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Labor opposes surprise charter schools bill

UPDATE — The House voted 58-39 to pass SB 6194 with minor amendments that didn’t alter labor’s opposition. The Senate then concurred on a 26-23 vote. The bill has been delivered to Gov. Jay Inslee. Stay tuned to see whether he signs or vetoes it.

reject-sb-6194OLYMPIA (March 9, 2016) — Leaders of labor organizations across the state are strongly urging state representatives to vote against a last-minute effort to divert state funding to charter schools in a way that gets around a Supreme Court decision finding them unconstitutional. The House will reportedly vote on the Senate-approved legislation (SB 6194) today.

TAKE A STAND — Please call the Legislative Hotline RIGHT NOW at 1-800-562-6000 and leave a message for your state representatives to vote NO on SB 6194.

BACKGROUND — In 2012, after having rejected several charter schools initiatives in previous years, voters narrowly passed Initiative 1240, which allowed limited charter schools by a 50.69 percent majority vote. It passed by about 41,000 of the more than 3 million votes cast. But in September 2015, a 6-3 Supreme Court ruling found that charter schools were not “public schools,” in that their unelected boards had no public accountability, and therefore they cannot receive public funds under the state constitution.

Legislators who support private charter schools sponsored legislation this year that aims to restore public funding to the eight existing charter schools around the state. SB 6194, which passed the Republican-controlled Senate 27-20 earlier this year, would fund the schools from lottery revenue instead of state general funds. Opponents of the bill say that SB 6194 is also unconstitutional because it fails to address the public accountability and governance issue, and still spends public funds on private schools, albeit from a different account.

SB 6194 had stalled in the House Education Committee and failed to advance before its cutoff deadline. But on Tuesday, a surprise procedural move relieved the committee of consideration and made the bill eligible for a floor vote that could happen today (Wednesday). The session is scheduled to end on Thursday.

Labor leaders reacted quickly to SB 6194’s surprise resurrection, calling on state representatives to vote against the bill. They said that legislators should not be diverting precious education funds to a handful of private schools at a time they have failed to respond to the Supreme Court’s mandate to sufficiently fund public education for more than 1 million Washington children.

The following letter, co-signed by the leaders of labor organizations representing hundreds of thousands of members in both the public and private sectors, was sent to state representatives on Tuesday:

Dear House of Representatives Member,

The 89,000 members of the Washington Education Association and their thousands of union brothers and sisters request that you vote no on SB 6194, or any other version of a charter schools bill.  A yes vote will be registered as a bad vote.

Public school students, over 1.1 million strong, have long been waiting for their schools to be fully funded.  The McCleary ruling is clear; it is time to fully fund public schools for all students.

The charter school initiative has been ruled unconstitutional.

Please vote no on any charter proposal.


Kim Mead, President, Washington Education Association; Jeff Johnson, President, Washington State Labor Council; Karen Strickland, President, AFT Washington; John Scearcy, President, Teamsters, Local 117; Lee Newgent, Executive Secretary, Washington State Building and Construction Trades; Todd Crosby, President, United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 21; Diane Sosne, RN, President, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW; Tricia Shroeder, Executive Vice President, SEIU Local 925; Adam Glickman, Secretary Treasurer, SEIU 775; Kent Stanford, President, Washington Public Employees Association; and Greg Devereux, Executive Director, Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28

15-Jeff-JohnsonIn addition, WSLC President Jeff Johnson issued the following open letter to state representatives on Wednesday:

On behalf of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and our 450,000 affiliated rank-and-file members, I ask you to vote no on SB 6194 and on any variation of this bill. Our constitution clearly states that K-12 education is our state’s paramount duty. It doesn’t say that funding charter schools is a fundamental priority.

Let’s fix the real problems before us in K-12 education — fully funding of public education, fixing the teacher shortage crisis, providing wrap-around services for students, lowering class room sizes, etc. — before addressing other issues which divide us and divert our attention from fulfilling our constitutional mandate to the public and our school children.

ALSO at The Stand — Charter schools ruling is a rebuke of the privatization agenda (by Wayne Au, Sept. 17, 2015)

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FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!