Betsy DeVos-style amendments to education bill, and Democrats supported it!

Summer Stinson posted on the facebook page Washington Paramount Duty the following (and gave me permission):

ACTION ALERT: STOP Betsy DeVos policies in WA! In the dead of night, at 1:30 in the morning, the Senate Ways and Means Committee passed the bill proposing to address the school district levy lid issue, SB 5313.

But the only way they could do so was to meet the demands of Democratic Senators Guy Palumbo (1st District) and Mark Mullet (5th District) to add two poison pill amendments that would cut teacher pay, undermine public employee bargaining rights across the state, and increase funding for charter schools.

The first amendment would wind up slashing teacher pay and introduce the awful right-wing policies of people like Scott Walker to our state. It would limit teachers from collectively bargaining with school districts for fair wages for many important educational priorities. For example, this would prevent special education teachers from getting paid what they deserve for managing the process of IEPs for students.

The second amendment would allow charter schools to get new public money from the state, without requiring a public vote, even as the legislature claims they don’t have enough money to meet the basic education needs of students in our public schools. It would also rescind the one of the few limitations Washington currently has on establishing new charter schools in our state.

These amendments are right out of the Betsy DeVos agenda. Teachers across the state deserve good wages—not this pay cut—for the important work they do for our children in our public schools. With this proposed pay cut, the teacher shortage will likely grow worse and good teachers will leave. And, it is totally inappropriate to let charter schools have more public money, especially when our public schools are still not fully funded.

Senators Palumbo and Mullet refused to stop the cuts to local public school districts and held the entire state budget hostage unless these extreme demands were met. This is no way to govern, and it comes at the expense of our public schools and teachers.

This bill will still have to be approved by the full State Senate, the State House, and Governor Inslee. That means we have the opportunity to stop it. We need to insist that the legislature instead pass a clean levy lid lift bill that does not give money to charter schools, cut teachers’ pay, or reduce public employee bargaining rights. The bill must restore levy flexibility to all the districts in the state that need it. But we need your calls right now.

TAKE ACTION! Here’s what you can do to help.

Call or email your Senator (especially if your Senator is a Democrat) and urge them to reject these amendments — and pass a clean bill that provides levy flexibility for every district in the state.

Then, call Governor Jay Inslee and tell him to issue a public threat to veto any bill that cuts teacher pay, undermines bargaining rights, or gives more money to charter schools: (360) 902-4111.


Ryan Grant quoted from SB 5313 to show how bad it is: it mandates that teacher pay be flat through 2022 and limits increases thereafter:

As Elizabeth Hanson says, “Senate Bill 5313 raises property taxes, reduces K-12 teachers pay AND allows more charter schools and over a few years 100% public funding for charter schools. Weakens unions too. What a doozie this bill is! Thank you Senator Bob Hasegawa for voting NO.”

Amazingly, all the supporters were Democrats, and all the opponents (except for Bob Hasegawa) were Republicans! LOL COL ( Cry Out Loud ).
I’m surprised the Democratic senators agreed to the poison pill amendments.

The majority report for https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5313&Year=2019&Initiative=false listing the people who signed the bill says: Signed by Senators Rolfes, Chair; Frockt, Vice Chair, Operating, Capital Lead; Mullet, Capital Budget Cabinet; Billig, Carlyle, Conway, Darneille, Hunt, Keiser, Liias, Palumbo, Pedersen, and Van De Wege. I checked, and they’re all Democrats.

The minority report (“Do not pass”) included: Signed by Senators Braun, Ranking Member; Brown, Assistant Ranking Member, Operating; Honeyford, Assistant Ranking Member, Capital; Bailey, Becker, Hasegawa, Schoesler, Wagoner, and Warnick. Only Bob Hasegawa is a Democrat.

In short, all Democrats on the committee except Sen. Bob Hasegawa thought that the poison pills weren’t bad enough to doom the bill. Was fixing the levy lid issue so important that the Democrats who voted for it were willing to go along? Or were some of them too swayed by the lobbying and money from the anti-public schools forces?

You can see the contributors to Mark Mullet’s campaign here:  https://www.pdc.wa.gov/browse/campaign-explorer/candidate?filer_id=MULLM%20%20027&election_year=2020. As you’d expect, charter school groups contbributed to him. Palumbo’s contributors are here and include charter school money.

I called Senator Wellman’s office. She is not on the Ways & Means committee that passed the bill, but she was the original sponsor. Her aide said that she will strongly oppose the new bill and that it’s unlikely that the rest of the Democratic caucus will go along with it. I fear, though, that the same thing may happen as happened in 2016 when Republican Senator Steve Litzow’s charter school bill was passed by the legislature and allowed to go into law by Gov. Inslee.

I phoned Senator Frockt’s office too (360-786-7690), and his aide said that Senator Frockt opposed the amendments — and you can hear his comments if you listen to the hearing — and that Frockt and other senators will continue working on the bill as it passes on to the Rules committee and perhaps onto the floor. She said the bill is likely not in its final form.

I also phoned Senator Rolfes’ office (360) 786 – 7644. She’s Chairs of Ways & Means. The aide appreciated my concerns about the bill.

New: Senator Mullet responds to complaints about the levy bill (but ignores the issue of charter school funding)


Mullet responds to inaccurate reports on amendment to levy lid bill

OLYMPIA – Teachers’ salaries would not be cut and their rights to collectively bargain would not be restricted by legislation ensuring that school districts put money from additional local levy dollars toward needed services like librarians and counselors, Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) emphasized today.

Mullet spoke out to address inaccurate reports about his amendment to Senate Bill 5313, which the Senate Ways & Means Committee adopted at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning at the end of a lengthy meeting.

The bill would partially lift restrictions on voter-approved school levies that legislators put in place in 2017 as part of a package to address the Washington Supreme Court’s ruling in the long-running McCleary case that the state was failing its constitutional obligation to amply fund basic education in K-12 schools.

Lawmakers at the time responded to the court’s holding that the state’s failure led school districts to over-rely on local levies by increasing state funding for core operating expenses and capping the levies.

“The McCleary decision made clear that the state is constitutionally responsible for funding basic education, including teachers’ salaries,” Mullet said. “Senate Bill 5313 is an attempt to give districts that feel they need more money to adjust to this new system more access to local levy dollars. But we need to make sure local levy dollars are used to support staff, like librarians and nurses and counselors, and that we don’t go back to relying on local funds to pay teachers’ salaries, which would land us right back in court.”

Mullet’s amendment ensures that additional money from local levies would have to go to education programs and support services, but Mullet said under no circumstances would any teacher receive a pay cut. The amendment does allow local funds to go toward salary increases for extra work – like coaching athletes or leading extracurricular programs – or to compensate teachers for obtaining professional certification.

Mullet said his amendment does not limit teachers’ right to collectively bargain, but it does make clear that if local levy dollars are used to supplement the ample salary dollars provided by the state, then that supplemental money needs to be for compensation for extra work.

The amendment has drawn opposition from teachers unions, which withdrew support for the bill following the bipartisan vote adopting the amendment. But Mullet said that action demonstrated the need for the amendment.

“If the unions weren’t planning to rely on these local funds to pay teachers’ salaries – which was a huge problem in the McCleary case – why are they now trying to kill a bill that would give schools access to hundreds of millions of potential dollars to support programs and other staff?” he asked.

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For more information:

Steven M. Ellis
Counsel/Communications Specialist
Senate Democratic Caucus
Phone: (360) 786 7887
Email: steven.ellis@leg.wa.gov

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