Today's Winner: Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Jay Inslee

Inslee pulled off an impressive feat today. High-profile representatives from both sides of the heated education debate—the state's teachers' union leader Mary Lindquist and her rival, longtime reformer Lisa Macfarlane (formerly the senior policy director at the League of Education Voters and now the head of Democrats for Education Reform) —were on hand to applaud Inslee's speech at Renton's Talbot Hill Elementary where he unveiled his education plan.

(And don't be fooled the "Democrats" tag in Macfarlane's title. The reason a group like that exists is because Democrats are known for being in lockstep with the teachers' union against the "reform" movement.)[pullquote]Inslee had fierce policy rivals in the same room applauding the same speech.[/pullquote]

Inslee's plan embraces key components of the reform movement such as making teacher and principle evaluations a "significant" piece of management decisions. He also introduced an idea that sounded like it came straight out of the reform movement, pledging to give schools grades and making the data on that public. He's not for charters, but he talked a lot about innovative schools.

Macfarlane, whose education reform ally, LEV fonder Nick Hanauer, recently blasted Inslee for failing on education reform, told me she'd give Inslee an A- on today's speech.Wow. "He gave a great speech. It's a real plan. He put a stake in the ground on a meaningful teacher and principal evaluation system, making them significant factor in management decisions. And he put a focus on innovation and accountability."

I've yet to hear back from Lindquist, but the WEA has already endorsed Inslee and the NEA (the national teachers' union) is Inslee's biggest donor.

Inslee's rival McKenna is also popular with the reform movement—his education plan is basically a blueprint of their agenda, which also includes charters and tying teacher pay to evaluations—not seniority. McKenna has also endorsed the reformers' "A+" Schools plan while Inslee's campaign told me today Inslee does not.)

But whereas Inslee, with his serious WEA backing, can get the union's opponents to show up at his speech (reformer Seattle School Board member Steve Sundquist was also in attendance), you don't see any WEA members at McKenna's education speeches.

So, score a huge symbolic win for Inslee: At a time when polarized bickering is the norm, he got fierce policy rivals in the same room applauding the same speech.

(Major footnote: Both Inslee and McKenna talk in generalities when it comes to the big question—funding. McKenna talks about finding cost savings by scaling back government, and today Inslee talked about saving state money by having a more efficient health care system and ending tax loopholes.)

(Small footnote? I still haven't heard back from Lindquist.)


Lindquist told Jolt:

Jay Inslee today released an education policy that clearly shows he respects and listens to the voice of educators. Jay Inslee believes that, to meet these challenges, it takes a team of educators, parents, community members and lawmakers focused on doing their share to fulfill this state’s paramount duty. WEA members share that belief. There is no question that, as Governor, Jay Inslee will work every day to rejuvenate our state economy by highlighting and emphasizing the priority of a world class public education for our children.
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