WEA cares about union dues, not students
On September 5th, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that voter approved non-profit charter schools were unconstitutional, as they did not fit what they deemed to be the definition of a “common school.” A “common school” is one that is overseen by a voter elected school board.
There is a gaping fallacy with this argument, however. Charter schools are contracted by and answerable to their local school boards, elected by the voters. Charter school students must also pass the same assessments as every other student in the state.
So why would the court say this? As with many things, one must only follow the money. In this case, the money is coming from the Washington Education Association. Seven of the nine sitting justices received the maximum allowed direct contribution from the WEA. There is no way to account for the soft money the union pushed its members to donate, as well as the amount of money spent sending repeated mailings to the membership telling them which candidate to vote for. Membership that is mandatory to work in public schools in Washington, whether or not you think the union actually represents your interests. Then there is the four million dollars the WEA spent to fund the lawsuit resulting in the ruling by the court.
The WEA also insists that voters do not have control over charter schools. They like to use this talking point a lot, as if voters have any say over textbooks, hiring decisions, or anything that happens in the existing public schools where their tax dollars are used. Operating and building levies are passed or not, and that is the extent of control voters have over money used in public education. The WEA’s assertion of voter control is also hypocrisy, as they are using a lawsuit to thwart the voters’ will.
What is really at issue, and why the WEA is spending so much of their coerced dues averaging about $1,000 per year per school employee, is charter school employees are not unionized. They are typically compensated better than their traditional public school peers so they don’t see the need for one. Additionally, charter school employees can choose their health care and retirement plans, rather than being forced to accept the plan forced on them by the union. Plans that put even more money in the union’s coffers.
The WEA also tries to assert that charter schools steal money from traditional schools. The money they are speaking of is the portion of tax revenue assigned to each student at each school. It seems to me that money is for the student and not the school, so no one is stealing anything.
The WEA has also donated the maximum hard money publicly allowed to Governor Jay Inslee, who has repaid them by deciding not to call a special session to change the 80 year old and frankly inapplicable statute the court used in its decision. We don’t live in a world of one room school houses anymore, but Governor Inslee clearly cares more about his benefactors than the voters. For someone who campaigned on education reform, he certainly shows no interest in actually allowing something that could lead to reform.
The head of the Spokane chapter of the WEA, Jenny Rose, claims she sees no difference in what charter schools do and what public schools do. I find it hard to believe she was willing to go on public record for saying something so counter intuitive. I would also submit her statement smacks of ignorance as she likely has never set foot inside a charter school. If charter schools weren’t doing anything different, people wouldn’t want them, and their wouldn’t be a waiting list about 200 students deep on average. If charter schools weren’t doing anything different, the WEA would not be spending millions of their money to be rid of them.
The WEA does not care about better schools. They do not care about equal access to education. They do not care about children’s success. They don’t care about the teachers they are supposed to represent. They only want more money, and ironically are spending a lot to get it. This is the same WEA that was forced to settle for nearly $500,000 in 1998 for illegal campaign financing, as well as another $100,000 paid back to the state for legal costs incurred in prosecution. Tom McCabe, CEO of the Freedom Foundation said it best. “It’s just checkbook justice. No more, no less. The union bought a majority on the Supreme Court, and now it gets to cash in on that investment. Once again, we see Washington has the best court the union’s money can buy.”