In this morning's Morning Fizz, we reported that Rep. Deb Eddy (D-48, Redmond, Bellevue) had flagged letters that local councils of the Washington Education Association (the teachers union) recently sent to legislators.
PubliCola has now obtained one of the letters—this one to Speaker of the House Rep. Frank Chopp (D-43, Wallingford). The letter condemns a pair of education reform bills. It says, in part:
"Our members have contributed time, effort and dollars to candidates we respect and who share our educational values. We have been active and generous regarding candidates on the state level as well...
I hope you will be able to alleviate our concerns by ending any consideration of any bill containing the onerous provisions of of HB 1410 and SB5444 in any form or fashion."
HB 1410 and SB 5444 are education reform bills that do things like allow the state to intervene in failing schools and upgrade graduation requirements—provisions the WEA opposes in lieu of funding, but provisions that reform advocates support. The reformers argue that despite the lack of funding right now, the state must put "a stake in the ground" so specific reforms are queued up when funding becomes available. They also argue that without these specifics, Washington state will lose out on federal dollars. The WEA argues that this is no time to define or mandate reforms, given that schools are reeling from cuts.
Rep. Eddy, who supports the education reform bills, says, "I hope legislators don't cave to this quasi threatening letter. I hope we do the right thing and pass an education reform bill."
Eddy also pointed out that these WEA letters were similar to the controversial emails the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) sent out earlier this year about a different bill—a bill that protected workers from captive anti-union meetings—which the WSLC supported. A now-infamous WSLC email threatened that Democrats wouldn't get "one dime" unless they voted WSLC's way on the bill.
"I don't know how what they're [the WEA] is saying is substantively different from the [WSLC] letter," Eddy says. Eddy acknowledges that the WEA and the WSLC has every right to make support contingent on voting records and says this type of lobbying goes on all the time, but says she thinks it's inappropriate when financial support is made contingent on one vote.
The Democrats—infamously now—didn't cave to the WSLC threat earlier this session, and Rep. Eddy hopes they don't cave to the WEA threat. "What kind of signal do we send?" Eddy asks, "if we cave."
Because of the alleged WSCL threat, the big three atop the Democratic Party—Gov. Chris Gregoire, Sen. Majority Leader Sen. Lisa Brown and Chop—said the WSLC emails raised ethical questions, and so, they didn't vote WSCL's way.
Now that Rep. Eddy has outed the WEA letters, will Democratic leadership be consistent and—to make a similar point—thumb its nose at the WEA's power play?
I have calls in to both the WEA and Rep. Chopp's office to get their statements on the WEA letters.