2012 Election

Major Education Group Withholds Endorsement in Governor's Race

By Josh Feit September 6, 2012



With Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee getting the teachers' union endorsement and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna getting the ed reform group Stand for Children's endorsement (SFC went with Democrat Chris Gregoire in 2008), many voters who prioritize education had been looking to see what the League of Education Voters would do.

Turns out, they decided not to endorse at all.

While LEV is much more in sync with SFC's reform agenda (such as supporting stricter teacher evaluations), than they are with the union, they're also much more mainstream than Stand for Children—and an endorsement either way would have been a big big deal in an election where education and education funding have taken center stage. (The state supreme court ruled this year that the state had failed in its paramount duty to fund K-12 education and must come up with a plan to do so.)

It would have been huge for either candidate to get LEV's endorsement.

McKenna has made education his top priority and LEV's nod (the group was started by Democrats such as major Democratic donor Nick Hanauer, who flirted with throwing his personal support to McKenna earlier in the campaign) would have solidified McKenna's standing as the education candidate. No such luck.

Meanwhile, Inslee was forced to recalibrate on education issues (in part because of Hanauer) and laid out an education plan that defied the union on the hot-button issue of teacher evaluations, raising his standing with skeptical education voters. If LEV had gone with Inslee it would have been a powerful statement that Inslee is the candidate who can bring warring sides together. No such luck.

I'll say this: LEV's non-endorsement explanation is the best breakdown (and most credible) of the the two candidates' education plans I've seen to date.

Here's what they said:
Rob McKenna’s reform plan is detailed, pro-active and places an emphasis on early learning, a proven strategy to close the achievement gap. He also clearly articulates the need for post-secondary degrees as a means to obtain family-sustaining jobs. However, while McKenna offers a detailed plan for system reform, his education finance plan relies too much on overly optimistic estimates of growth in the state’s economy and a divisive, overly restrictive cap on non-education expenses, LEV concluded. His support for requiring two-thirds majorities to raise revenue and his refusal to consider raising taxes hamstring the state in meeting its constitutional obligation to fully fund education — as laid out in the recent McCleary decision.

Jay Inslee’s plan has grown more substantive since the start of his campaign, and he should be given credit for the continued refinement of his plan. Inslee, too, touts early learning and an emphasis on using what works — solid approaches to improving achievement for Washington’s kids. His support for the recent legislation to strengthen teacher evaluation is a positive sign. However, Inslee’s plan still lacks detail at this late stage and lacks an explicit focus on how to pay for it. Inslee’s support for innovation is clear in the many examples of current programs, schools and projects he includes. However, it makes his opposition to public charter schools that much more disappointing.
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