Hell hath no fury like the Washington Education Association. The powerful teachers union is targeting Democrats who support a package of education reform bills recently passed by the state Senate and now in consideration in the House. The WEA’s ire when it feels lawmakers are not being obedient is not unusual, but it is usually felt at election time. The union is starting early, taking Democrats to task through social media, attack fliers and Saturday morning doorbelling treks through their neighborhoods.
Union leaders have their right to free speech. They do not have a right to their own set of facts. The flier denouncing Sen. Hobbs is a communique of half-truths that conveniently skip past the nuances contained in the package of education reforms in the state Legislature. Before they tackle Hobbs, the WEA ought to do its homework. Senate Bill 5242 is not an attack on “teacher job security, basic fairness and collective bargaining” that the organization purports. The so-called “mutual consent” bill requires that principals and teachers both agree on a school placement. Currently, principals have little say and teachers sometimes do not either. What is fair about forced placements?
Nor is there an attack on job security. A teacher’s contract with the district remains whether Principal A hires them or not. The WEA ought to be forced to name one effective organization that is forced to hire employees against its will. The WEA warns that in the event that a teacher was not wanted by any principal, that teacher would lose her job. Raise your hands parents if you think the teacher that every principal has taken a pass on should be the one teaching your child?
I suspect the WEA’s field trip to Hobbs’ 44th Legislative District is aimed less at him and more at the House Democrats who can consider themselves forewarned that they support educational improvements at their political peril.
The thing about the WEA’s tactics is that it is unlikely to be helpful with their biggest goal, getting lawmakers to pay upwards of $1.4 billion this legislative session to satisfy the McCleary v. State ruling.
Hobbs is nervous. He’d be a fool not to be. The co-founder of the centrist “Roadkill Caucus – Democrats who vote with Republicans on some issues, for example state budgets and fiscal policies – represents a fickle swing district. Hobbs has gone out on a political limb to fit his principles before. He has consistently voted for gay-rights legislation, including the gay-marriage bill that passed the Legislature, even as his district voted strongly to roll back a domestic-partnership law for same-sex couples.
Former Democratic state party Chairman Paul Berendt, who endorsed Hobbs in a run for Congress last year, called him a “moderate but not conservative…. someone who works with everyone.” But the WEA’s political calculus does not rely on lawmakers who can work with everyone, only lawmakers who can work for them.
If the WEA cared about principled leadership, it would be working with these lawmakers, not against them. At the very least, the organization would stick to the facts rather than hyperbole and lies.