Be Careful What You Wish For

Editorial boards that leapt for joy when Republicans took over the state senate aren't getting exactly what they bargained for.

By Brendan Williams February 26, 2013


Regular Cola contributor Brendan Williams is a former state rep from the 22nd District, and an inconsolable left-winger.

When Republicans took over the Senate with the assistance of quislingRodney Tom (D-48) and longtime de facto Republican Tim Sheldon (D-35), editorial boards turned handsprings over what that takeover meant for their pet priority: education reform.

Consider the unrequited hopes editorial boards are left with. They face a Senate that will not take up their professed passion for education reform, and that will refuse to adequately fund education, too. 


In a representative December 11, 2012 editorial – “A healthy check on Democratic power in Olympia” – the News Tribune accused Democrats of doing the “bidding of the Washington Education Association and other enforcers of the status quo” (as opposed, presumably, to doing the bidding of editorial boards that oppose Democrats).

The paper exulted: “The coup’s sweetest result: The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee falls into the hands of Republicans.”

Yet, as it turns out, the Republican chair of that Republican-controlled committee, Steve Litzow (R-41), couldn’t even move out of his committee a teacher evaluation bill with the support of Tom and conservative Democrat Steve Hobbs (D-44). 

Nor, more importantly, has he shown any willingness–despite his faux moderation–of funding the unpaid bills for K-12 education identified by the Washington Supreme Court in the McCleary decision. The court was clear it would not be bought off with more unfunded reforms stacked upon previous ones (“This court cannot idly stand by as the legislature makes unfulfilled promises for reform.”).

Instead, we are left with empty theater like a Monday Senate Ways & Means hearing to indulge a Rodney Tom solo act that would break the pension promises made to all public workers, including teachers, currently in service if they haven't turned 45 by July 1, 2014 – forcing them out of their current pension plans into 401(k) plans.

Consider the unrequited hopes editorial boards are left with.  They face a Senate that will not take up their professed passion for education reform, and that will refuse to adequately fund education, too. 

In a Monday op/ed, Seattle Times columnist Thanh Tan accused Democrats of being a “fraternity of close-minded, dogmatic zealots” for censuring “moderates” like Sheldon and Tom. After all, “Sheldon still idolizes Democrats from a different era, Presidents John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman.”

Notwithstanding Sheldon’s fondness for Democrats from a half-century ago (I’m a liberal Democrat who idolizes Republican Abraham Lincoln), Tan didn’t point out Sheldon also idolized George W. Bush, Dino Rossi, and Rob McKenna – to whom he gave $600. Nor did she note that he has actually, as far back as 2002, donated thousands in surplus campaign funds to Senate Republicans. So what is it that makes him a “moderate”? 

Furthermore, the same First Amendment that guarantees Tan her freedom to errantly opine also guarantees the political parties their freedom of association.  I do not get to run around and, say, attack Rotary International in newspapers while calling myself a Rotarian.

Last year Democrats blocked $73 million in proposed Senate Republican cuts to K-12 and higher education.  Republicans now control the Senate budget.  In retrospect, editorial boards may come to conclude a Democratic Senate wasn’t so bad after all.

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