The Washington Education Association, the union that represents the state’s K-12 teachers, was an enthusiastic backer of Gov. Chris Gregoire during the last election, as well as the Democratic majority in the state Legislature. Hey… how’s that working out for you?
Not that the Republican alternative would have treated teachers any better, but like every other labor group this session, the WEA has pretty much gotten the short end of the stick on nearly every substantive legislative issue. Writing in response to the education reform bill that just passed the House, WEA spokesman Rich Wood writes:
Teachers, the professional educators who work with students, are focused on the impact the Legislature’s huge budget cuts will have on our state’s students and the education they receive. HB 2261 may allow adults outside the classroom to think they’re doing something good for kids, but they’re ignoring the immediate and real problem. There’s no money.
$1.5 billion in K-12 education cuts are going to have a devastating impact on our students and classrooms. Trying to change teacher certification and evaluation or implementing a new school accountability system totally misses the mark. It suggests that TEACHERS are the problem, rather than the huge budget cuts. That’s an insult.
We’re losing thousands of teaching positions and students will be in overcrowded classrooms this fall. Meanwhile, the Legislature is poised to spend $3 million on work groups to study teacher certification? And teachers are supposed to accept promises that someday down the road the state might actually fulfill its constitutional obligation to fully fund education? We’ve heard enough promises.
That’s why teachers and other education staffers oppose these bills. Today, the Legislature introduced bills that wipe out the voter-approved initiatives for smaller class sizes and school employee compensation. If we care what the voters think, then the Legislature should be finding ways to protect those investments instead of spending money on work groups.
Wood closes by urging the Senate to reject the bill. Yeah… good luck with that.
Personally, I’m rather agnostic about the education reform bill. It does some good things and some bad things and more than a few pointless things, but as long as it remains unfunded, it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. The WEA is absolutely right that the immediate issue facing K-12 education is the dramatic cut in funding under the proposed budget… but banging their heads against this reform bill isn’t gonna do anything to open up the taps.
Instead, the WEA could be a helluva lot more effective getting behind efforts to put a substantive high-earners income tax on the ballot, all or part of which could be dedicated to funding K-12 education. The internal polling on such a measure looks surprisingly good—at least as good as the third of a cent sales tax increase Rep. Pettigrew introduced yesterday—yet would generate more money, and wouldn’t require a sunset provision. From what I hear, SEIU is willing to play ball, and the votes are likely there in the Senate. If WEA and the public employee unions would just get behind the effort, they might actually be able to push the House along with them.
Seriously. Without a substantial revenue increase, K-12 is getting less than squat this session. But with WEA’s promise to aggressively back a ballot measure, a high-earners income tax is not out of the question.
Press releases are nice and all that, but it’s time to let legislators know that you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is, and commit to backing a high-earners income tax to fund K-12 education.