Washington State caucus disasters

One of the Washington State Democratic Legislative District caucuses ran to 12:45 AM. It started at 12 noon.   Several other caucuses took six to eight hours.

On facebook the vast majority of people commenting want to do away with the caucus system and use a primary. For many people, the caucus experience was a nightmare. At mine, the police were ticketing and towing vehicles at one point.

Caucuses are an excellent way to discourage people from participating in the Democratic Party

Someone pointed out, though, that caucuses enable outside (nonorthodox) candidates like Sanders to win — at least in states with open caucses, like Washington. Open caucuses mean that anyone can declare themselves a Democrat and vote in the caucus.  This year it’s clear that thousands of Independents — many young people, in particular — caucused for Bernie Sanders.   In states which have closed caucuses or, like New York, which have a closed primary, it’s harder for outside candidates to win.

Also, with primaries, the less informed, more easily misled general public gets to vote, so it’s harder for a committed minority to take over.

On facebook Raechel Morera‎ wrote:

Did anyone else encounter issues with the state Democratic Party rule change about alternates moving to other precincts where delegates didn’t show up, as long as they pledged as an alternate for the same candidate?

We had 4 HRC supporters who pledged as Bernie alternates at their last caucus, move to other precincts still claiming to be Sanders alternates, then becoming Sanders delegates, and then change their final votes to Hillary. We all caught on because, we were running so behind, we decided to ask anyone changing their final vote to stand, instead of having to tally all the votes again, assuming no one was going to flip candidates at this point. These 4 people stood up and changed their votes, all from Bernie, to Hillary (which, come on, doesn’t happen). They had put on Hillary stickers and everything.

It was obvious this was something that was planned to try to throw the delegate count. Being there was only 4 of them, it didn’t make a difference, but it seemed obvious this change from the state party was in HRC’s favor and these people knew what they were doing.

Thought I should share. I was in the 44th District.

Why Washington State has the Highest Class Sizes in the Nation

According to a January 2015 study of tax rates in all 50 states by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, called “Who Pays”, Washington families pay among the highest state taxes in the nation – 20% above the national average. Washington families should therefore have the best funded schools and lowest class sizes in the nation. Instead, Washington’s one million children are forced to endure the highest class sizes in the nation. How can this be? In this report, we will “follow the money” to see how the Washington state legislature is robbing our schools of billions of dollars and robbing our children of their future in order to line the pockets of a few billionaires and wealthy multinational corporations.

Why Small Class Sizes are Important
Small class sizes matter to the future of our students because small class sizes allow struggling students to get the help they need to succeed in school and succeed in life. For example, the nation’s largest study on class sizes found thatlow income students who were lucky enough to have four full years of smaller classes were much more likely to graduate than their peers who only had zero to one year in smaller class sizes:
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Source: Finn, J. D., et. al. (2005). Small Classes in the Early Grades, Academic Achievement, and Graduating From High School. Journal of Educational Psychology.
http://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Small-Classes-in-the-Early-Grades-Academic-Achievement-and-Graduating-From-High-School.pdf

A 2011 study, summarizing the life academic and economic outcomes of students in smaller classes in the STAR study compared to their peers who had normal class sizes, found that “The effects of class quality fade out on test scores in later grades but gains in non-cognitive measures persist.” Put in plain English, high stakes test scores are not an accurate predictor of future student performance. However, student engagement from small class sizes is predictive of future success as an adult.

Here are just some of the adult outcomes for these students 20 years later of being in a smaller class in elementary school: Students were significantly more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, start a savings account, buy a home, get married and stay married. Students were less likely to commit a crime or go to prison. Much of this information was obtained from federal tax returns of 95% of the nearly 12,000 students involved in the STAR study.
Source: Chetty, R., Friedman, J.N., Hilger, N., Saez, E., Schanzenbach, D.W., & Yagan D. (2011). How does your kindergarten classroom affect your earnings? Evidence from Project STAR. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 126(4), 1593-1660.
http://obs.rc.fas.harvard.edu/chetty/STAR.pdf

In a separate analysis, Alan Krueger, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, estimated that every dollar invested in reducing class sizes yielded about $2 in long term economic benefits. https://etec511.wikispaces.com/file/view/economic+considerations+and+class+size.pdf

Smaller Classes Lead to More Successful Students
Wealthy private schools understand the importance of small class size. For example, at Lakeside Private School in Seattle, average class sizes are 16 students. If class sizes of 16 students is considered ideal for the children of the wealthy, small class sizes of 16 students should be available to all students in Washington state.

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Sadly, Washington has the Highest Class Sizes in the Nation
Unfortunately, according to the National Center for Education Statistics Schools and Staffing Survey (Table 8), Washington State has the third highest class sizes in the nation for elementary school, the second highest class sizes in the nation for middle school and the second highest class sizes in the nation for high school. http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sass/tables/sass1112_2013314_t1s_007.asp

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This estimate of class sizes comes from a national survey of classroom teachers in which teachers are asked how many students are in their average classroom. This survey indicates that for Grades 1 through 6, the national average class size is 21 students and the average class size in Washington state is 24 students. For Grades 7 through 12, the national average class size is 27 students and the average class size in Washington state is 30 students.http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_209.30.asp

Here is a distribution of class sizes showing which states have low, average, above average or extremely high class sizes:

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However, even this survey of teachers under-reports the actual class sizes in the nation and in Washington state because it includes Special Education teachers who often have classes of under 10 students. Excluding Special Education classes, the typical or median class size in the US is likely close to 29 students and in Washington state, the typical or median class size is close to 32 students per teacher per class period.

Why Actual Class Sizes are Much Larger Than Student to Teacher Ratios
The most common mistake made when discussing class size is to confuse class sizes with Student to Teacher Ratios. The Student to Teacher Ratio is determined by dividing the total number of students in a school or a state by the total number of professional staff at the school or the state. For example, if you go to the Washington State OSPI website and click on Apportionment, then Publications, then Personnel Summary Reports, then select a year, then click on Table 46, you will get a report called “Ratio of Students to Classrooms.” This is actually the Student to Teacher Ratio. For the 2014 school year, this ratio was 18.2 students per teacher. http://k12.wa.us/safs/PUB/PER/1415/tbl46.pdf

This type of statistic might mislead one into believing that the class sizes in Washington state are only 18 students – which would mean Washington state has the lowest class sizes in the nation and in the world. Yet if you walk into any real classroom at any real school in Washington state and count the actual students, you will see about 30 students in the real classroom. Many classrooms have 35 to even 40 students!

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The OSPI state report card is also misleading. It indicates that Washington state has 1,075,107 students and 60,543 Classroom Teachers. This would lead one to believe that the average class size is 18 students in our state. Why is there such a huge difference between the Student to Teacher ratio reported by OSPI and the number of students in real classrooms? The problem is that OSPI uses an extremely broad definition for classroom teacher. Many so-called classroom teachers are actually administrators. We need administrators. But we should not be misleading parents and voters by calling them teachers. Using Student to Teacher ratios misleads the public and even legislators into thinking that class sizes are not that bad when the truth is that class sizes in Washington state are among the highest in the nation.

In fact, using a real average class size of 30 students, the actual number of classroom teachers we have is about 36,000. This means that OSPI is mis-reporting 24,000 administrators as teachers. This also means that at 10,000 additional teachers per billion dollars, it would take about $3.6 billion dollars per year to cut class sizes in half here in Washington state. This does not include the cost of support staff or building the actual schools. Nor does it include raising the pay of teachers here in Washington state to the West Coast average or eliminating the use of local levy funds for basic education. My plan to cut class sizes in half therefore includes one billion dollars for replacing levy funds, one billion for increasing teacher pay, two billion for building hundreds of new schools every year, and four billion for hiring 36,000 new teachers and 4,000 additional support staff. The total needed to cut class sizes in half is about $8 billion in additional revenue per year.

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Where can we get $8 billion per year needed to cut class sizes in Washington state in half?
Given the fact that poor and middle class families in Washington state are already paying the highest state taxes in the nation, a more accurate question is where are the money went that should have gone to our public schools? It turns out that there is no need to increase taxes at all. What we really need to do is decrease tax breaks for the wealthy. It will be impossible to lower class sizes for struggling students until we first recognize and better understand how Washington legislators real Paramount Duty has not been our public schools but rather giving away more than $30 billion in tax breaks to wealthy multinational corporations (who pay for their re-elections). Here is a graph of the increase in the number of state tax breaks since 1996:

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Here is a graph of the increase in the dollar amount of the tax breaks in billions of dollars compared to total state revenue and spending for public schools:

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Understanding the Deceptive Nature of the Washington Department of Revenue Tax Break Reports
The Washington legislature has not only approved the largest tax breaks in the US, they have approved the largest most unsustainable tax breaks in the history of the world. This is why we now have such a broken tax system.

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Since tax breaks for the wealthy are what prevent us from fully funding schools, any parent or teacher who wants to understand why Washington has the highest class sizes in the nation must take time to understand how the public is being deceived about the amount of these state tax breaks. This subject is complex. So try to be patient, take your time and read slowly.

Every four years since 1984, the Washington State Department of Revenue is required by law to release a Tax Exemption Report. Here is a quote from RCW 43.06.400 authorizing this report: “Beginning in January 1984, and in January of every fourth year thereafter, the department of revenue must submit to the legislature prior to the regular session a listing of the amount of reduction for the current and next biennium in the revenues of the state or the revenues of local government collected by the state as a result of tax exemptions. The listing must include an estimate of the revenue lost from the tax exemption, the purpose of the tax exemption, the persons, organizations, or parts of the population which benefit from the tax exemption, and whether or not the tax exemption conflicts with another state program.

It should be obvious that giving away tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks every year conflicts with the Paramount Duty of the legislature to fully fund our public schools. Every billion dollars of tax exemptions means 10,000 more teachers losing their jobs and thousands of kids forced to endure higher class sizes. This fact is not mentioned on any of the tax break reports.

In January 2016, Vikki Smith, the current Director of the Washington State Department of Revenue released the 2016 Tax Exemption Report, which she called the 2016 Tax Exemption Study. I have spent more than 8 years researching and writing analysis of the previous four versions of this report and I will briefly summarize my findings here You can download a PDF file of this 910 page study at the following link:
http://dor.wa.gov/docs/reports/2016/Tax_Exemption_Study_2016/2016_Tax_Exemption_Study_Entire_Report.pdf

The Department of Revenue currently collects about $20 billion per year in taxes but also exempts at least $30 billion per year in state taxes. The DOR Tax Exemption Study attempts to describe the $30 billion per year in lost state revenue. These $30 billion in lost state revenue are “justified” by corrupt state legislators with the false claim that they “create jobs.” In fact, history shows that in nearly every case, tax exemptions to wealthy multinational corporations like Microsoft and Boeing do not create jobs. For example, after receiving billions in tax breaks, Boeing has laid off thousands of workers and used their tax breaks to build a non-union airplane manufacturing plant in South Carolina – firing thousands of Washington workers. Microsoft used their tax breaks to build sweat shops in China – also firing thousands of Washington workers.

However, as was true of the 2012 Report, authored by the former director of the Department of Revenue, Suzan Delbene, the 2016 report has several glaring omissions:

First, the 2016 study does not include the 1997 tax break on commercial intangible property. Since this is one of the largest of all the tax breaks accounting for several billion dollars in lost revenue with these benefits going almost entirely to three of the the richest people in the world, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Paul Allen, one has to question the validity of the rest of the 2016 Tax Exemption Study.

Second, this report does not mention the billion dollar per year Microsoft Business and Occupation tax break. Microsoft achieves this tax break by claiming that they are located in Nevada – when everyone including the Washington State Department of Revenue knows they are located in Redmond Washington.

Third, this report does not fully analyze revenue lost by manipulating the Business and Occupational categories that alway some businesses to pay these taxes at an extremely low rate while other businesses pay these taxes at an extremely high rate. It simply assumes the previous manipulated B & O rate was somehow fair or accurate. A more consistent way to evaluate any tax would be against a set standards such as a one percent B & O tax.

Fourth, this report low balls the amount of revenue lost through tax breaks by falsely claims that repealing all 694 tax breaks (now up to more than 700 thanks to the 2016 legislature) would only generate about $30 billion. This claim is based on another blatantly false assumption that repealing the 1931 intangible property tax break on personal property would not generate more revenue but merely shift the burden of total property taxes away from some tax payers and to other tax payers. Here is a quote from Section 1, page 3 of the study: “Repealing a property tax exemption does not increase state revenues. Removing a property tax exemption broadens the tax base, and at the same time reduces the tax rates. This reduces the property taxes for existing taxpayers, and shifts property tax to currently exempt taxpayers.”

In fact, our state constitution has a one percent tax rate on all property. If you own a $200,000 home, one percent of that is $2,000 in property taxes. But if the value of your home doubles to $400,000, then one percent of that is $4,000. The state revenue is directly related to the value of property. So if the value of property doubles, the tax burden is not merely shifted from one tax payer to another – the total state and local taxes available doubles. How Vikki gets away with such an absurd statement is because local levy rates are set by the total amount of the levy and if the total amount did not raise then the burden would just shift from one property owner to another. What Vikki is ignoring is that the total levy is almost always limited by the one percent limit rule in our state constitution. Doubling the amount of property would double the revenue available for funding public schools.

Vikki next mistakenly assumes that the value of intangible property is only $2 trillion. Intangible personal property is discussed on page 17-458 of the 2016 tax exemption report. On page 459, Vikki states that her assumption is that the value of personal intangible property exempted is $1,907 billion or about $2 trillion or about the same as the value of tangible property in Washington state. The ratio of tangible to intangible property was 50-50 in the 1990s. But there has been a dramatic rise in the value of intangible property to the point where by 2010, intangible property accounted for about two thirds of all property. In other words, since we know that tangible property in our state

What is Intangible Property?
Tangible property is property you can touch –such as homes and commercial buildings. Intangible property includes all other forms of wealth – such as stocks, bonds and computer programs. Historically, intangible property accounted for a very small percent of all property. However, with the concentration of wealth in the hands of the very rich, intangible property now account for over 70% of all property. Over 90% of intangible wealth is owned by the top one percent of our richest citizens.

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Due to a rapid rise in the concentration of wealth in the hands of the richest one percent, and with nearly all of this wealth being in the form of intangible property, the amount of lost revenue due to this tax exemption has skyrocketed since 1997 to the point where it is now causing a loss of state funding of more than $4 billion per year.

It is no mere coincidence that our State has been short changing our public schools by billions of dollars a year ever since. As a direct result of this massive and unwise State tax give away, as well as the federal tax cuts since then, the wealth of the richest one percent of our population has DOUBLED in the past 20 years from 20% of our total wealth to 40% of our total wealth. This single exemption was responsible for $7 billion in state tax breaks per biennium or $3.5 billion in state tax breaks per year in 2008. This makes this single tax break much larger than any other tax break. The law allowing for this tax break is RCW 84.36.070. http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=84.36.070

This massive 1997 tax loop hole has given billions of dollars in tax breaks to our richest citizens every year during the past 18 years by exempting over one trillion dollars of “intangible property” from our State property tax. It is the single largest tax break in the history of our state and bigger than the Billion Dollar Per Year Boeing Tax Break and the Billion Dollar Per Year Microsoft Tax Break combined!

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A Billion Dollar Shift in Property Tax Burden from Investors to Homeowners
One mechanism that led to this loss of state revenue was that wealthyinvestors suddenly had a huge financial incentive to mis-classify their commercial tangible property as intangible property. This is what many investors did – causing a huge shift in property tax burden from investors to homeowners. Here is a graph of this shift:

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Source: Washington State Department of Revenue http://dor.wa.gov/docs/reports/wa_tax_system_11_17_2004.pdf

The property tax burden on middle class homeowners has skyrocketed in the past 14 years as the ratio of commercial to residential tangible property has shifted from about 50-50 in 1997 to 66% residential to 33% commercial by 2006. When $100 billion dollars of commercial property is exempted from property taxes, residential property taxes must go up even if State and local spending remains the same.

As a consequence of these tax break for millionaires, and tax shifts to our middle class, our middle class now pay much more than the national average in State taxes while millionaires in our State pay much less than the national average. Working families see their tax bills go through the roof and they naturally assume that State spending is “Out of control.” But what is really out of control is tax breaks for billionaires.

We Can Cut Class Sizes in Half Just by Rolling Back Tax Breaks to 1996
In 1996, we had 400 tax breaks costing $20 billion. We now have more than 700 tax breaks for the rich costing our schools $30 billion. This includes the 1997 Intangible Property tax break that is so unfair and so costly that the Department of Revenue and the state legislature do not even want you to know about. It also includes most of the Boeing tax breaks and the Microsoft tax break.

So the question is what is more important? Helping Bill Gates and Paul Allen buy another private jet? Or helping one million students in Washington state get the education they need and deserve to succeed in school and succeed in life? If I am elected, I will file a motion for summary judgment immediately to declare every tax break passed since 1996 to be illegal, null and void and that the resulting $10 billion per year in additional state revenue be put in an account controlled by the Superintendent of Public Instruction. We could have full school funding restored in as little as 6 months.

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You now know why class sizes in our state are the highest in the nation. The fact is I am the only candidate even talking about the real cause of our massive class sizes. All of the other candidates like to talk about their “great relationships” with the very bandits who are robbing our schools of funding and our kids of their future. They perpetuate the myth that some how the legislature will suddenly come clean and start funding our schools “next year.” But all that will come out of Olympia next year is the same thing that came out of Olympia this year and last year and the year before that – more excuses and more lies. Did you know that 4 years after the Supreme Court McCleary ruling, we have 30,000 more kids – but 1,000 fewer teachers? All we got since McCleary was another fake committee and another hundred tax breaks for the rich!

This is why we need completely new leadership, more honest leadership, in Olympia. This is exactly what I will provide – real solutions – not merely marketing slogans. I therefore hope you will share this important article with every teacher and parent you know. Together, we can win this election and give our kids the education they deserve.

Originally published at SpringForPublicSchools.org

These Dems voted to undermine public schools, contravene the Constitution, and aid Republicans

(Revised 2016/05/30)

Why did 41st LD Reps Tana Senn and Judy Clibborn, along with about a dozen other state Democratic lawmakers, vote in favor of Republican Steve Litzow’s SB 6194 (charter school bill)?

The vote goes against the state Constitution and the Supreme Court ruling last year, which state that charter schools are unconstitutional.  It goes against the state Party platform, which says “We oppose charter schools.” And it goes against the wishes of major Democratic constituencies, including teachers, progressives and Labor.  Moreover, the vote effectively takes money away from public schools at a time when the legislature is in contempt of court for failing to fund public schools (McCleary decision). Lastly, Senn and Clibborn have given Litzow the opportunity to brag about the bipartisan support for his bill. Like Senn and Clibborn, Litzow is from them 41st LD.

The Dems are aiming to replace Litzow in November. So why would Senn and Clibborn grant him and the Republicans the favor of voting for his bill, delivering a major victory? And why would they knowingly infuriate half the Democratic base in this election year?

For years Republicans have been trying to undermine public education and other government programs. They’ve blamed teachers, attacked unions and tried to convince voters that government can’t be trusted.  Republicans have refused to fully fund education, have held teacher salaries low, and have ignored the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling and the subsequent contempt order that’s fining the legislature $100,000 a day.  So, it’s a surprise that Democrats would come to the aid of Republicans, further the neoliberal agenda of dismantling government, and fund charter schools while McCleary isn’t yet funded.

Judy Clibborn and Tana Senn hold Steve Litzow on their shoulders as Litzow celebrates his charter school victory

At February’s 4st LD town hall meeting, Senn told me that the Democratic House leadership would be unlikely to allow the charter school bill to come up for a vote. But she acknowledged that it might pass due to some kind of trade. (See Litzow’s mistatement, and can Eastside Democratic legislators support progressive taxation?.)

But apparently, there was no such trade. Senn mentioned no such trade in her email to her constituents (below). Also, Senator Maralyn Chase and other Democrats are angry at the passage of the bill. See State senator from Edmonds says she’s disappointed with 2016 legislature.

Some Democrats I have spoken with in the 41st LD try to defend the vote by saying that, after all, voters narrowly approved charter schools in 2012 (I-1240). OK, but that was because of the nearly $11 million in spending by the Waltons, Bill Gates, and others. That was 17 times the spending by anti-charter school forces.

The argument “Well, the voters voted for charter schools” is weak, given the fact that corporate forces spent millions to convince them.  By the same argument, you could say, “Well, voters have voted for Tim Eyman initiatives, so we mustn’t try to fix our tax system” or “Voters elected Republicans to the Senate, so we must respect their will.” We need to fight for public education and other Democratic values!

There was an amendment to SB 6194 that would have authorized the funding of the existing charter schools but would have prohibited the funding of additional schools. But that amendment failed.  So, the legislature has authorized the creation of new charter schools, and the governor let it become law.  This is not something real Democrats should be supporting.

The only justification Senn gave for her vote (below) is that she felt sorry for the existing charter school students. But what about the existing public school students whose schools are underfunded?  Handing money to private schools takes it away from public schools. And why did she support the creation of new charter schools?

Furthermore, the state Supreme Court is likely to rule that SB 6194 is unconstitutional. That’s the opinion of Rep. Patricia Kuderer, D-48, who voted against SB 6194 and explains why in Charter Schools are not out of the woods yet. Kuderer starts by warning against “the kind of fraud and mismanagement happening with charters in other states.” She goes on to write:

In the fall of 2015, the Supreme Court ruled against charter schools, throwing the eight existing charter schools into turmoil.

A bill introduced in the state Senate this year [SB 6194] attempts to resolve two constitutional issues the Court had trouble with, but completely ignores other likely constitutional problems with the charter schools initiative.

Moving forward, there are three major issues I believe must be resolved if charters are going to survive legal challenges.

Local control – I have two core values when it comes to using public resources – transparency and accountability. These important values are missing from the charter system now, but must be part of a final solution. Local control is vital to ensuring all schools are transparent and accountable.

Funding – The Supreme Court ruled that charter schools are not “common schools” and therefore cannot receive funding out of the state’s general fund. SB 6194 funds charter schools through a separate account called Opportunity Pathways.

However, as more charter schools open, or as existing ones expand, there will likely not be adequate revenue in the Opportunity Pathways account, which also funds programs like scholarships and grants to low-income students, to keep up with the demand. Funds will eventually be shifted from the general fund to the Opportunity Pathways account, and this co-mingling of funds will either directly or indirectly support charter schools.

But even if the Supreme Court overturns SB 6194, the bipartisan support for it has moved the needle to the right on the issue.

I know that many Democrats in King County are furious that the House leadership let the bill come up for a vote, that ten Democrats voted with Republicans in favor of the bill, and that Gov. Inslee allowed the bill to become law without either signing it or vetoing it.  There was a letter-writing campaign by the King County Democrats to convince legislators to oppose SB 6194.

Republicans must be smiling now.

In Washington State: The Democrats Who Betrayed the Public Schools Diane Ravitch explains what happened.

With the support of the Washington Charter Association and a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for $2.1M- charter schools remained opened- and they did so by having the state’s superintendent of public instruction corrupt Alternative Learning Rules.

In January, Steve and Connie Ballmer contributed $250K to a charter PAC. These dollars are being used to fund TV ads, polls, robo calls etc.

Students were constantly getting bussed to the state’s capital and charter supporters literally camped within the state’s capital. We’ve been told 22 lobbyists filled the halls of the state building.

Senn’s letter to her constituents

Tana Senn wrote the following explanation for her vote to some of her constituents:

No matter one’s view on the issue, the charter schools initiative passed and charter schools operate in our state. Many of the children currently being served by charter schools are students of color, at-risk boys and girls from low-income families and/or those with special needs who may need different learning environments for various reasons.

For the past three years, I’ve served on the Early Learning and Human Services Committee and witnessed the many barriers families face trying to break out of the cycle of poverty and the lifelong negative affects often associated with poverty. Dropping out of school is an entry point into that cycle.

Undoubtedly, fully funding our public schools serving 1.1 million students is our number one priority next year! Our State has amazing public schools staffed by hard working, dedicated and inspiring teachers. But we have failed to fund these institutions time and time again.

Fixing the funding problem so we can reduce class sizes, add school counselors, offer competitive teacher pay and improve special education will require a bi-partisan effort and the resolve to do what’s right and what we should have done so long ago.

It is likely to take a couple years for that funding to reach the classroom and make needed investments. It is also about the time the State Supreme Court is anticipated to rule again on the constitutionality of charter schools.

But two years is a long time in the educational life of a young person. Those boys and girls were first and foremost on my mind when I voted for the charter school bill. We also passed the Education Opportunity Act and the Homeless Student Act that week, which will help hundreds of thousands of more kids have a better chance at success in life. All we can do is critical.

I point out, though, that every penny spent on charter schools is a penny lost to public schools.

It’s true that some schools in high poverty districts are failing. That’s because of poverty and because Republicans refuse to fund them adequately! That’s a standard Republican tactic: corrupt, under-fund and mismanage government; then complain it doesn’t work. In fact, America’s low test scores are largely an artifact of our high poverty rate. The countries that beat us in standardized tests have public schools.

Furthermore, the bill funds not only the existing charter schools but also additional schools. That was completely unnecessary.

Pay back from the tax dodgers

As reported in League of Education Voters backs Inslee, top Republicans,  after the passage of SB 6194, there were big endorsements for Steve Litzow, Jay Inslee, Tana Senn, Judy Clibborn and other supporters of SB 6194, from the charter-schools-loving League of Education Voters, who are funded by Microsoft, Boeing and the Gates Foundation (the 1%). Follow the money. Boeing and Microsoft enjoy tax breaks and use their money to defund public services and enrich corporations at the expense of the middle class (who pay the vast majority of taxes here in Washington State).

Contrary to the statement in the article, Gates, Boeing, and Microsoft are not independent at all. They’re self-interested tools of the 1%, intent on dismantling public education and blaming teachers for outcomes that are the result of poverty and willful under-funding of education. Republicans and their neo-liberal Democratic allies willfully under-fund government so it doesn’t work well and so that they can justify tax cuts for rich people and privatization of government services.

To understand politics, follow the money.

The ten turn-coat Democrats are:

  1. Judy Clibborn: http://housedemocrats.wa.gov/legislators/judy-clibborn/
    Judy Clibborn
  2. Christopher Hurst: http://housedemocrats.wa.gov/legislators/christopher-hurst/
  3. Ruth Kagi: http://housedemocrats.wa.gov/legislators/ruth-kagi/
  4. Kristine Lytton: http://housedemocrats.wa.gov/legislators/kristine-lytton/
  5. Jeff Morris: http://housedemocrats.wa.gov/legislators/jeff-morris/
  6. Eric Pettigrew: http://housedemocrats.wa.gov/legislators/eric-pettigrew
  7. David Sawyer: http://housedemocrats.wa.gov/legislators/david-sawyer/
  8. Tana Senn: http://housedemocrats.wa.gov/legislators/tana-senn/
    Tana Senn
  9. Larry Springer: http://housedemocrats.wa.gov/legislators/larry-springer/
  10. Pat Sullivan: http://housedemocrats.wa.gov/legislators/pat-sullivan

Democratic State Senators who voted for the charter school bill include Mark Mullet, Tim Sheldon, and Steve Hobbs.

I acknowledge that there is an honest difference of opinion with the Democratic Party, as well as a division between the progressive wing and the corporate wing that approves policies such as charter schools. But given the following facts, the choice of these Democrats to vote for SB 6194 seems unwise at best, and probably perverse:

  • The state Supreme Court ruled last year that charter schools are unconstitutional.
  • There’s a good chance that the Supreme Court will rule that SB 6194 is unconstitutional.
  • But support for charter schools by Democrats legitimizes the entire corporate education paradigm and moves politics to the  right.
  • The legislature hasn’t yet funded public schools, and is paying a daily fine of $100,000 a day, per order of the Supreme Court.
  • The state Democratic Party platform expresses opposition to charter schools.
  • This is an election year. Why did the Democrats empower Republicans and alienate Democrats?
  • In particular, why would Senn and Clibborn endorse the policies of Republican Litzow in an election year?
  • Weren’t the turncoat Democrats aware that their acts would infuriate many Democrats (teachers, Labor, progressives) and divide the Party? What benefit do they get by thumbing their noses at the wishes of half or more of the Party base?

No wonder Democrats are voting for candidates like Bernie Sanders. Mainstream (aka “corporate”) Democrats can’t apparently be trusted to support the platform and ideals of the party of FDR.

The participation by a large number of Independents in the 2016 caucuses, their youth, and their overwhelming support for Bernie Sanders give me hope that the Democratic Party can be reformed.

These Democrats thumbed their noses at the Democratic Party, its platform, its members, and its constituents, by voting to fund charter schools when McCleary isn't yet funded

Why the Super Delegate Scam is Political Suicide for the Washington State Democratic Party

This is a message to the leaders of the Washington State Democratic Party: If you keep ignoring hundreds of thousands of independent voters, not only will we wind up with Donald Trump for President, but we will have a Republican Governor here in Washington State! Please read this article and please wake up to the reality of current voter preferences.

Here are a few math facts. There were about 150,000 people who pre-registered for the Washington Precinct Caucuses and 35,000 surrogate affidavits. Another 45,000 just showed up bringing the total to 230,000 caucus attendees. Most people indicated that it was their first caucus ever. They elected more than 26,000 delegates to the next level which is the Legislative District caucuses. Bernie Sanders won more than 19,000 of these delegates for 73% of the total vote. This should result in Bernie also winning 73% of the delegates to the Congressional Caucuses which should lead to Bernie winning 73% of the total 101 elected delegates – or about 75 delegates to Clinton’s 26 elected delegates. Bernie Sanders won in a landslide in every county in Washington state. This was the largest margin of victory of any Presidential caucus in Washington state history.
http://www.wa-democrats.org/local/county

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In addition, Washington State has 17 non-elected Super Delegates who supposedly can ignore the popular will of the people and vote for whoever they want. Ten of these super delegates have publicly supported Clinton. None so far have switched their support to Bernie Sanders despite his landslide victory on March 26th. If Clinton got all 17 Super Delegates, she would wind up with 43 delegates or 37% of the Washington delegates to the national convention even though she only got 27% of the votes at the Washington caucuses. The problem with rigging the nomination in this manner is that ignoring the will of the people is political suicide for the Washington State Democratic Party.

Here are some more math facts. Gallup polls show that since 2008, there has been a huge decline in the number of people who identify themselves as Democrats and Republicans and a dramatic rise in the number of people who identify as Independents.

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If Democrats ignore this huge group of Independent voters we are likely to lose the 2016 Presidential election. All of the latest polls show Bernie Sanders is much more likely than Hillary Clinton to defeat Donald Trump. Why is it that Bernie is more likely to beat Donald Trump? The answer is that Hillary is simply not trusted. 74% of all Independent swing voters do not trust Hillary to tell the truth. This matters because Independent Voters are now 43% of all voters. They will decide who the next President will be!

A poll of more than five thousand Independent Voters by the Independent Voter Project found that Bernie Sanders had the approval of 45%, Donald Trump had 26% and Hillary Clinton only had 9%. Bernie leads Hillary 5 to 1 and Donald leads her by 3 to 1!!!
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/9/17/1422117/-Poll-of-Independents-Sanders-45-Trump-26-HRC-9

In fact, many more Americans trust Donald Trump (41%) than trust Hillary Clinton (33%). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/h-a-goodman/bernie-sanders-will-becom_b_9289066.html

But losing the Presidential election is only the beginning of our problems if leaders of the Democratic Party continue to ignore the will of Independent voters. Here in Washington State, Democrats hold a slight edge over Republicans but Independent voters hold a huge edge over either political party. Let’s assume that Washington State has 25% Republicans, 30% Democrats and 45% Independent voters. This means that at the Democratic Party Caucuses, out of the 230,000 people, about 130,000 were Independent Voters supporting Bernie and only 100,000 were actual Democrats.

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Let’s further assume that 60% of actual Democrats supported Bernie and 40% supported Hillary but all of them would likely vote for either Bernie or Hillary in the General Election. This gives Hillary 40,000 Democratic votes and Bernie 60,000 Democratic votes. But Bernie beats Hillary among Independent votes by 5 to 1. Therefore, of the 130,000 Independent Voters at the caucuses, Bernie gets 110,000 Independent votes and Hillary gets 20,000. This gives Bernie a total vote of 170,000 votes and Hillary 60,000 votes. 170,000 votes just happens to be about 74% which closely matches what Bernie actually got.

These 110,000 Independent Washington Voters already think the Democratic Party is corrupt. They are only going to turn out and vote for the Democratic Party if Bernie is at the head of the ticket. So all loyal Democrats ought to be working like mad to make sure Bernie is at the head of the ticket.

But it is as important to re-elect Jay Inslee Governor as it is to elect a Democrat for President. The last thing leaders of the Democratic Party should be doing at this point is making 110,000 Independent Voters here in Washington State very, very angry. For example, here is just one of hundreds of emails I have received from Bernie supporters about the super delegate scam:

To Whom It May Concern,

The Democratic Party is playing with fire…”Super-Delegates” are an elitist and anti-democratic invention that dis-enfranchises the actual Delegates lawfully elected by their neighbors.National Democratic Party hacks are screwing with the wrong people!

That email came from a Bernie delegate elected in the 36th Legislative District. But it mirrors emails I have been getting from all across Washington state. I am getting exhausted just trying to respond to all of these emails. If you think that these 110,000 Independent Bernie supporters who took the time to show up at their precinct caucuses do not matter, then think again. Here is how the 2012 race for Governor in Washington State turned out:

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Note that Jay Inslee won by only 100,000 votes in 2012. Make 110,000 Independent Swing voters mad and suddenly the Republican candidate for Governor wins by 100,000 votes and we get an anti-union Republican running our state into the ground. In fact, even if only 50,000 of these Independent Bernie votes vote for the Republican candidate for Governor, we wind up with a Republican Governor.

The real question here is why Jay Inslee and the other leaders of the Washington State Democratic Party have not figured this out. Are they nuts? Do they want to commit political suicide by making so many Independent Washington voters this angry during an election year?

Sadly, Jay Inslee and the other leaders of the Washington State Democratic Party have not figured this out. For Jay and the rest of the leaders of the Washington State Democratic Party to endorse Clinton in the first place shows that they are completely out of touch with the voters. It was only a few years ago that the Washington State Democratic Party had commanding majorities in the Washington State Senate and House. Then leaders of the Democratic Party decided to gut billions of dollars in funding for public schools and colleges in order to pay for billions of dollars in tax breaks for wealthy multinational corporations like Microsoft and Boeing. As a result, the Republican Party has already taken over the Washington State Senate and they are likely to take over the Washington State House. If leaders of the Democratic Party do not wake up, Republicans will also take over the Governor’s office in the 2016 election.

The only thing that might save the Washington State Democratic Party at this point is for Jay Inslee and every other Washington State Super Delegate to publicly and immediately switch their endorsement from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders. There is a precedent for doing this. In 2008, nearly all Washington State Democratic Party leaders initially supported Hillary. But after Obama won the 2008 Washington Caucuses, nearly all of these leaders wisely switched their support to Obama. While Clinton initially had a big lead in Super Delegates in 2008, by May 2008, most of these Super Delegates switched to Obama.

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Leaders of the Washington State Democratic Party should not wait until May. The voters of Washington state have already spoken. By a 3 to 1 margin, they favor Bernie Sanders. But the all important Independent Voters favor Bernie by a 5 to 1 margin. We will need these Independent voters if we are to re-elect Jay Inslee this fall.

What about the Presidential Race?
Despite the Democratic National Committee rigging the Democratic Nomination process by having all of the Southern Conservative Democratic states voting first, Clinton only has a 55% to 45% advantage over Bernie in elected delegates. Bernie is likely to win nearly all of the remaining states. Put another way, Hillary is only ahead by about 230 delegates with about 1750 delegates left to choose. We are barely half way through with the Democratic nomination process. And among the 22 Northern and Western States, we are just beginning. There are still 18 states left to vote. If Bernie wins in Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania and California, he will almost certainly have more elected delegates than Hillary. California alone, which will vote on June 7th, has 475 elected delegates. So Bernie could actually close the entire gap in just this single state. New York has 247 delegates and will vote on April 19th. Pennsylvania has 189 delegates and will vote on April 26th. If Bernie gets even 55% of the vote in these states, he wins the popular vote.

Even the latest national polls now show Sanders ahead of Clinton. For example, the latest Bloomberg poll taken before the landslide wins in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii, showed Sanders ahead of Clinton. Just a few months earlier, this same poll had Clinton ahead by more than 60%. So the trend is rapidly turning to Bernie.

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If this trend continues, by the time the California primary gets here on June 7th, Bernie will have over 60% of the voters and will secure the votes needed for the Democratic Nomination – assuming the Super Delegates do the right thing and support the candidate who is supported by the majority of the voters.

Finally, the latest poll out of Wisconsin has Bernie Sanders ahead of Clinton 49% to 44%.
https://law.marquette.edu/poll/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/MLSP34Toplines.pdf

But what is even more revealing is that Bernie has a net favorability rating of Plus 6 while Hillary has a rating of minus 24 to the following question: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Hillary Clinton or haven’t you heard enough about her yet?

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Here is how the same group in Wisconsin thought of Bernie:

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As the following question confirms, Bernie would defeat Trump in a landslide:

If the election for president were being held today and the candidates were Bernie Sanders the Democrat, and Donald Trump the Republican, for whom would you vote?

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The voters also overwhelmingly favor Bernie’s call to have the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes:

In general, would you favor or oppose increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and large corporations in order to help reduce income inequality in the U.S.?

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This final question confirms the huge influence of Independent Voters in the 2016 election:

Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent?

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In the meantime, Jay Inslee is shooting himself in the foot by continuing to support Hillary Clinton even after 73% of the voters said they favor Bernie Sanders. If you read this article and you know Jay, please share it with him. The sooner Jay wakes up and supports Bernie, the more likely he is to be re-elected.

We hope you will also contact all 17 Washington State Super Delegates and ask them this important question: Are you willing to risk losing the Washington State Governors Race by offending hundreds of thousands of Independent Voters in this election year just to support Hillary Clinton? Let them know that it will be their fault if a Republican Governor is elected in Washington state this year. Here is a link to the contact information for all 17 Washington State Super Delegates.

http://washingtonforberniesanders.com/petition-to-washington-state-super-delegates

Originally published at http://washingtonforberniesanders.com/why-the-super-delegate-scam-is-political-suicide-for-the-democratic-party

Hey, all you Bernie supporters who attended the caucuses, take over the Party!

The surprise overwhelming win by Bernie Sanders in the Washington State Democratic caucus was due, I surmise, to the participation of young people who had never before gotten involved.    I know in my precinct there were a surprising number of young people I had never seen before.   I am eager to see hard data about whether my theory is true.

Regardless of whether Bernie wins the nomination, we need these young people to reinvigorate the party and push it to the left.  This is the sort of peaceful political revolution that Bernie Sanders has been calling for.

Angry conservatives take over the GOP.  Angry progressives too often flee the Democratic Party.  This election represents a chance to fix that fundamental flaw in liberal politics in America.

Ten reasons why WA superdelegates should support Bernie Sanders


1. Democrats in Washington State overwhelmingly voted for Bernie Sanders in the caucuses

72.7% of Washington Democratic caucus attendees preferred Sanders over Hillary. That’s a 45% preference for Sanders.   If superdelegates ignore such a wide preference, there will be an uproar, and justly so. An attendee to Gov. Inslee’s precinct caucus says that Inslee spoke in favor of Hillary but Sanders still won that precinct. It seems the party leaders are out of touch with the grassroots.

2. Hillary is a neocon’s neocon

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was consistently one of the most hawkish voices in the Obama administration.

  • She said President Obama was wrong not to launch missile strikes on Syria in 2013.
  • She pushed hard for the overthrow of Qadaffi in 2011.
  • She supported the coup government in Honduras in 2009.
  • She has backed escalation and prolongation of war in Afghanistan.
  • She voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
  • She skillfully promoted the White House justification for the war on Iraq.
  • She does not hesitate to back the use of drones for targeted killing.
  • She has consistently backed the military initiatives of Israel.
  • She was not ashamed to laugh at the killing of Qadaffi.
  • She has not hesitated to warn that she could obliterate Iran.
  • She is not afraid to antagonize Russia.
  • She helped facilitate a military coup in Ukraine.
  • She has the financial support of the arms makers and many of their foreign customers.
  • She waived restrictions at the State Department on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar, all states wise enough to donate to the Clinton Foundation.
  • She supported President Bill Clinton’s wars and the power of the president to make war without Congress.
  • She has advocated for arming fighters in Syria.
  • She supported a surge in Iraq even before President Bush did.

“I have a sense that she’s one of the more competent members of the current administration and it would be interesting to speculate about how she might perform were she to be president.” .Dick Cheney

“I’ve known her for many years now, and I respect her intellect. And she ran the State Department in the most effective way that I’ve ever seen.” .Henry Kissinger

“For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.” .Robert Kagan, neocon co-creator of Project for the New American Century.

Source: http://hillaryisaneocon.com

3. The Clinton foundation is corrupt

See Charity watchdog: Clinton Foundation a .slush fund. and Deceit and power work in Hillary Clinton.s favor:

Yesterday, Judicial Watch released a batch of documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, that it says reveals blatant coordination between then-Secretary of State Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. Stunningly, the internal State Department emails expose Clinton.s eagerness to .thank [Clinton Foundation] supporters for their commitments.. Of course, these .commitments. must mean money. It.s incredible.

And, Clinton.s State Department was apparently coordinating meetings for Bill Clinton with foreign heads of state. If any other employee at the State Department had arranged such meetings for their spouse and actively thanked contributors to their spouse.s foundation, they would likely go to jail.

4. Hillary has close ties to the financial industry and depends on them for campaign funds.

Why won’t she release transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs and other financial groups?

5. Democratic voters are sick of hawkish corporate sellouts

In various ways, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have betrayed Democratic ideals, by promoting “free trade” agreements, by deregulating Wall Street, by surrounding themselves with Wall Street hacks, and by pursuing imperialistic military engagements and meddling.

6. Hillary might be indicted for the email scandal

Justice Dept. grants immunity to staffer who set up Clinton email server.

7. Hillary’s negatives are high

Poll: Trump, Clinton score historic unfavorable ratings. HuffPost’s combined polls show a 54.2% unfavorable ratings for Hillary Clinton and a 40.5% unfavorable ratings for Bernie Sanders.

8.   Young people overwhelmingly support Bernie Sanders.

Sanders’ nomination will bring millions of young people into the Democratic Party. Hillary’s candidacy will alienate young people, progressives, and Independents who are sick of the status quo.

9. Hillary flip-flops to get votes, Bernie Sanders has been consistent

Hillary has flip-flopped on marriage equality, TPP, the Keystone XL pipeline, and other issues.

10. Sanders’ message of economic inequality and an end to money-in-politics is precisely what America needs


Feel the Bern!

The Definitive, Encyclopedic Case For Why Hillary Clinton is the Wrong Choice makes a detailed case against Hillary.

Unwelcome changes at wa-democrats.org

I notice something suspicious, or at least unwelcome. Yesterday, when I visited http://www.wa-democrats.org and clicked on “2016 CAUCUS” on the top right, it displayed the statewide caucus result summary, showing prominently that Bernie won over 72% of the vote. Today, it no longer shows that. Instead, it shows several links, the first one being “Caucus Results“. Here’s an image of “2016 CAUCUS” as of Sunday, March 26 at 8:30AM:

WA Dems Caucus page

When you click on that first link (Caucus Results), there’s a table of numbers of county-by-county results. There’s no summary showing how overwhelmingly Bernie won. Here’s an image of the caucus-results page :

WA Dems Caucus Results page

It’s possible the state party is trying to downplay the results.  It’s also possible there are completely innocent reasons for the change.  In any case, it’s an unfortunate change.

If anyone has an image of the page is it appeared last night, please send it to me.

Litzow's mistatement, and can Eastside Democratic legislators support progressive taxation?

Saturday I attended the 41st Legislative District town hall, where Rep. Judy Clibborn (D – Mercer Island — left, below), Rep. Tana Senn (D – Mercer Island), and Senator Steve Litzow (R – Mercer Island) answered questions about tolling of I-405, charter schools, taxes, and Puget Sound Energy’s plan to install new high-power lines (Energize Eastside and http://cense.org).

41LD Town Hall, Feb 20, 2016

Citing the will of the people, Litzow justified his vote to support Senate Joint Resolution 8211, which would amend the constitution to require a two-thirds super-majority of legislators to raise taxes. The vote was along party lines. The resolution failed to get the 2/3rds needed in the Senate to pass.

Litzow said that Eastside residents supported Eyman’s super-majority initiative I-1366. But according to the Secretary of State’s data, over 61% of King County residents voted No on I-1366. Furthermore [added 2016/02/22], Andrew Villeneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute informed me that on the Eastside I-1366 was rejected (click the first tab of the spreadsheet).

Steve Litzow conveniently failed to mention that I-1366 FAILED in the 41st Legislative District. It also failed in the 45th and the 48th. The only Eastside LD it passed in was the 5th. The numbers:

Legislative District 45 (Andy Hill, Roger Goodman, Larry Springer)
14,904 Yes
16,878 No

Legislative District 48 (Cyrus Habib, Patty Kuderer, Joan McBride)
11,999 Yes
15,910 No

Legislative District 41 (Steve Litzow, Tana Senn, Judy Clibborn)
14,381 Yes
19,427 No

Legislative District 5 (Mark Mullet, Jay Rodne, Chad Magendanz)
17,263 Yes
13,964 No

Litzow disagreed with arguments  — repeated in a comment by former Representative Marcie Maxwell — that a 2/3 super-majority threshold would make it almost impossible to pass any revenue increases. Litzow cited the overwhelming bipartisan support last year for the transportation package, which raised the (regressive) gas tax.

In response to a question, Litzow justified his vote to fire State DOT director Lynn Peterson, citing failed projects and cost overruns.  When Clibborn responded, she was openly angry about the Republicans’ partisan move. The Republican decision to fire Peterson was strange given that only last year Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Curtis King, R-Yakima had told Peterson: “I want to thank you for the job you have done over the past two and half years, and I can’t say thank you enough to the staff that you have behind you.”

On charter schools, Litzow repeatedly mentioned that such schools would help economically disadvantaged kids.  Charter schools aren’t needed in Bellevue, he agreed.

Though the state Supreme Court ruled that state funding of charter schools is unconstitutional, Senate Republicans found a loophole and passed SB 6194, of which Litzow is a prime sponsor. SB 6194 passed the Senate on Jan 20. There was a hearing in the House on Friday, Feb. 19.  Marcie Maxwell testified against SB 6194, and she repeated parts of her testimony at the town hall.

Maxwell said that charter schools are largely unaccountable, being un-elected.

She said that there are many highly innovative public schools — e.g., in Renton.   If the state fully funded K-12 basic education there’d be more innovation — “instead of struggling to figure out which custodian to cut.”

The most problematical part of SB 6194 is its trigger conversion section, which allows a majority of teachers or parents in a school to trigger conversion to a charter school.  Since most taxpayers paying for schools are neither teachers nor parents of students in a given school, trigger conversion would threaten public support for education.

In the business community, charter schools are viewed as a big investment opportunity — a way to milk taxpayers for private profit.  See, for example, CNBC’s Invest in Public Charter Schools?.

Maxwell and others argued that we should first fund public schools (McCleary) before supporting private enterprises.

Litzow said that charter schools now cost the state $14 million per year, just  0.1% of the what the state pays for public education. (Litzow incorrectly said “1/1000th percent.”)   The state spent $15.1 billion from the General Fund on K-12 education in 2014.

I heard from others that Litzow and fellow Republicans were refusing to bring House bills to a vote unless the Democrats agreed to fund charter schools. When I asked him about this, he denied it, saying they already passed school funding bills.

After the town hall, I asked Tana Senn whether there’s any chance SB 6194 (including trigger conversion) would pass the House. She said that if it came up for a floor vote, it would likely pass.  I presume all Republicans would support it, and a few Democrats would go along. But she thinks it’s unlikely the Democratic leadership will allow SB 6194 to come up for a vote.    She agreed that it’s possible, though, that SB 6194 will pass in a trade for some other measure desired by Democrats.

Please contact your legislator and ask them to oppose SB 6194.

According to the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, the state must lessen its reliance on local levies for funding education.  Specifically, local levies can be used for enrichment, but not for “Basic Education.” Local levies are one reason Bellevue schools are so good:  local taxes support local schools and directly affect housing prices.

Changes mandated by the Supreme Court could harm Eastside communities. For example, if the state collects taxes and redistributes them statewide, that would result in a net transfer of money from wealthy areas, such as Bellevue, to poorer areas.  Specifically, King County would be subsidizing Eastern Washington — where Republican legislators hold a majority of seats.

The situation is ironic. Republican voters (who are the beneficiaries of high taxes) oppose taxes.   If non-rich Republican voters realize that they’ve been voting against their own self-interest, they might turn into Democrats.

During the discussion of raising taxes, Tana Senn twice assured the assembled crowd that she would fight any tax plan that resulted in a net loss of revenue for Bellevue schools.  Yet in general Senn is a strong Democrat who supports public schools, public transportation, an adequate social safety net and fair taxes.

Eastside legislators are in a bind when it comes to certain Democratic-friendly policies.  There are a lot of wealthy people on the Eastside and a lot of car drivers.  Democrats risk losing elections if they move too far to the left.  I presume this is the same game played nationally: Hillary supporters claim that she’s more electable than Sanders (though polls show Sanders defeating Trump or Cruz more handily than Clinton would).

Likewise, at previous town halls, our 41st LD legislators were unanimous in opposing tolling of I-90, although we live in some of the wealthiest communities. Granted, some elderly people on Mercer Island pay high property taxes, have low income, and are dependent on cars. But, still, people in poorer communities are even less well off on average, and cars are noxious.

Discussing finding additional revenue to fund McCleary (the state Supreme Court decision mandating full funding of education), Clibborn said, so far, the legislature has submitted “a plan for a plan” to fund education. It’s unclear whether the Supreme Court will accept that plan.  Tana Senn said that a capital gains tax could work (and Clibborn says she agrees).  Republicans have opposed new revenue and have claimed that cuts can be made to social services or money can be found via efficiencies.

Someone mentioned that when the legislators were discussing ways to help to help indigent students pay for meals, one Republican suggested that teachers volunteer to buy food for the poor kids.

This is The Big Battle of American politics:  can and should we fund government to provide various services?   As even Litzow mentioned, there are some Republican legislators from the eastern part of the state who will oppose any revenue increase. (Litzow generally votes with his caucus.) Such Republicans are ideologically opposed to all government spending.  The long arc of history is towards government providing education and basic health care, at a minimum.

Concerning Puget Sound Energy’s Energize Eastside, the legislators pointed out that the legislature has little control over the issue: it’s mostly a city and county issue.

When Marcie asked a question about regressive taxes,  I held up a version of the following graph that shows the dramatic decrease in General Fund state revenue as a percentage of state personal income:

Washington Revenue as a percentage of personal income

Litzow said that the state is spending a record amount in its budget.  Yes, but the state population has increased 16% between 2000 (6.2 million) and 2014 (7.1 million).

Washington State is said to have the most regressive state tax system among the 50 states.  The poor and the middle class pay over 10% of their income in state taxes; the rich pay under 3%.  Hence Senate Bill 6093, which would extend property taxes to intangible property such as stocks and bonds. That would add some needed fairness and uniformity to our tax code.

Litzow said that Democrats controlled both houses of the legislature and the governorship for many years but didn’t act to fix our regressive taxes. I said that’s because of the centrist “Road Kill Dems” (including Clibborn, by the way). Still, the Republicans political message is all about “Vote for me. I’ll lower your taxes.”  The culprits are conservatives, not just Republicans.

After the town hall Litzow was saying that he agrees that Citizens United was probably a bad decision. He thought both corporations and unions shouldn’t be able to spend money on campaigns.

According to Tax Policy Center’s State and Local Tax Revenue as a Percentage of Personal Income, state revenue as a percentage of Personal Income has been on the decline in Washington State and nationwide.   For Washington State, the percentage has fallen from a high of 10.78% in 1997 to 8.39% in 2013 (the last year for which data is available).

In Washington, state and local taxes per $1000 of personal income has fallen from $125 in 1999 to under $93 in 2013.  We’re now ranked 35th of all states.

Washington State spent $10,682 per pupil in 2012; nationwide, the national state average was $11,254.

Nationwide, corporate income taxes as share of GDP was over 6% in 1954 and declined to under 2% in 2012:

Corporate Income Tax as a Percentage of GDP

Evidence that conservatives view charter schools as a money-making opportunity:

Forbes cover: education is a trillion dollar opportunity

Judy Clibborn mentioned that she had gotten many “vile” emails from constituents angry about gun legislation — presumably from gun rights advocates.  Gun control advocates can be passionate and pleading, but I doubt their emails would be “vile.”

Please email or phone your legislators.  They listen to their constituents!

 

At the end of the meeting, several Chinese Americans expressed concern about the planned opening of a marijuana store on Factoria Blvd in Bellevue.  The store would be within a couple thousand feet of Newport High School (one of the best schools in the state, and a main draw for Asian families). The Chinese Americans are concerned that their children may be tempted to smoke marijuana.

A hundred or so Chinese Americans meet at a local church on Sundays. A main topic of discussion is their children’s education. The good schools in Bellevue are a main reason for high housing prices.

On the local social network, there was likewise a discussion among local residents concerned about what sort of people a marijuana store would likely attract.

I said that I don’t smoke marijuana and I think it’s not healthy to do so, but I said it’s clearly safer than alcohol.   A Chinese woman said that that’s the argument she had heard from others.

Alcohol causes people to get into fights, beat their wives, ignore their kids, and kill others with high-speed driving. At worst, marijuana makes people lazy, happy, and hungry.

The Chinese woman was sitting next to me during the town hall. When the legislators discussed charter schools, she turned to me and whispered, “What are charter schools?” I said, briefly, that they are private schools.   After the town hall, Marcie Maxwell was explaining to several Chinese Americans about charter schools. They invited her to speak to them about it at their church meeting.

Whether Chinese Americans would support progressive taxation is an open question.  If it resulted in a transfer of money away from Bellevue schools, they may oppose it.

Chinese Americans should be encouraged to participate in party politics.  This is especially true in Bellevue.  According to the city’s webpage on demographics, the percent of Asians in Bellevue increased from 9.9% in 1990 to 17.4% in 2000 and then to 27.5% in 2010. (I bet the percent is over 30 now.)   I’m not sure what proportion of Bellevue Asians are American citizens, but they’re obviously an important constituency that should be nurtured.  They are likely to support public education.

Washington State Legislature Adds Insult to Injury for Struggling GED Students

On February 10, 2016, the Washington State House passed House Bill 2743 – a bill that its prime sponsor, Chris Reykdal, claimed would “help GED students.” We normally do not single out a single legislator for criticism. But this case, the bill is so offensive and the harm to GED students is so great that we are going to make an exception.

Chris Reykdal works for the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (hereafter SBCTC). The SBCTC is supposed to help students who attend these local colleges. Instead, the SBCTC is a reckless, out of control agency that has been responsible for enacting a series of extremely harmful changes that have destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of students. The most harmful of these changes has been granting a monopoly on the Washington State High School Equivalency Certificate to an international for profit mega-corporation called Pearson. In January 2014, Pearson replaced the traditional GED test with a test that is so difficult that not only is it impossible to most GED students to pass the Pearson GED test – it is impossible for most of the members of our state legislature to pass the Pearson GED test.

In March 2014, we became aware of this disaster and started Restore GED Fairness dot org to try to restore a fair GED test in Washington State and around the nation. Because of the unfair Pearson GED test, in 2014, the number of students passing the GED test in Washington state fell from over 13,000 students per year to less than 3,000 students per year.

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In January 2015, we worked to introduce a bill for a Fair GED test in the Washington state legislature. Our bill passed the Washington State Senate Higher Education by a unanimous vote. But our GED Fairness bill was blocked in the House Higher Education Committee by none other than Chris Reykdal and the SBCTC!

As a consequence of this despicable disregard for the well being of stuggling low income students, another 10,000 Washington state students were denied a GED certificate in 2015. Reykdal and the SBCTC claimed that the number of students passing the GED would rise over time as more students got used to the new test. But instead of publishing the number of students passing the test every month, the SBCTC and Pearson have stonewalled all efforts to determine the number of students passing the GED test in Washington state. We have therefore been forced to use the pass rate from neighboring states, such as Oregon, who also have granted Pearson a monopoly over their high school equivalency test program.

In January, Pearson reacted to the news that 23 states have now moved away from the Pearson GED test monopoly by lowering the cut score from 150 to 145. Most of these states have allowed students to use a fairer fairer high school equivalency test called the Iowa HiSET test.

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Pearson claimed that lowering the cut score would increase the number of students who passed the test by 50 percent. What they failed to say is that a 50% increase of an unacceptably low number is still an unacceptably low number. New information from Oregon indicates that Pearson’s recent lowering of the cut score to pass the GED test from 150 to 145 did not lead to a substantial increase in the number of students receiving a GED certificate. Had Oregon state continued to use a fairly normed GED test, about 9,500 students would have received a GED certificate in 2014 and 2015. Lowering the cut score from 150 to 145 only resulted in 260 more students per year retroactively receiving a GED certificate in 2014 and 2015 in Oregon. The total number of students who received a GED certificate in 2015, even with the lower cut score was only 3,000 students – 6,500 less than would have received a GED if Oregon had a fair GED test.

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In Washington state, about 10,000 low income students per year are prevented from getting a high school equivalency certificate by the unfair Pearson GED test. Nationally, about 500,000 low income students per year have their lives destroyed by the Pearson GED test. About 10% of these students, lacking the ability to get a job, commit major crimes and wind up in prison – at a cost to taxpayers nationally of over one hundred million dollars per year.

The reason for making the GED test so hard that very few people can pass it is an unfair set of learning standards called Common Core and the associated Common Core test called the SBAC test – another test that very few kids or state legislators could pass. Not surprisingly., Chris Reykdal is also the prime sponsor of House Bill 2214, a bill that would require the impossible to pass SBAC Common Core test in order to graduate from high school.

The marketing slogan for Common Core and the SBAC test is that they will get kids career and college ready. But it is a fact that no bubble test has ever gotten a single student career and college ready. If Reykdal really wanted to get our kids career and college ready, he would propose a bill to raise $4 to $6 billion per year in new revenue so we could lower class sizes so that stuggling students could get the help they need to succeed in school and succeed in life.

Here are the results after 3 to 5 years of Common Core in New York, Kentucky and Washington state using the National Assessment of Educational Progress 8th Grade Math test:

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Note that the scores of students on the 8th grade math test went down in all three states. This is because Chris Reykdal’s Common Core and SBAC Plan is an utter disaster. It is time to end the disastrous experiment with Common Core in our schools and with the common aligned Pearson GED test!

Which brings us back to Chris Reykdal and his shameful 2016 House Bill 2743. Instead of providing struggling low income students with what they really need – which is a fair GED test so that they could get a job or go to college, Reykdal’s bill would bill would eliminate the stigma of having a GED certificate by turning it into a normal high school diploma.

Let’s be clear about this. There is no stigma from having a GED certificate! Nearly all employees and colleges accept a GED certificate as being the same as a high school diploma. The real stigma is inflicted on those who don’t have a GED certificate and cannot get a GED certificate because they cannot pass the unfair Pearson Common Core GED test and because Chris Reykdal refused to let these tens of thousands of Washington state students take a fair GED test. Shame on Chris Reykdal and shame on the Washington state legislature for going along with his Pearson GED Monopoly scam.

Reykdal had the audacity to claim that his bill would help increase the wages of those who have a GED certificate. But what would really increase the wages of struggling low income students is getting a GED certificate in the first place! Here are quotes from a GED instructor and a GED student to help bring a dose of reality to Reykdal and his insane bill:

“The students I work with, for the most part, want to get a job at Home Depot and Walmart. Hopefully they will (achieve higher aspirations) when they get their lives back on track. But right now, most of them just want a job.There needs to be a fairness where we don’t expect so much more of a GED student. The vast majority of high school graduates would never, ever come close to passing the (unfair Pearson) GED test.” John Grosvenor Portland Community College GED Instructor

“The math is ridiculous. There is no way that that test is normed to high school. It’s worded in such a complicated high-level thinking that you spend a huge chunk of time reading and rereading the question just to figure out what the equation should be.” Oregon GED Student
Source: http://portlandtribune.com/wlt/95-news/292859-169366-oregon-ged-students-still-struggling

Nor should we be imposing rigid and unrealistic college standards on struggling low income students who are just to get a job at Walmart. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupation Outlook Handbook, very few new jobs in the next 10 years will even require a college degree.

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Source: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/most-new-jobs.htm

An unfair GED test keeps low income students out of even these basic jobs because they cannot get these entry level jobs because they cannot pass the unfair Pearson GED test. By the end of 2016, more than 30,000 low income students in Washington state will have been denied access to a fair GED test by Reykdal and his cronies in Olympia. About 3,000 of these struggling low income students will wind up committing major crimes and being sent to prison. But the real crime will have been committed by Reykdal, the State legislature and the SBCTC.

The only good news here is that 2016 is an election year. It is time to boot Reykdal and all of his ruthless cronies out of Olympia and replace them with people who will allow struggling low income students to have a fair chance to pass a fair high school equivalency test so they can get the jobs they need to stay out of prison and pay for their rent. As always, we look forward to your questions and comments.

Originally published at RestoreGEDFairness.org