in the defunding of our public schools and would be a slap in the face to the one million children in our public schools who are still waiting for the Legislature to fulfill its constitutional duty — as well as its obligation under a court order — to fully fund public schools.

Across America, school districts are facing financial problems due to the existence of charter schools. Because money follows the student, public schools lose money when a student enrolls in a charter school.

In Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark, and other cities, public school districts are being forced to slash budgets and undermine classroom supports because of the growth of charter schools. That hurts students who aren’t lucky enough to live near a charter school or win an enrollment lottery.

At a time when the Legislature is being held in contempt of court for failing to fund our public schools, it would be indefensible to create a whole new budget crisis for our public schools by passing a bill to resurrect funding for charter schools following the Supreme Court’s decision in League of Women Voters.

Meanwhile, the record of the charter schools themselves is mixed — at best.

In states like Ohio and Florida, charter schools have been a vehicle for fraud and waste of public tax dollars. Charter schools do not necessarily provide a better quality education. A recent Stanford CREDO study said that just under 40% of charters — two out of every five — are “significantly worse” than public schools and only 17% can be considered better.

By rejecting SB 6194 and other charter school bills, you are not closing down anyone’s school. You are not kicking any child out of a classroom. The wealthy interests and PACs that are bombarding you with calls and emails have more than enough money to keep those eight charter schools open indefinitely.

It is no more appropriate for the state to give taxpayers’ money to a charter school than it is to give it to a parochial school.

Your paramount duty is to fund our public schools. It is not appropriate to tell the one million children in our public schools that they must wait at least two more years for that duty to be met while at the same time suddenly coming up with new money for private charter schools.


Robert Cruickshank
Northwest Progressive Institute
Andrew Villeneuve
Founder and executive director
Northwest Progressive Institute


Stuart Jenner said…
Thank you for posting these letters. I hope Gov Inslee takes them to heart.
Anonymous said…
I can't take any more of these stupid, politically ineffective, silly letters.

Unless union "Leaders" are going to start organizing their members, by precinct, and start endorsing 20 or 30 or 50 primary challengers to these quivering, dissembling sell outs wasting space in the legislature, could they just knock it off? Have they noticed that their Hillary style phake activism of wagging their fingers and writing sternly worded letters engages few of their members - other than those who'll endure worthless meetings and useless letters?

Just go back to your seats at the table, and your pointless trainings on member engagement, and your recrafting of memes from the 1930's. By the way, do you really want to remind your tuned out members of the 30's, the last time union leaders were fighters instead of a bunch of Go Alongs and Get Alongs? Signed

Robert Murphy

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