News Releases

08/14/14
Teachers decry court decisions on pension cuts
Contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 253-376-1007

Washington teachers and other public school employees are disappointed by the Washington Supreme Court’s decisions to uphold the elimination of promised retirement benefits for more than 100,000 K-12 educators.

The first decision upholds the Legislature’s 2007 decision to eliminate gainsharing in state pension plans, which will cost current and retired educators billions of dollars in the long term. The second decision upholds the elimination of uniform cost-of-living adjustments for some current and future retired educators’ pensions. The Court released both decisions Aug. 14, 2014.

Washington Education Association President Kim Mead said teachers and other public workers have modest retirement plans, and the state’s cuts make it more difficult to keep quality, experienced teachers in the classroom. The pension cuts especially hurt some of the lowest-paid school support employees, she said, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians.

The pension cuts harm the retirement security of more than 100,000 public school employees and retirees.

“It’s not right for the Legislature to unilaterally cut retirement benefits it promised – and to take away what educators already earned,” Mead said.

Mead said the Legislature has balanced the state budget over the last seven years by slashing educator retirement benefits, underfunding health care and cutting teacher salaries. The cuts in educator compensation total billions of dollars – essentially a tax targeted solely at public school employees and other public workers.

The Supreme Court’s McCleary decision said Washington must fund public education as the paramount duty of our state, and the Court has specifically stated that educator compensation is included.

“If we want to have good public schools and provide the quality education our students deserve, we must provide a compensation package that attracts and retains quality teachers and education support staff,” Mead said. “It’s time for the Legislature to invest in its public school employees instead of asking them to sacrifice even more.”

As a result of the Court’s decision, a related reduced penalty for early retirement will remain in place.

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Background on the Washington Supreme Court’s decision on pensions

In 2007, the Washington Legislature eliminated gainsharing for public employees in retirement Plan 1 and 3 and in 2011 cut the uniform COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) for retirees in Plan 1.

The COLA helps ensure pension benefits for older retirees keep up with inflation, and gainsharing was offered as an inducement for employees to join Plan 3. (Gainsharing occurs when the state pension fund has high returns for three years straight, and the additional money is shared with members of Plan 1 and 3.)

When the Legislature repealed the gainsharing benefit for Plan 1 and 3 members in 2007, it also reduced the penalty for early retirement in Plans 2 and 3.

Arguing pension benefits are a contractual and constitutional right the Legislature cannot unilaterally cut, in 2007 WEA filed a lawsuit against the state challenging the loss of gainsharing. WEA later filed a lawsuit challenging the 2011 repeal of the uniform COLA.

WEA and others prevailed in the gainsharing case in King County Superior Court and prevailed in the repeal of the Uniform COLA case in Thurston County Superior Court, but the state appealed both decisions. The Supreme Court heard both cases on the same day in the fall of 2013 and issued its decision Aug. 14, 2014. Unless either side asks the court to reconsider, the decision will go into effect 20 days later.

Anticipating potential lawsuits when it voted to eliminate gainsharing in 2007, the Legislature said that if the courts ever restored gainsharing, the reduced penalty for early retirement in Plans 2 and 3 would be eliminated (in other words, the full penalty for early retirement would go back into effect). Since gainsharing was not restored, the reduced penalty for early retirement will remain unchanged.

01/10/14
Educators take COLA campaign to Olympia
Contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 253-376-1007 or Sylvia Watson, 206-261-3603

Nearly 100 educators will be in Olympia Monday -- first day of the 2014 legislative session -- to collect sponsor signatures on a bill to restore the voter-approved educator COLA (cost-of-living adjustment).

If the Legislature fails to restore the educator COLA this session, teachers, education support professionals, community and technical college faculty, and technical college classified staff will go six consecutive years without a state-funded COLA. As a result, individual educators have lost thousands of dollars and their salaries will be 16 percent behind.

Yesterday, the state Supreme Court chastised the Legislature for failing to provide adequate educator salaries, including COLAs.

"… nothing could be more basic than adequate pay," the Court majority wrote.

Educators will meet at 10 am at the Women's Club of Olympia, 1002 Washington St SE, Olympia, for a briefing before walking to the state capitol, where they will meet with legislators from both parties to collect bill sponsorship signatures. Their goal is to get 51 COLA restoration sponsors in the state House. They'll count signatures and debrief at  3 pm at the Women's Club.

"Funding the COLA is the right thing to do because it's the law and because our members have earned it," said AFT Washington President Karen Strickland. "It's also the right thing to do because it will be an economic stimulus -- the people who are owed this COLA will put that money right back into the economy, as it is money that most need to pay for daily living expenses."

"We look forward to working with House and Senate to restore COLA funding this session. We expect the House to hear the bill in committee quickly and take action," said Washington Education Association President Kim Mead. "That would be the fair thing to do.

AFT Washington and WEA collectively represent nearly 90,000 K-12 teachers, support professionals, university professors, and community and technical college faculty and staff members. 

Media can follow the day's activities on twitter at #COLA14.

01/09/14
Supreme Court: State still falling short on K-12 school funding
Contact:
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 253-376-1007

The Washington Supreme Court's latest school funding critique confirms what teachers already know -- the Legislature is falling far short of funding the quality public education students deserve, and the state is failing to make adequate progress toward the 2017-18 deadline for fully funding K-12 public schools.

Washington Education Association President Kim Mead said Washington's students and school employees deserve fully funded schools, not more unfulfilled promises.

"The Supreme Court's original McCleary decision was clear, and so is the Court's latest report -- the state is failing to fully fund K-12 public schools and the education our students deserve," Mead said. "The Supreme Court's deadline for fully funding public education is 2018. At this pace, the Legislature won't meet the requirement to amply fund education for another 20 years. Our kids can't wait that long. Their futures are at stake."

Mead said the Court's latest rebuke of the Legislature is no surprise. Washington's class sizes are 47th out of 50 states, Washington's teachers are the lowest paid among Pacific states and educators have gone nearly six years without a state cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Since the McCleary decision in 2012, those statistics have gotten worse -- not better.

" …nothing could be more basic than adequate pay," the Court majority wrote. "The inescapable fact is that salaries for educators in Washington are no better now than when this case went to trial."

The Court also wrote: "The Legislature is embarking on a short session in 2014, where it has an opportunity to take a significant step forward ... The need for immediate action could not be more apparent."

Educators agree, and dozens of educators will be in Olympia on Monday, the first day of the legislative session, to lobby for the restoration of the educator COLA.

The Court ordered the Legislature to develop a plan by April 2014 for how the state will fully fund K-12 education -- including educator salaries -- by the 2017-18 school year. " … the pace of progress must quicken," the Court wrote.

Mead said educators expect lawmakers to make a good faith effort toward increasing school funding as the Supreme Court ordered. She called on the House, the Senate, Gov. Jay Inslee and legislators from both major parties to find funding solutions now instead of waiting until the next biennium.

"There's no doubt fully funding our K-12 public schools is a monumental task, but it's the state's constitutional paramount duty," Mead said. "Instead of more delays and excuses, we need leadership and solutions."

12/17/13
National Board numbers show Washington leads in teacher quality
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Numbers released today show Washington has the largest number of new National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) out of all 50 states -- a sign of Washington's commitment to quality teaching.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced Washington has 516 new National Board Certified Teachers. In total, Washington has 7,333 NBCTs.

National Board Certification is a rigorous advanced and voluntary teaching credential. Details are here. Nearly all NBCTs are members of the Washington Education Association, which provides extensive state and local support programs for teachers working on their national certification.

"Even with class sizes ranked 47th out of 50 states and after nearly six years without a state-funded cost-of-living adjustment, the new NBCT numbers show the high level of dedication among our state’s teachers," said Kim Mead, WEA president. "As a union, we’re proud of our work to strengthen the teaching profession."

Seattle had the most new NBCTs in the state this year, with 54. Statewide, nearly one third of all NBCTs teach in challenging schools.

National Board Certified Teachers in Washington are rewarded for their achievement and their dedication to student learning with state-funded $5,000 annual stipends. Teachers who work in challenging schools receive an additional $5,000.

12/16/13
Teachers urge Gov. Inslee to restore COLA
Contact:
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Washington teachers are urging Gov. Jay Inslee to restore the voter-approved, legally mandated cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for school employees when he releases his supplemental state budget Dec. 17.

If Gov. Inslee and the Legislature do not restore funding for the educator COLA, teachers and other education employees will go six consecutive years without a state-funded COLA. Washington teachers will have lost approximately 16 percent in buying power during that time. They currently are the lowest-paid teachers in the five Pacific states.

"When the great recession hit, we understood the need to hold the line on the COLA. We did our part. With the economy improving, there is no reason teachers and other educators should face a sixth year without a state-funded COLA. It isn't fair." said Kim Mead, president of the Washington Education Association. 

Nearly 63 percent of Washington voters approved the COLA for K-12 educators, technical college employees and community college faculty members. Yet the Legislature has suspended it every year since 2008.

In 2012, the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision ordered the state to fully fund K-12 education as mandated by the state constitution. Part of the decision reads, " …the state allocation for salaries and benefits fell far short of the actual cost of recruiting and retaining competent teachers, administrators, and staff."

Since the McCleary decision, the state has not increased teacher salaries -- and actually cut educators' pay for two years.

Members of the Washington Education Association are encouraging their legislators to sponsor and support legislation to restore the COLA.

WEA represents 82,000 educators.

12/12/13
Court declares charter school law unconstitutional
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A King County Superior Court judge has ruled Washington's new charter school act is unconstitutional.

Judge Jean Rietschel struck down the core of the Charter School Act by determining that charter schools are not common schools and cannot be funded with state common school funds.

"A charter school cannot be defined as a common school because it is not under the control of the voters of the school district," Judge Rietschel wrote.

The judge also found that, as a result, charter schools cannot receive restricted common school construction funds from the state. 

Attorneys are reviewing the decision, and the case likely will be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the League of Women Voters of Washington, a nonpartisan organization that encourages the participation of citizens in government; El Centro de la Raza, a Seattle-based group dedicated to social justice; the Washington Association of School Administrators, an organization of more than 1,600 school administrators; the Washington Education Association, an organization that represents nearly 82,000 public school employees; Wayne Au, Ph.D., an educator and education advocate; Pat Braman, a former Mercer Island High School teacher and current Mercer Island School Board member; and parents with children in public schools in Snohomish and Spokane counties.

Paul Lawrence and Jessica Skelton of Pacifica Law Group are the lead plaintiff attorneys in the case. Read Judge Rietschel’s complete ruling.

Read the original complaint here.

09/25/13
Bellingham Education Association News Release
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Faculty members at Bellingham Technical College remain on strike, and education support professionals at the college continue to honor the faculty picket lines. Both groups are WEA units, and they are strong and united. Read more at www.BTCFacultyVoice.org.

09/24/13
Bellingham Education Association News Release
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Faculty members at Bellingham Technical College are on strike.

They will picket the college beginning at 7 a.m., Sept. 24.

Contract negotiations between the faculty union and the college administration ended late Monday evening without a settlement. Major issues include salaries, workload and administration proposals regarding covert surveillance of college employees.

By a unanimous vote last week, BTC faculty members voted to strike if the college administration and board of trustees failed to offer a fair contract settlement by the scheduled start of school on Sept. 24.

Visit www.BTCFacultyVoice.org for information. BTC faculty members belong to the Bellingham Education Association.

09/19/13
Bellingham Technical College faculty members vote to strike
Contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 253-376-1007

By a unanimous vote this afternoon, faculty members at Bellingham Technical College voted to strike if the college administration and board of trustees fail to offer a fair contract settlement by the scheduled start of school Sept. 24.

The big issues are pay and workload, including class sizes. Faculty members have gone five years without a cost-of-living adjustment or significant pay raise, while salaries for top college administrative positions have increased substantially in the same time period.

College administrators have millions of dollars in reserves, and the Legislature recently sent the school additional money for faculty salaries.

Records show the last strike by Washington community or technical college faculty members was more than 20 years ago.

Bellingham Technical College faculty members belong to the Bellingham Education Association, which is affiliated with the Washington Education Association. BTC support employees also are in contract negotiations, but the college administration has declared impasse. They belong to the Bellingham Educational Support Team, also a WEA affiliate.

09/03/13
South Kitsap Education Association members ratify three-year contract
Contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , (253) 225-1977 (cell), (360) 871-4149 (office)

South Kitsap Education Association members voted overwhelmingly today to ratify a three-year contract with the South Kitsap School District. Ninety-six percent of the 407 members attending the ratification meeting at South Kitsap High School voted yes.

"We are pleased to be getting back into our classrooms and excited to see our students tomorrow," SKEA President John Richardson says. "Our members are pleased to be making progress toward lower class sizes and we are happy we’re moving forward on eliminating split classes."

SKEA members voted to go on strike last week after seeing no movement from the school board on class sizes.

Some of the highlights of the new contract include:

  • Secondary academic class sizes will be reduced from the previous contract levels by two students this semester and by one more student the second semester of this school year. In 2015-16, academic secondary class sizes will be reduced by one more student.
  • Elementary split classes (where students from two different grade levels are placed in one classroom) will be reduced over the next three years. The major focus is to eliminate grade 4/5 and 5/6 splits this year. During the second year of the contract, 2/3 and 3/4 splits will be added. During the third year of the contract, the district will concentrate on eliminating 1/2 splits.
  • Elementary school class sizes will also go be lowered by one in 2014-15.

"We're very proud of the high quality education our students deserve and receive here in our community. We are looking forward to working with our new superintendent, Michelle Reid, and appreciate her participation in helping us reach a resolution."

09/01/13
Seattle educators reach tentative agreement; vote set Sept. 3
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The Seattle Education Association and Seattle School Board bargaining teams reached a tentative agreement early this morning. SEA members will be reviewing the agreement and voting on it at the Sept. 3 SEA general membership meeting at Benaroya Hall. Registration starts at 4 p.m., and the meeting starts at 5 p.m. 

08/28/13
Seattle teachers to picket
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Seattle educators will picket at four highly visible Seattle locations from 3-6 p.m. Aug. 29 to highlight the Seattle School Board's refusal to offer a fair contract settlement.

The locations are:

  • Rainier Ave and MLK
  • The West end of the West Seattle Bridge (35th and Fauntleroy)
  • Market and 15th in Ballard
  • Outside Northgate Mall

Seattle students are scheduled to start school Sept. 4. Seattle Education Association members will meet Sept. 3 to either ratify a new contract or vote to take other action.

SEA represents nearly 5,000 Seattle teachers, secretaries, classroom aides and education staff associates such as therapists.

08/27/13
Seattle educators plan Aug. 28 news conference

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Members of the Seattle Education Association and supporters plan a news conference/picket sign party 4 p.m., Aug. 28, at Eckstein Middle School to provide an update on contract negotiations with the Seattle School Board.

SEA members, including teachers, secretaries and paraprofessionals, overwhelmingly rejected the board’s latest contract proposal Aug. 26. Bargaining resumed Aug. 27, and Seattle educators will meet Sept. 3 to either ratify a new contact or vote on other actions.

Major sticking points include:

  • The Seattle School Board's demand to make elementary teachers work longer every day (after students have gone home) and take a pay cut. If the school day is going to be longer, Seattle educators believe the board should restore elementary art, music, P.E. and other classes that were cut nearly 40 years ago.
  • The Seattle School Board’s refusal to reduce caseloads for therapists, psychologists, and other education staff associates. SEA members want reduced caseloads so they can provide the individual attention and specialized support all students need to receive a quality education.
  • The Seattle School Board insists on outdated elements of the local teacher evaluation system that unnecessarily duplicates and conflicts with the state's new teacher evaluation requirements and distracts from classroom learning. Seattle teachers want to focus on implementing the new state-mandated evaluation system and upcoming changes in academic standards.
  • The Seattle School Board refuses to seriously address the need to pay teachers and other educators competitively. After years of cuts and stagnant salaries, it's time for the board to increase educator pay so Seattle Public Schools can attract and keep quality educators and compete with neighboring school districts.
  • The Seattle School Board is ignoring the need to provide professional development for paraprofessionals (classroom assistants) and reduce workloads for office professionals (school secretaries).

SEA represents nearly 5,000 Seattle teachers, secretaries, classroom aides and education staff associates such as therapists.

08/26/13
Seattle educators reject school board's contract offer
Contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 206-948-6422 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 253-376-1007

By a near-unanimous voice vote Monday night, members of the Seattle Education Association rejected the Seattle School Board's latest contract proposal, which they said falls far short on several major issues that directly affect students.

The current contract ends Aug. 31, and school is scheduled to start Sept. 4. SEA members plan to meet again the evening of Sept. 3 to either approve a contract or take further action.

"Seattle educators are standing up for a fair contract that focuses on what Seattle students really need -- more time for teachers to teach and students to learn," said SEA President Jonathan Knapp. "The Seattle School Board's current proposal falls far short of what educators know Seattle’s children need and deserve."

Major sticking points include:

  • The Seattle School Board's demand to make elementary teachers work longer every day (after students have gone home) and take a pay cut. In contrast, Seattle educators believe the board should restore elementary art, music, P.E. and other classes that were cut nearly 40 years ago.
  • The Seattle School Board's refusal to reduce caseloads for therapists, psychologists, and other education staff associates. SEA members want reduced caseloads so they can provide the individual attention and specialized support all students need to receive a quality education.
  • The Seattle School Board insists on outdated elements of the local teacher evaluation system that unnecessarily duplicates and conflicts with the state's new teacher evaluation requirements and distracts from classroom learning. Seattle teachers want to focus on implementing the new state-mandated evaluation system and upcoming changes in academic standards.
  • The Seattle School Board refuses to seriously address the need to pay teachers and other educators competitively. After years of cuts and stagnant salaries, it’s time for the board to increase educator pay so Seattle Public Schools can attract and keep quality educators and compete with neighboring school districts.
  • The Seattle School Board is ignoring the need to provide professional development for paraprofessionals (classroom assistants) and reduce workloads for office professionals (school secretaries).

"Seattle School Board members don't care that we are there for the kids," said Antoinette Felder, a secretary and member of the SEA Bargaining Team.

Dozens of SEA members will deliver signed messages about the contract vote to Supt. Jose Banda's office Aug. 27 at 8:30 a.m.

SEA represents nearly 5,000 Seattle teachers, secretaries, classroom aides and education staff associates such as therapists.

07/03/13   

Parents, educators, and community groups file lawsuit challenging new charter school law
Contact: Paul Lawrence, 206-245-1708; Linda Mullen, 206-445-2657; or Dr. Wayne Au, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

A coalition of parents, educators, and community groups has filed a Complaint in King County Superior Court challenging the constitutionality of Initiative 1240, Washington’s new Charter School Act.

The Complaint asserts that the Charter School Act violates the Washington Constitution by improperly diverting public school funds to private organizations that are not subject to local voter control and by impeding the State's constitutional obligation to amply provide for and fully fund K-12 public education.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the League of Women Voters of Washington, a nonpartisan organization that encourages the participation of citizens in government; El Centro de la Raza, a Seattle-based group dedicated to social justice; the Washington Association of School Administrators, an organization of more than 1,600 school administrators; the Washington Education Association, an organization that represents nearly 82,000 public school employees; Wayne Au, Ph.D., an educator and education advocate; Pat Braman, a former Mercer Island High School teacher and current Mercer Island School Board member; and parents with children in public schools in Snohomish and Spokane Counties. 

"The Charter School Act poses a real threat to our public school system in Washington," said Plaintiff Dr. Wayne Au. "Not only does it divert already deficient state funds from public schools to private organizations, it also exempts those private organizations from many of the standards that are in place to ensure that all children receive an adequate education."

The Complaint asserts that the Charter School Act violates the Washington Constitution in at least seven ways:

1.     It improperly delegates the State's constitutional "paramount duty" to provide for the education of children within its borders to private organizations that are not subject to the requirements and standards in place to ensure that all children receive a constitutionally sufficient education.

2.     It also violates the State's paramount duty to make ample provision for the education of all children within its borders by interfering with the State's progress toward complying with the Washington Supreme Court directive to the Legislature to fully fund basic educational programs by 2018, as set forth in the 2012 McCleary decision.

3.     It unconstitutionally diverts public funds that are restricted to use for public common schools to private charter schools that are not subject to local voter control.

4.     It violates the Constitution's "general and uniform" provision because charter schools are not subject to many laws and regulations applicable to public schools, including many of the provisions defining a basic education. 

5.     It amends existing state law in a manner not permitted by the Constitution.

6.     It violates the constitutional requirement that the superintendent of public instruction "have supervision over all matters pertaining to public schools."

7.     It violates the Constitution because it mandates the use of local voter-approved levy funds for a purpose other than the purpose for which the voters approved the levies. 

The plaintiffs previously asked the Washington Attorney General's Office to address the unconstitutional provisions of the Charter School Act and the Attorney General declined the request. The lawsuit now asks the King County Superior Court to rule that the Charter School Act is unconstitutional and to prohibit further implementation of the Act. Paul Lawrence and Jessica Skelton of Pacifica Law Group are the lead attorneys in the case.

06/28/13

State budget falls far short on K-12 funding; teachers express disbelief
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Teachers and school support employees are expressing disbelief over the new state budget, which falls far short of fully funding the quality public education every Washington child deserves -- and fails to live up to legislators' own claims.

Legislators are claiming the final state budget increases K-12 funding by $1 billion, yet the state's own budget summary shows the increase is substantially less.

In particular, the budget fails to fund smaller class sizes for all students, which means Washington's average class sizes will continue to be ranked 47th in the nation. The budget also continues the suspension of educator cost-of-living adjustments, even though Washington's teachers are the lowest paid among West Coast states and will go six years without a state pay increase.

After subtracting more than $400 million in cuts to educator salaries and benefits, the total K-12 increase is around $560 million above what's needed to maintain current service levels. That's about a third of the $1.5 billion legislators themselves have said was needed to begin complying with the Supreme Court's McCleary decision, which ordered the state to fully fund schools by 2018.

The state House voted Thursday night to once again suspend voter-approved cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for K-12 school employees and community/technical college employees. The vote to suspend the COLAs is a $320 million cut in compensation -- essentially a huge tax increase levied solely on educators.

Compounding the problem, the proposed state budget fails to restore the two learning improvement days for teachers the Legislature eliminated two years ago, which was a 1.1 percent salary cut. The budget also cuts $10 million in health benefits.

"Lawmakers will tell you they have made a good start on funding education and McCleary," said Washington Education Association President Mary Lindquist. "By any measure, including their own, they have come up short.

"At this pace, the Legislature won't meet the requirement to amply fund education for another 30 years. The state Supreme Court's deadline for fully funding public education is 2018. When the Legislature started work in January, I was worried that students in middle school today wouldn't benefit from McCleary by the time they graduate. It is incredible that our elected officials are now closing the door on literally generations of Washington students."

Lindquist said WEA's 82,000 members and other public school supporters remain resolved to advocate for fully funding a quality education for every student no matter how long it takes.

04/27/13
WEA elects new officers
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Delegates to the Washington Education Association's Representative Assembly have elected a new president and vice president.

In Bellevue, Everett teacher Kim Mead was elected president of the 82,000-member WEA, which represents K-12 teachers, education support professionals and higher education faculty members.

Bellevue teacher Stephen Miller was elected vice president.

Mead and Miller will take office in July and will serve two-year terms. Current WEA President Mary Lindquist and Vice President Mike Ragan are wrapping up their third two-year terms, the most allowed under WEA rules.

Mead said, "I am humbled to be the next elected leader of the Washington Education Association. Our strength is our ability to come together with diverse views, and through our democratic process, stand up for the best interests of public education and our members.

"The work in front of us is great, but the rewards for our members and our students are worth the hard work. I am excited for the future of public education, driven by those who are the experts, the educators who are the WEA."

Miller said, "The members of our union know firsthand from their daily work what is necessary to provide an excellent public education for all students in Washington. Yet the Supreme Court of Washington has concluded the state Legislature has failed in its paramount duty to amply fund our schools. 

"I encourage the citizens of Washington to join the members of WEA in telling the state Senate to respect the court's McCleary decision and fully fund our public schools and reduce class sizes for all students in Washington."

04/25/13
WEA announces Human and Civil Rights Award winners
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The Washington Education Association announced the winners of its Human and Civil Rights at its annual convention in Bellevue.

This year, there are five winners in the three categories of awards: Cultural Awareness, Community Service and International Peace and Understanding. The winners of the Cultural Awareness award are:  

  • Jamie Valadez, from Port Angeles High School, who teaches Native American Studies and the Klallam language, for her ongoing dedication to preserving the Klallam language for youth and adults.
  • The entire staff of Quil Ceda-Tulalip Elementary School in Marysville. These educators maintained their focus on Native culture as part of their academic improvement program, funded through a Federal School Improvement Grant (SIG). Integrating culture and academics proved a successful combination, as the school outperformed some 1,700 other SIG schools across the nation.  
  • Suquamish School Superintendent Joe Davalos. He has welcomed  tribal members into school culture, brings multi-cultural elements into the schools and has developed relationships with the community to bring "wrap around" support services for the students, thus ensuring that all students can come to school ready to learn.

The Community Service award  goes to:

  • The English Language Learners Family Literacy Program in the Edmonds area for the depth of the program and the numbers it serves. The program serves more than 600 parents, offers free English classes, on-site child care services and homework support.

The International Peace and Understanding award is being given posthumously to Elaine R. Akagi -- a retired educator who taught for 38 years. She was an activist, mentor and advocate for children of color. The Japanese American Citizens League's Seattle Chapter created the Elaine R. Akagi Scholarship aimed at encouraging students of color to pursue a degree in special education.

More information about the awards are available at: www.WashingtonEA.org

04/24/13
Class size and funding top WEA convention this week in Bellevue

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Smaller class sizes, school funding and educator compensation will be hot topics this week when more than 1,200 K-12 and higher education employees convene in Bellevue for the Washington Education Association's annual Representative Assembly (RA).

The WEA RA is at the Meydenbauer Center and runs from 7 p.m. Thursday night through Saturday night.

Delegates will be considering measures to reduce overcrowded class sizes and provide cost-of-living adjustments for school employees, among other issues.

The convention is the highest decision-making body in the 82,000-member association, which is the state's largest union for educators.

The event is WEA President Mary Lindquist's sixth and final RA as the association's top leader. Elections for WEA president and vice president are Friday evening, and the results will be announced after 8 p.m.

Educators will be discussing class sizes and educator compensation in Bellevue at the same time legislators are in Olympia for the final days of the regular 2013 legislative session, which ends Sunday.

On Saturday, April 27, WEA delegates will ride buses to Olympia for a rally on the capitol steps at 9:45 a.m. Gov. Jay Inslee is among the confirmed speakers.

Other highlights of the WEA convention include:

The Washington Education Association's 2013 Representative Assembly is at the Meydenbauer Center, 11100 NE Sixth St., Bellevue, WA 98004.

The RA is April 25 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., April 26 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and April 27 from 1 p.m. until adjournment. The Olympia rally is from 9:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Follow the WEA RA on Twitter @WashingtonEA and @OurVoiceWEA (political issues) and #WEARA13; and Facebook: Facebook.com/WashingtonEducation and Facebook.com/OurVoiceWEA (political issues).

04/10/13
Statement from Washington Education Association President Mary Lindquist about Democratic House budget proposal
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"Educators are pleased the House budget invests directly in the classroom by reducing K-3 class sizes and includes a plan for fully funding smaller class sizes by the 2017-18 deadline.

"Our students are packed into the fourth-most-overcrowded class sizes in the nation, and this is an important first step toward making sure each and every Washington student at every grade level has the small class sizes needed to get the personal help they deserve.

"However, individual educators have lost thousands of dollars in recent years because of the cost-of-living adjustment suspension, loss of three learning improvement work days and a 1.9 percent cut in state salary funding last year.

"The House budget restores the 1.9 percent cut, but does not restore recent cuts to learning improvement days -- the equivalent to two furlough days or an additional 1.1 percent cut in pay.

"And, like the Senate and governor's budgets, the House budget does not restore the voter-approved cost-of-living salary adjustment for public school employees. If the I-732 COLAs are not restored, educators' COLAs will have been suspended for six years straight. We cannot attract and keep the most qualified, experienced educators if their salaries don't even keep pace with inflation.

"In addition to funding for smaller class sizes, we're also pleased by the investment in expanded all-day kindergarten, teacher and principal evaluation training, locally funded salary increments for community and technical college faculty and the recognition that a balanced and sustainable budget requires increased revenue by closing outdated tax loopholes and exemptions."

03/28/13
Statement from Washington Education Association President Mary Lindquist on Gov. Jay Inslee's K-12 education funding proposal

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Educators appreciate Gov. Inslee's proposal to increase revenue and increase funding for K-12 schools.

Gov. Inslee's education proposal is a step in the right direction but doesn't go far enough to fully fund our K-12 schools as required by the Supreme Court's McCleary decision.

His proposal to fund smaller class sizes for kindergarten and first-grade students in high-poverty schools is a good start, but we need to reduce class sizes for all students, regardless of their family's income or their grade level. Washington students are packed into the fourth-most overcrowded classrooms in the country.

The final budget needs to increase school funding by at least $1.5 billion so we can begin reducing overcrowded class sizes and ensuring every child has the opportunity for a quality public education. The Legislature must make a substantial investment in K-12 schools now, because waiting will make it more difficult to fully fund McCleary by the 2018 deadline. The state's Joint Task Force on Education Funding estimated the full cost of funding McCleary is $4.7 billion a biennium, not counting recommended compensation increases.

WEA members look forward to working with Gov. Inslee and the Legislature on a final state budget that increases school funding, reduces class sizes and restores voter-approved cost-of-living adjustments for educators.

03/18/13
State funding for K-12 public schools ends March 18 -- symbolically, at least

Contact: Mary Beth Lambert, LEV, 206-335-0191 or  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it 253-376-1007

Today is the "last day" of state funding for Washington's K-12 public schools. Symbolically, at least.*

A coalition of public school supporters is demanding the Washington Legislature fully fund a 180-day school year as required by law. Currently, the Legislature funds only two-thirds of a public K-12 education in Washington.

"Although the Washington Constitution says K-12 schools are the state's No. 1 priority, the Legislature funds only two-thirds of a child’s K-12 public education in our state," said Mary Lindquist, president of the Washington Education Association. "That's one of the reasons we have the fourth-most-overcrowded class sizes in the country."

While the amounts paid by local school districts vary, on average, up to one-third of school funding in Washington is funded almost entirely through local taxpayer-approved levies.

"What does 2/3 state funding get you?" asked Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education Voters. "A 75 percent high school graduation rate. We must do better. We invite Washington’s citizens to join us and urge lawmakers to step up and fully fund K-12 education. The time is now and the need is urgent."

While schools will continue to receive state funding through the end of the school year, it is not enough to cover basic operations or to ensure every student graduates with the skills needed to succeed in life.

A coalition of parents, teachers, voters, school boards, and school administrators joined forces to mark the last day of state funding. The coalition took out a full-page ad in The Olympian to raise awareness about the state's 2/3 funding of basic education.

"The State Supreme Court was clear: the state cannot use local levies for basic education functions, such as busing students, providing full-day kindergarten to all students and heating and cooling school buildings," said Randy Dorn, Superintendent of Public Instruction.

"Instead of closing the state's funding gaps, local levies should be used flexibly for special and unique local educational needs and priorities," added Paul Sturm, Superintendent of the Pullman Public Schools and President of the Washington Association of School Administrators.

"Schools across the state have done a remarkable job in the face of the Legislature's persistent underfunding of education," said Debbie Long, President of the Washington State School Directors' Association. "Our students deserve more than a cut-rate education. Full funding of K-12 basic education is our first priority. Nothing else comes close."

"For years, our volunteers have seen an overwhelming need to re-invest in and re-commit to our public schools," said Washington State PTA president Novella Fraser. "These days our members are fund-raising for science materials, PE equipment, reading and math specialists -- even professional development for staff. And the need keeps growing."

In January 2012, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in McCleary v. Washington that the state was not meeting its constitutionally mandated duty to fully fund basic education. The Court stated that even if the state paid for 100 percent of what is currently spent on K-12 education, it would still fail to meet its paramount duty. The court ordered the Legislature to overhaul how education is funded in the state by 2018.

*Calculations are based on the statewide funding average of approximately 66 percent. The coalition used Sept. 4 as the first day of the required 180-day school year, which means that today, March 18, is the 119th school day. If Washington public schools relied solely on state funding for basic education, today would be the last day of school.

02/28/13
Washington Supreme Court sides with kids and schools
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In a 6-3 vote the Washington State Supreme Court ruled Feb. 28 that Initiative 1053, which required a supermajority two-thirds vote in the state legislature to raise revenues or close tax loopholes, is unconstitutional.

"This ruling is a huge win for kids and schools," said Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education Voters, one of the lead plaintiffs. "Washington schools need to be fully funded in order to ensure that all kids reach their potential. This ruling, combined with the recent McCleary decision, will help ensure that our kids have all the resources they need to get an excellent education."

The lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of Initiative 1053 (Tim Eyman's I-1053) was brought by a broad coalition that includes the League of Education Voters, Washington Education Association, parents, educators, and state legislators, including Representatives Jamie Pedersen, Laurie Jinkins, Chris Reykdal and Senator David Frockt.

"This latest Supreme Court ruling paves the way for the legislature to fully fund K-12 public schools as mandated by the Washington Constitution and the Court's earlier McCleary decision. We urge the House and the Senate to increase funding for our schools so we can begin to reduce overcrowded class sizes and expand all-day kindergarten. Our students’ future depends on it," said Mary Lindquist, president of the Washington Education Association.

The Court agreed with the plaintiffs that the Washington Constitution sets the rules for how state government works and only requires a simple majority to raise revenue or modify tax preferences.

The Court did not rule on the constitutionality of another provision of the Initiative which requires a public vote for the State to exceed the expenditure limit noting that that provision had never been invoked to limit legislative action. (PDF version of this news release.)

###

League of Education Voters is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization made up of parents, students, and leaders who believe in a quality education from cradle to career. We shape the debate, build powerful coalitions and grow the grassroots to achieve meaningful reform and ample, equitable, and sustainable resources for education. www.educationvoters.org

Washington Education Association represents nearly 82,000 K-12 teachers, education support professionals and higher education faculty members in classrooms and schools across the state. www.washingtonea.org

Pacifica Law Group represented the coalition in the lawsuit. http://www.pacificalawgroup.com

Quotes of support from partners

"Across our state, hard-working families are hurting. Our legislature is grappling with how to restore investments in students, families and communities. With today's decision behind us, the Legislature can and must return to a vibrant, open, democratic debate about how to fund our children’s education, cradle through college." -- Karen Hart, President of SEIU 925

"Local school boards struggle every day to give their kids a decent education without enough funds," said WSSDA President Debra Long, a school director from Central Valley School District. "Kudos to all those who challenged the supermajority. The court's ruling is an important step toward getting the needed resources to enrich the lives of our children." -- Debra Long, President, Washington State School Directors Association

"As the state superintendent, and as a former legislator, I support the Supreme Court's decision," said Randy Dorn, superintendent of public instruction. "Legislators are elected by the people to take tough votes. A simple majority for most votes has worked for decades. Requiring a two-thirds supermajority would ironically give excess power to a minority group because they could reject proposals on revenue increases or taxes." -- Randy Dorn, Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction

"This decision reinforces the intent of the constitution and the concept of one‐person, one‐vote rather than empowering a handful of votes to count more. A democracy should reflect the desire of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority, which this decision does." -- Paul Rosier, WASA Executive Director

02/27/13
Educators and community groups file legal challenge to new charter school law

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A coalition of educators and community groups has filed a legal demand with the Washington Attorney General challenging the constitutionality of Initiative 1240, the state's new charter school law.

The demand asserts I-1240, the Charter School Act, violates the Washington Constitution by improperly diverting public school funds to private non-profit groups that are not subject to local voter control and impeding the state’s constitutional obligation to fund fully K-12 public education.

The League of Women Voters of Washington, the Washington Education Association and El Centro de la Raza filed the demand with the state attorney general's office on Feb. 27.

"The Washington Supreme Court has ruled the state is violating its paramount duty to fund our public schools," said Catherine Ahl of the League. "The Charter School Act drains money from public schools to privately run charter schools that aren't accountable to local voters -- taking away the right of citizens to elect representatives to oversee the spending of their taxes."

The demand outlines at least seven constitutional problems with the Charter School Act:

  1. It violates the state's constitutional "paramount duty" to provide for the education of children within its borders. In its 2012 McCleary decision, the Washington Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to fully fund basic educational programs by 2018. The Charter School Act interferes with the state's progress toward compliance by diverting already insufficient resources away from public school districts.
  2. It unconstitutionally diverts funding that is restricted to use for public common schools to private charter schools that are not subject to local voter control.
  3. It violates the "general and uniform" requirement in the constitution because charter schools are not subject to most of the laws and regulations applicable to public school districts, including many of the common school provisions defining the elements of a basic education.
  4. It amends existing state law in a manner not permitted by the constitution.
  5. It violates the constitutional requirement that the superintendent of public instruction "have supervision over all matters pertaining to public schools."
  6. Its language relating to the conversion of a public school into a charter school is unconstitutionally vague.
  7. It violates the constitution because it mandates the use of local voter-approved levy funds for a purpose other than the purpose for which the voters approved the levies.

The demand asks the attorney general’s office to address the unconstitutional provisions of the Charter School Act. If the attorney general’s office declines, the coalition will file a complaint in Superior Court. Paul Lawrence of Pacifica Law Group is the lead attorney in the case.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization. WEA represents nearly 82,000 public school employees. El Centro de la Raza is a Seattle-based group dedicated to social justice.

01/15/13
Seattle Education Association supports teachers in MAP test boycott
Contact: Seattle EA President Jonathan Knapp, 206-283-8443

Last night members of the Seattle Education Association reinforced the union's support of last week's teacher boycott of the MAP standardized test. Nearly 150 union representatives from Seattle schools approved a resolution that: 

  • Provides strong support for the educators at Seattle Public Schools who refuse to administer the MAP test on the grounds that the test and the time it takes are detrimental to student learning.
  • Advocates that Seattle Public Schools take no disciplinary action against the educators, whose  actions are consistent with the mission of advancing education opportunity for all students.
  • Encourages SEA members to join their fellow teachers and their allies in rally on Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 4 p.m. at the John Stanford Center, the district's main offices.
  • Encourages union representatives to convene meetings outside of school hours to share information about the MAP test, gather signatures for a letter of support for the teachers and to determine if other actions should be taken.
  • Supports ending the contract for the MAP test.
  • Encourages Seattle Public Schools to work with educators and parents to identify or develop a more relevant measure that is aligned with our state standards and Seattle schools curriculum, one that is more respectful of students as unique learners.

"Last night's meeting confirmed what I've been hearing from teachers," noted Jonathan Knapp, president of SEA. "They are frustrated that the test doesn't line up with the curriculum, doesn't provide feedback they can use to teach their students and ties up the computer labs and libraries for students who are not taking the test." 

He continued, "SEA would like the district to let the MAP contract expire and engage with us and parents to find a reasonable replacement."

01/11/13
Washington's per-student investment continues to decline compared to other states

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New numbers show per-student spending in Washington's K-12 public schools continues to drop compared to other states.

Adjusted for regional cost-differences, Washington now ranks 43rd in student spending. Only seven states invest less per child. The statistic, based on a new report from Education Week, shows Washington's ranking fell by one slot and that spending in Washington decreased by $184 per student from the previous report. The new numbers, which are from 2010, show Washington spends $2,679 less per student compared to the national average. Washington is one of only 19 states whose per-pupil funding declined year-over-year from 2009. Read the chart.

Over the last four years, the state has cut approximately $2.6 billion from the K-12 schools budget. When the 2013 legislative session starts Jan. 14, the Legislature must put children first and increase funding for our public schools as required by the McCleary decision and the state Constitution.

That requires reducing overcrowded class sizes and expanding all-day kindergarten.

"With smaller class sizes, I can focus more on individual students," said Wendy Smith, a high school teacher in the Evergreen School District near Vancouver.

01/11/13
The best learning environment for Seattle's students
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The Seattle Education Association (SEA) supports all of our teachers in wanting to provide the best learning environment for Seattle's students. Garfield teachers want to do just that. The concerns of using the MAP test are not new ones for our teachers and they are not new for the district. Over the last couple of years, SEA has communicated to the district the concerns that teachers have.

  • The test does not line up with state standards.
  • The test does not line up with district curriculum.
  • The test takes valuable time away from student learning.
  • Many students do not take the test seriously.
  • The testing timeframe takes valuable time away from students in the school being able to access computer labs and libraries for other projects.
  • The data obtained is of minimal use to teachers in planning lessons and meeting individual student needs.

We have been trying to get the district to look at alternatives that are more aligned to the SPS curriculum and state standards. After raising issues of the time the MAP test takes to administer, SEA was successful in getting the district to reduce the required number of times that it is given. SEA President Jonathan Knapp stated, "Our members continually raise their concerns about this test. The Garfield action is the latest. We have to have a commitment from the district regarding an end date for the use of this test."

Knapp said, "Teacher and parent concerns over the MAP are symbolic of the larger concern over the role of testing in Washington's public schools. Across the state, parents and educators are raising questions about the cost and time spent on testing, in particular the amount of time testing takes from actual student learning." "The overemphasis on testing is a broader, statewide issue that affects all students and all educators," he said. "It's a debate that will continue when the Legislature starts Jan. 14."

"We need to know how much time and money is spent on tests that don't necessarily improve student learning -- like the MAP," Knapp said.

01/08/13
Washington ranks second in National Board Certified Teachers this year
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Numbers released today show Washington public schools rank second in the nation for the most teachers who have earned prestigious National Board Certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Washington remains a national leader in both the number of new National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) and the total number of NBCTs teaching in our state's public schools.

Washington Education Association President Mary Lindquist said the relatively large number of National Board Certified Teachers in Washington is indicative of the overall high quality of public school teachers across the state.

Earlier today, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced 575 Washington teachers had earned their National Board Certification in 2012, second only to North Carolina. In total, 6,817 Washington public school teachers have successfully completed the rigorous two-year process for becoming National Board Certified Teachers.

"When legislators convene in Olympia next week, I hope they recognize their support for high-quality teaching is paying off," Lindquist said. "Whether it's incentive pay for National Board Certified Teachers or funding our state's rigorous new teacher evaluation system, investing in quality teachers is good for our state's students."

Most of the state's National Board Certified Teachers are members of the Washington Education Association, which partners with the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to offer support and training for potential NBCTs. More than 13 percent of Washington teachers are board certified, compared to 3 percent nationally. NBCTs receive an annual state-funded stipend of $5,090, plus another $5,000 if they teach in a challenging school (which is based on the number of students who receive free or reduced-price lunch). About 25 percent of Washington's National Board Certified Teachers teach in challenging schools.

05/30/12
Education advocates celebrate court ruling on Eyman's I-1053
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King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller today declared unconstitutional Initiative 1053, which requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature to pass any tax increases.

The court held that the Washington Constitution establishes the exclusive rules for determining whether passage of a law requires a simple majority or super majority vote. Those rules cannot be altered by the legislature passing a law or by the people enacting an initiative. The court noted that the Washington Constitution established super majority requirements for a number of types of laws, but not for tax increases.

The lawsuit was brought by a broad coalition, including the League of Education Voters, the Washington Education Association, parents, teachers and school administrators, and state legislators.

"The Constitution establishes the fundamental rules for how our governmental works," said Paul Lawrence of the Pacifica Law Group, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. "The framers considered what types of laws require a super majority vote for passage. Taxes were not identified as requiring a super majority vote. Fundamental changes in how the government operates have to be accomplished by constitutional amendment, not by passage of a law or initiative."

The two-thirds restriction hinders the ability of the state to fund public education. "This lawsuit is another important piece in making sure our kids have all the resources they need to get an excellent education," Chris Korsmo, chief executive officer of LEV, said. "LEV was founded on the principle that our kids deserve fully funded schools."

"This decision is a victory for the children of Washington state," said Mary Lindquist, WEA president. "If it is upheld, this ruling will pave the way for the Legislature to fully fund K-12 public schools as mandated by the Supreme Court's McCleary decision and the state Constitution. We hope it will be settled soon. Our kids can't wait any longer."

Legislators who joined as plaintiffs expressed similar hope that the case will allow the state to meet its constitutional obligation to fund public education.

Rep. Jamie Pedersen of the 43rd Legislative District said: "I am thrilled that the court reached the merits of this question and recognized that Tim Eyman's initiatives requiring supermajority votes to raise revenue are unconstitutional and are hampering our ability to fund public schools. I feel hopeful that the Supreme Court – fresh off of its decision that the legislature is failing to fund education adequately – will give us back the tools to do so."

Rep. Chris Reykdal of the 22nd Legislative District echoed that that sentiment: "Our treasured initiative process can clearly amend state law or advocate new laws, but it cannot amend the Constitution. We all have to play by the same rules. We look forward to the state Supreme Court upholding this decision on appeal by the state. We have a court mandated obligation to fund basic education, and this decision restores the Legislature's ability to do that with majority rule."

State Sen. David Frockt of the 46th Legislative District noted: "There are critical policy implications to this ruling. I have been appointed to serve on the education funding committee that has been established in response to the McCleary decision. If this ruling is upheld, as I hope it will be, I believe we will have a better shot at fulfilling our paramount duty to fully fund our educational system in the coming years."

Rep. Laurie Jinkins of the 27th Legislative District said: "As prime sponsor of the bill that initiated this suit, I'm overjoyed to see that the court ruled in our favor on every substantive point. I was outraged when I realized that I-1053 required a two-thirds vote of the legislature to close our most egregious tax breaks. Instead of funding our best hope for future, our public schools, we were funding tax breaks for big Wall Street banks."

Lawrence expects the state to appeal the decision directly to the Washington Supreme Court. He plans to ask for expedited review so that a decision can be rendered before the start of the 2013 legislative session.

Contact information:

Paul Lawrence, Pacifica Law Group: 206-245-1708
Rich Wood, Washington Education Association: 253-765-7042 (office), 253-376-1007 (mobile)
Ilana Kalmbach, League of Education Voters: 206-552-0628
Rep. Jamie Pedersen: 206-419-7340
Sen. David Frockt: 206-484-4922
Rep. Laurie Jinkins: 253-468-9500

05/22/12
Charter schools fail to meet the needs of most students
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According to The Seattle Times, the League of Education Voters has filed a charter school initiative. 

WEA's statement:

The sponsors of the proposed charter school initiative didn't include teachers or other members of the Washington Education Association when they wrote it, and we have not had time to analyze the proposal.

The WEA Board of Directors has a 2003 policy opposing charter school legislation. The Board will decide what position to take on this initiative.

Here are points to consider regarding charter schools, which Washington voters have rejected three times:

  • We care about all students in all public schools, but charter schools fail to meet the needs of most students. Research shows nearly 40 percent of charter schools perform worse than local public schools and only 17 percent provide better education opportunities for students. (See Stanford report below.)
  • The Washington Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the state is failing to fund our existing K-12 public schools as required by the state Constitution. Funding costly new charter schools will divert taxpayer funding from our kids' existing classrooms.
  • Instead of diverting scarce funding from public schools and spending it a on failed concept like charter schools, we should be investing more in the innovative public schools we already have. Read a list of innovative Washington public schools.
  • The NAACP passed a resolution in 2010 in opposition to charters, citing concerns about segregation and noting the small percentage of children of color and disadvantaged students served by quality charter schools. Research sponsored by the National Education Policy Center found, "Some of the nation's most segregated schools are charter schools, where students are often isolated by race, income, language and special education status …"

The most comprehensive study of charter schools is the 2009 Stanford University Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) report, which compares charters serving 70 percent of the nation’s charter students with local public schools serving similar students. It found:

  • Nearly half of charter schools have results that are no different from local public schools.
  • Over a third, 37 percent, show learning results significantly inferior to public schools.
  • And most importantly, only 17 percent of charters provide better education opportunities for students.

03/20/12
Educators rally to protest health care attack, budget cuts
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In conjunction with statewide radio ads, King County teachers and classified school employees will rally at 5 p.m. March 21 in Des Moines to protest state budget cuts and attacks on K-12 employees’ health care. The Des Moines rally is the ninth in a series of educator health care rallies across the state.

School employees oppose legislation in Olympia that would eliminate their current health care system and replace it with a state-run bureaucracy that costs more and provides fewer benefits.

The Washington Education Association is airing radio ads highlighting how much more part-time state senators receive for health benefits vs. what the Legislature provides school employees. Senators who work less than half time receive $850 a month for health care. A half-time
K-12 employee receives $384.

The educator rally starts at 5 p.m. at Mount Rainier High School, 22450 19th Ave. S., Des Moines, 98198.

Sen. Karen Keiser, a sponsor of the bill, has been invited to the rally. Some part-time school employees would lose their health insurance entirely under the proposal, which state documents show will cost taxpayers $45 million in coming years.

Wednesday’s rally follows a rally Tuesday night in Snohomish that drew nearly 1,000 people. Educators will rally in Walla Walla on Thursday.

The Washington Education Association represents nearly 82,000 educators, including K-12 classified support professionals. Radio ad link: http://ourvoicewashingtonea.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/WEA-No-Sense-Radio-Ad.mp3.

03/15/12
WEA statement on Senate Republican budget
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The Senate Republican budget released March 15 funds the state takeover of K-12 health care -- and diverts taxpayer funding into failed charter schools.

"Funding smaller class sizes for our youngest children should be a higher priority than squandering taxpayer money on failed charter school schemes that voters don't want, or the costly state takeover of educators' health care system," said Mary Lindquist, WEA president.

"Instead of expanding the size of state government by taking over educators' health care and wasting taxpayer money on failed charter schools, legislators should respect the Supreme Court's recent ruling and begin to restore funding for K-12 public schools," Lindquist said.

The Senate Republican budget includes $12 million to fund SB 6442, the state takeover of K-12 employees' health care system.

03/02/12
WEA statement on the Republican takeover of the State Senate
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Senate Republicans, aided by votes from Rodney Tom, Tim Sheldon and Jim Kastama, took procedural control of the State Senate early this evening through a 9th Order of Business. They moved a number of bills to the Senate floor, including the Republican Senate version of the supplemental budget. There were no public hearings on this budget, no prior legislative review, absolutely no public scrutiny or comment. This budget, if passed by the Senate, would still need to be approved by the House and signed by the Governor.

Their budget assumes that SSB 6442 will pass, slashes pensions, and reduces NBCT bonuses. We'll get a full analysis of this budget to you within the next day or so.

We're not exactly sure how all this will play out -- but it will affect SSB 6442 and budget negotiations with the House.

Should this takeover by Senate Republicans force a special session, bills such as charters could come back to life.

House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, had this to say about the takeover:

"The Senate Republicans have exercised the worst abuse of power I have ever witnessed in the legislature. It says something about them that the minute they gained power, they abused it. They immediately moved to run over the minority on the floor by denying them the right to even see the budget bill before asking them to vote on it. They immediately turned their backs on the rights of the people by dismissing all calls for public testimony. Yes, the party that regularly decries the lack of transparency in the legislature cut the public out of the process completely."

02/28/12
WEA statement on state Senate budget
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Senate Democrats have written the best budget for K-12 schools and higher education in four years. This is the first state budget proposal since 2008 that does not cut funding for education.

  • Educators commend Sen. Brown and Sen. Murray for making our students’ education a budget priority.
  • By writing a budget that protects students from further budget cuts, Senate Democrats are honoring the spirit of the Supreme Court’s recent McCleary ruling – which declared the state has failed to uphold its constitutional paramount duty to amply fund basic education.
  • Significantly, the Senate budget restores some funding for reducing K-3 class sizes.
  • Delaying a school apportionment payment by one day is preferable to cutting $330 million more from our kids’ classrooms or important health services.
  • We’re heartened the Senate budget also calls for closing corporate tax loopholes. This is the first step toward a long-term solution that provides stable and adequate revenue for our state’s public schools. The Legislature has a long way to go to restore the billions that have been cut from our K-12 schools and higher education, and even more work must be done to comply with the Supreme Court decision.
  • The Senate budget includes $12 million to fund SB 6442, the state takeover of K-12 health care. As we’ve said all along, this bill costs taxpayers money, increases employee costs and reduces benefits. There is NO proof that SB 6442 will ever save the state money. Neither the bill’s fiscal note nor the Health Care Authority’s own report show any such savings.
  • We call on Senate Republicans and the House to support the Senate budget proposal, but without the unnecessary additional cost of SB 6442.

02/21/12
WEA statement on House budget
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The state budget proposal released by House Democrats this morning protects K-12 basic education from further cuts, although it does include additional cuts to other K-12 and higher education programs.

"It's good that House budget writers are taking to heart the state Supreme Court's recent McCleary decision, which found the Legislature has failed to make funding basic education the state's paramount duty," said Mary Lindquist, president of the Washington Education Association. "As early supporters of the school funding court case, we're encouraged that budget writers are heeding the spirit of the Supreme Court decision. As we've said many times, our public schools and students can't take more cuts. We remain concerned that public education in many areas continues to feel the pain of additional cuts in state funding."

The House budget reduces funding for rural high schools by $11.5 million, which will increase class sizes, and it reduces stipends for National Board Certified Teachers by about 20 percent ($8 million). The budget proposal cuts at least another 3 percent from higher education, which will further limit enrollment and access.

Significantly, the House budget proposal also raises new revenue by eliminating a tax break for large banks -- a move WEA has supported for years.

"We hope the House budget represents an end to the large-scale funding cuts our state's schools and colleges have endured in recent years," Lindquist said. "As the economy improves, it will be crucial for the Legislature to restore the education funding that has been cut and to begin funding the high-quality education all of our state’s students need and deserve."

In the past four years, legislators have cut K-12 funding by more than $2.6 billion, including funding for smaller class sizes and teacher salaries. New statistics show Washington has the fourth-most crowded class sizes in the nation, and teacher salaries continue to lose ground compared to other states.

01/12/12
WEA statement on p
roposed charter school legislation
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For attribution to WEA President, Mary Lindquist:

"Exactly one week ago, the state Supreme Court ruled that the legislature has, over many years, failed to live up to its paramount constitutional duty: Amply funding public education. The Court made it clear to legislators: No more excuses; no more delays; no more cuts.

"Today, Sen. Rodney Tom and Rep. Eric Pettigrew have chosen to ignore the Court's ruling. Instead, they want to dip into same pool of funding the Court has said doesn't measure up, and siphon off millions of dollars for charter schools.

"On three occasions, the people of Washington have rejected charter schools at the ballot box. That's three strikes. Charter schools are little more than an unfilled promise to our students. They simply skim off those children whose parents have the time and capability to fill out endless applications. 

"As educators, WEA members are deeply committed to making sure all our students receive a quality education -- an education that both
inspires them and equips them for the challenges of the 21st Century workplace. Across the state, there are countless examples of innovative schools doing exactly that. What we're seeing in these innovative schools is a return on investment we can all get behind.

"Sen. Tom and Rep. Pettigrew should be working on the full funding challenge presented to them last week by the state Supreme Court. The people of Washington are demanding full public education funding for their children and neighborhood schools. Charter schools are a distraction from the real debate and not a full funding solution."

01/05/12
WEA statement on Supreme Court decision
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On Jan. 5, the Washington Supreme Court upholds the lower court decision in the NEWS (McCleary) court case -- and, agrees state is NOT fulfilling its paramount constitutional duty to amply fund public education.

For attribution to President of the Washington Education Association, Mary Lindquist:

"While we are still reviewing all the details, there is no doubt today's decision by the State Supreme Court in the matter of McCleary v. State is a huge victory for Washington children and public education. With this decision, the Supreme Court has clearly agreed with the lower court’s decision that, for many years, the state has failed to fulfill its paramount constitutional duty: Amply funding public education.

"Today, the Supreme Court reaffirmed what WEA and its partners in the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS) have argued for so long: Public education in Washington is woefully underfunded. And this means students and schools can no longer bear the impact of further cuts to public education funding.

"The decision by the Court, coming just days before the start of the 2012 legislative session, clearly puts the responsibility for correcting the underfunding where it belongs: The state legislature. The legislature can no longer punt on full funding for public education. The legislature needs to act immediately to remedy this injustice against our children and students."

PLEASE NOTE: WEA President Mary Lindquist is available for one-on-one interviews regarding the Supreme Court decision. Call 253-765-7040 to coordinate. 

12/15/11
Proposed K-12 health care takeover is a taxpayer rip off and big government boondoggle
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Bureaucrats and politicians in Olympia are pretending they can "save money" by taking over Washington's K-12 employee health benefit system and giving it to a state health care agency that costs more, delivers less and can't pay claims on time.

It's a plan based on higher costs, bigger government, less competition, poor customer service and shifting substantial financial risk onto local school districts and taxpayers.

On Friday, the state Health Care Authority (HCA) is expected to release a report calling for the state takeover of K-12 school employee health benefits. The report is required by legislation passed in the 2011 session. At a time the state is cutting billions from education and important social services, educators who are in the existing plan argue a state takeover of K-12 health benefits makes no sense.

"The state Health Care Authority report that will be released Friday gets one thing right -- there are no cost savings to the taxpayers, and in fact it will cost more," Vancouver school librarian Ann Giles said. 

"Meanwhile, health benefits are reduced, competition and accountability are eliminated, and thousands of part time school employees could be cut out of the health benefit system completely," Giles said. "It is ridiculous for any legislator to propose or support a scheme like this with guaranteed higher costs, at a time when the state is cutting hundreds of millions of dollars out of education and other services. This is a bad idea any time, but especially now."

Giles added, "For K-12 employees, competition among insurance carriers keeps benefits high and overhead costs low. The proposed state takeover would eliminate that competition in favor of a monopoly. Competition also ensures accountability. With the current K-12 system, if one plan doesn't manage and disclose its overhead costs properly, a school district can move to another plan. Eliminating competition with a state takeover would eliminate any way to hold the state system accountable with cost comparisons."

Under the current system -- that has been successful for more than 30 years -- local school districts contract with private insurers to provide K-12 employee health coverage. For health benefits, the state pays $768 a month per full-time equivalent K-12 employee vs. $850 per full time state employee. But K-12 employees currently get coverage that is as good or better than what state employees receive. The fact that the state's cost per state employee is substantially higher ($82 a month) than it is for educators is another example of how a state takeover of K-12 benefits would be less efficient and cost more.

School districts currently have the option of using the existing state health benefits plan, but few do, and several have switched to private insurers.

HCA also has a terrible service record. The problems with poor service and late claim payments got so bad last fall that it had a 9-month backlog in paying claims. Courts have ruled against HCA for illegally barring some patients from emergency room care. And, a recent expose in The Seattle Times highlighted how the agency's cost-cutting practices were harming patients.

Comments (1)Add Comment
Guy Spencer
January 15, 2013
Votes: +0
Your 1/11/13 article on per student funding provides no chart but refers to it.

Your article says "read the chart" but does not provide the chart. Specifics would be helpful.

Guy Spencer
Math Teacher
Highline High School

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