MYTH-BUSTING IN EDUCATION 4
AFTER THE STORM 6
PUBLICATION OF FOR THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION FIGHTACONTINUES OPEN GOVERNMENT 8 1
LIVING LIBERTY NOVEMBER 2005
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
YourVoice Protects YourVote
OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE
PEOPLE AND FOR THE PEOPLE…”
ot too long ago, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed launched a public relations campaign on new elections rules, paid for by 2.5 million taxpayer dollars. The theme is, “Your vote is your voice.” Why did Secretary Reed do this? It was all part of a massive effort to reassure voters that the incompetence and dishonesty in the 2004 gubernatorial election had been corrected . . . that all is well. The Secretary of State and the governor, however, have ignored the voice of the people. You turned out in scores at the Governor’s Task Force meetings after the election, calling for the removal of illegal voters from voter rolls and for an effective photo identification requirement. You also voiced the need for re-registration of all Washington voters, which, despite the Secretary of State’s protestations, is completely legal under federal law. Based on the tips you turned up, organizations like EFF undertook investigations of the incompetent and dishonest conduct of elections in this state. Together we have kept election officials’ feet to the fire, even when many in the mainstream media are content to parrot the party line from election officials. Individual citizens, mostly volunteers, invested the enormous amount of time necessary to inspect absentee ballots and the envelopes they were mailed in, compare voter signatures and discover discrepancies. Others pored through voter lists to find felons, the deceased, aliens, and others who were improperly registered. Often working alone, dedicated citizens turned up the information that has led to positive reforms. A good example is Bob Edelman, a retired Boeing engineer from King County. He personally dug through county voter records, made phone calls, and searched the neighborhoods of Seattle for non-existent addresses. His work resulted in the discovery of two federal court judges who were illegally registered.
Not content to stop there, Mr. Edelman served as a poll judge for the September primary in King County. He forwarded his observations of continuing election problems to the King County Council, where his suggested solutions were added to a resolution passed by the county in mid-October. People like Mr. Edelman have made the media wake up to the sad state of elections in Washington. The editorial page editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer came to understand the folly and fraud possibilities of allmail-voting and called for an end to it. The people were willing to let their elected officials know what they found—and to demand action. Of course, the ineptness and dishonesty of the King County elections division was the focus of most public ire. King County executive Ron Sims, who first responded to the controversy about the 2004 election by saying, “We had an accuracy rate that any bank would envy,” has backpedaled for the better part of a year. With his own re-election looming in November, he’s now more critical of the process.
Evergreen Freedom Foundation PO Box 552 Olympia, WA 98507 Address service requested
But the voice of the people has become even more important. No fewer than three review panels were named to look at the King County process. The results were largely a whitewash (noticed even by the mainstream media). At EFF we have been continually amazed by the concern of Washington citizens. In late spring, with just a couple days notice about 165 people turned out for an election reform seminar in Puyallup. Even more people appeared in Shelton a few days later, despite the fact that the weather was beautiful and the event was held on a Friday night. Such turnout told us that people were committed to changing the process, that they were committed to sending a message to the powers-that-be that they were determined to return to government, “by the people, for the people, and of the people.” We don’t see any evidence that the citizens commitment has changed. The battle is not over. The Olympia elite are still trying to wait out the storm. They are making a serious mistake.
NON-PROFIT ORG. U.S. POSTAGE
OLYMPIA, WA PERMIT #462
of the month
“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.” –Sun Tzu
VOLUME 15, Issue 11 EFF’s mission is to advance individual liberty, free enterprise and limited, accountable government.
Editors: Lynn Harsh Marsha Richards
Publisher: Joel Sorrell
Evergreen Freedom Foundation PO Box 552 Olympia, WA 98507 (360) 956-3482 Fax (360) 352-1874 email@example.com • www.effwa.org Living Liberty is a publication of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. Nothing in this publication should be construed as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any legislation.
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3 LETTER FROM LYNN OUR MODERN-DAY TRENTON
4 MYTH-BUSTING IN EDUCATION 5 OPPOSING VIEWS OF ELECTION REFORM EFF RELEASES “BEST PRACTICES” REPORT ON STATE ELECTION REFORMS 6 AFTER THE STORM REMARKS BY FOREST THIGPEN, PRESIDENT OF THE MISSISSIPPI CENTER FOR PUBLIC POLICY, GIVEN AT THE 2005 STATE POLICY NETWORK ROE AWARDS BANQUET.
7 NO DISASTER BIG ENOUGH TO PERMIT SCHOOL CHOICE WASTE WATCHERS PORK SPENDING SOARS TO NEW HEIGHTS
8 9 10 11 12
8 FIGHT CONTINUES FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT 9 EFF SENDS EMERGENCY CLAUSE SURVEY TO LEGISLATORS 10 UNION PICKETED BY ITS OWN STAFF TEACHER UNION OFFICIALS ILLEGALLY USE PUBLIC FACILITIES... AGAIN! 11 LABOR POLICY CENTER UPDATE THE RISE OF A NEW MAJORITY 12 LEAVE A LEGACY
New Tax Legislation Allows Fully Deductible Gifts of Retirement Plan Assets President Bush recently signed tax legislation that allows individuals over age 59 1/2 to make unlimited cash gifts of retirement assets—401(k), 403(b), IRA, and other qualified plans—to any public charitable organization, including EFF.
To take advantage of this new legislation your gift must be received by December 31, 2005. For more information, contact Juliana at 360-956-3482.
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
LetterLET fromTER Lynn FROM LY NN by Lynn Harsh
Our modern-day Trenton
t was not a full-scale battle that turned the tide of the American Revolution. On December 26, 1776, in the midst of a roiling snowstorm, thenCaptain George Washington routed the Hessians at Trenton in a 45-minute “skirmish.” That American victory changed everything. The British decided the Americans were a far more formidable foe than they had previously believed. The American soldiers decided similarly. And Congress, newly inspired, got serious about supporting its fledgling army. Colonel Rall, the Hessian commander who lost his life that day at Trenton, was a hired gun. So were his soldiers. They didn’t have a deep love for British values; they were paid to subdue the American rebels. Captain Washington and his soldiers, however, fought with fervor, despite the fact that they were hungry, wet, and cold. Two soldiers had frozen to death on the way to Trenton. Yet the men were sustained by an intangible promise that promised to become tangible. It was freedom they were fighting for and the opportunity it would afford them and their families. The desire for freedom that kept nearly dead men walking was spelled out in our new Constitution. It was protected there as well—at least as protected as human beings could make it. Our constitution became the legally binding document that served to prevent us from using government to further personal selfish ambitions. Our Founders knew from painful experience and centuries of history that the ability to make laws that affect large or small numbers of people is a power that cannot be granted lightly. To protect freedom from govern-
ment erosion, they decided the sovereigns in America would be the citizens themselves—a startling departure from what the rest of the world had ever known. The standard that is supposed to be used in America to determine whether or not government should insert itself in a particular issue is whether or not it violates the individual rights protected under our Constitution. By its nature, government has no rights of its own. It only has the rights we the people grant it. So here we are, several hundred years after the skirmish at Trenton, once again fighting for freedom. What happened? Freedom only works when we 1) understand the origin of our rights, 2) choose people to represent us who also understand the origin, and 3) are diligent about governing ourselves. Few Americans today understand the origin of our rights, so, for the most part, both the electorate and the pool of candidates from which we select our elected representatives reflect the same ignorance. How are we to hold our elected representatives accountable for adhering to standards which, far too often, neither we nor they understand? And how much need I say about our seeming inability to govern ourselves? I’ll repeat something here that I said a year ago or so in another column: We should never elect individuals who legislate as if the state is more important than its citizens; as if citizens exist to serve the government; as if collective rights are more important than individual rights. When elected officials believe group “rights” are more important than individual rights, a dangerous hybrid of totalitarianism has begun that will eventually compromise everybody’s liberty.
A free society has virtues worth preserving at high cost, but its nature makes it vulnerable and somewhat unstable. The foundation and protection freedom requires cannot be maintained under the guidance of collectivists. We should never doubt the counsel that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Russell Kirk wrote and spoke about the set of invisible principles that shape and control any society. 1. Their set of moral convictions, meaning the relationship between • God and man • vice and virtue • honesty and dishonesty • honor and dishonor 2. Their set of political convictions, meaning the relationship between • justice and injustice • freedom and tyranny • personal rights and power and their decisions about how to live together peaceably 3. Their set of economic convictions, meaning the relationship between • wealth and poverty • public and private responsibili ties regarding making a living • how they will distribute goods and services Some view Kirk’s outline as too simplistic, but it seems to me he has pretty much nailed it. It’s a rare occurrence to hear public debate and honest inquiry about these principles. Instead we have denigrated into selfish partisan and special interest shouting matches that have about as much intellectual depth as a mud puddle. We can change this. At times we may be tempted to give up, but this is really never an option. The “skirmish” at Tren-
ton is a good reminder of several fundamental principles. • Certain battles may seem insignificant, but in the course of events, faithfulness to winning the smaller battles can turn the tide entirely. • A good leader (or two or three) is hard to come by, but is indispensable to victory. • Fervent belief and passion in a cause is the lifeblood of a movement. It will bring life back to bodies frozen by discouragement, affluence, greed or ignorance. • Leaders and their followers who are merely hired guns are defeatable. I’ll end with a quote David McCullough used in his marvelous book 1776. It’s what George Washington asked of his bone-weary troops on December 30, of that year. “My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected, but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you can probably never do under any other circumstance.” The stakes are high for us today as well. But unlike Washington and his soldiers, we are not worn out by cold, hunger and neglect. Surely we can “render that service to the cause of liberty,” for in this modern day, we “know not how to spare you” either.
Myth-busting in education by Marsha Richards
t’s becoming more and more difficult to deny the crisis of low student achievement in our state’s schools, but certain widely accepted myths are blocking necessary reform: Myth #1: Academic expectations are higher than ever. Myth #2: Poor performance in schools can be blamed on inadequate funding. Myth #3: Every teacher in our state classrooms is highly qualified and poorly paid. Myth #4: Public schools are already pursuing and implementing proven best practices. Myth #5: Education is too complicated for average people to understand. We need to dispel these myths and open the door to proven academic solutions.
Myth #1: Academic expectations are higher than ever. “Today, with tough new academic standards in place, some wonder if we are asking too much of students,” laments state Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson in her 2002-2007 strategic plan. State education officials are feeling the crunch. Federal law requires results for dollars spent and a new state high school graduation requirement goes into effect for this year’s tenth-grade students. A significant majority of students and an increasing number of schools are failing to meet the standards. Are the standards too high? No. Unfortunately, they’re quite low. Here are the facts: • A recent study published by Achieve, Inc. (a nonpartisan research organization commissioned by state education officials) compared content standards on the 10th grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) and similar exams in six other
Math Standards • “Overall, [Washington’s math standards] are poorly written and needlessly voluminous. … Other standards have little to do with mathematics. … The standards also include classroom activities that are untestable and only marginally related to mathematics.” • “The math standards devoted to problem solving are of especially low quality. Instead of specifying types of problems that students should be able to solve, the Washington standards give long, repetitive lists of vague, generic tasks.” • “A mathematics problem should be clearly stated; it should contain all of the information needed to solve it; and it should have a definite answer. The sample problems in Washington standards violate all three of these criteria. … Such problems risk miseducating students to believe that mathematics itself is ambiguous, a matter of opinion, and without definite answers.” • The fifth grade math standards show “a fundamental misinterpretation of the meaning of fractions.”
states to international exams and the ACT (college admissions test). For Washington, the study concluded: 1) writing standards are strong; 2) reading standards are “relatively strong” when ranked with other states, but amount to 8th or 9th grade content on the national ACT; and 3) math standards are the lowest among the seven-state comparison, amounting to 6th or early 7th grade content internationally. Scoring “proficient” on the WASL isn’t necessarily impressive. Depending on the subject, students must earn between 58 and 75 percent of the total points possible. A 2005 review completed by the nationally respected Thomas B. Fordham Foundation gives Washington an “F” for both its math and English standards. (See Fordham below) ACT, Inc., concludes that “a number of college readiness skills are not covered by Washington’s standards in English/language arts, mathematics, and science. These college readiness skills are necessary for students to acquire if they are to be ready for collegelevel coursework.” ACT further states: “Without any improvement in the rigor of the core courses, additional higher level courses are necessary for students to be prepared.”
Myth #2: Poor performance in schools can be blamed on inadequate funding. We’ve heard this claim so often and for so long that many people simply accept it as true. But is it? When asked, few people can answer two key questions: 1. How much are we currently spending on K-12 public education in our state? 2. How much is enough? The answer to the first question for 2003-04 is “an average of $9,688 per student per year.” Current spend-
English Standards • “The 2004 standards are much less rigorous than . Some grade-level expectations are specific and can be used for assessments, but a large number are processes, strategies, or pretentious statements with no clear academic objective—reductionist in goal and often incomprehensible.” • “Although the document never provides titles of literary texts as examples of grade-level expectations, it regularly provides examples of social and political topics to guide literary reading.” • “Washington should eliminate those standards for the English language arts that seem to serve as expressions of some person’s or group’s particular political and social goals. Instead, it should craft sound and comprehensive academic expectations for literary study through the grades.”
ing is higher. Many private schools cost roughly onethird this amount. The second question is more difficult to answer because it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint how current dollars are being spent in our schools. What we do know is that roughly 42.5 percent of all spending goes toward what the Superintendent of Public Instruction defines as “basic instruction.” An additional 17 percent goes toward special education, vocational/skills training, and other forms of targeted academic assistance. Do we really need to spend four out of every ten dollars outside the classroom? Can we really claim that all dollars are being spent as efficiently and effectively as possible to achieve academic proficiency for students? In 2002, when former Governor Gary Locke asked agencies to clearly identify their goals and prioritize activities based on how to most effectively achieve those goals, our superintendent of public instruction refused to participate. In 2004, her office participated, by identifying just one “expected result” for some $9 billion in expenditures: “By 2007, develop and implement an improved K-12 education funding model, in partnership with the legislature, school districts, and other educational partners.” This illustrates one of the key problems with our state’s education funding structure: We don’t have clear and measurable goals. If we don’t know what we want to achieve (outcomes), how will we know what it takes to achieve it (inputs)? Myth #3: Every teacher in our state classrooms is highly qualified and poorly paid. Ask almost any teacher you know, and she’ll tell you she has colleagues who shouldn’t be in the classroom. Unfortunately, state policy protects bad teachers at the expense of good ones. Teachers in our state are paid based not on how well they do their jobs, but on how long they’ve had them and how many degrees they have. Thus, excellent teachers with proven ability to get results are arbitrarily punished, while less competent teachers who shouldn’t be in the classroom at all are protected. This discourages the best and brightest from entering or remaining in the teaching profession. We can already see the effects in the statistics: Among Washington students who took the SAT in 2004, those who intended to become teachers scored lower (on average) in math than every other intended profession except Home Economics, Public Affairs and Technical/Vocational. They did only slightly better on the verbal portion of the test. Are teachers poorly paid? In the 2003-04 school year, the average teacher in Washington state earned a salary of $45,444 and total compensation worth $62,653. While it’s quite possible demonstrably excellent teachers could earn more if they were free to compete professionally, teachers in general are not taking a vow of poverty. A beginning teacher in Washington earns $29,149 plus benefits. Again, and unlike almost all other professions, there is little (if any) connection between a teacher’s ability (results) and compensation. Myth #4: Public schools are already pursuing and implementing proven best practices. Our K-12 public education system is a monopoly. As a result, it is not often responsive to the needs and desires of its captive consumers. Currently, taxpayers spend tens of millions of dollars on academic programs that don’t work. Unfortunately, each program represents the livelihood, reputation and daily routine of numerous individuals, who as a group will fiercely defend its existence. Consider our learning assistance and bilingual education programs. Our state’s learning assistance program (LAP) has the worthy goal of providing temporary assistance to students who are struggling in school. Achieving this goal, however, requires more than good intentions. A report published in 2002 by the taxpayer-funded Washington Continued on next page
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
Opposing views of election reform by Jonathan Bechtle
any government leaders and activist groups recognize the need for election reform, but not all are approaching it from the same viewpoint. This truth came home to me when I traveled to Columbus, Ohio, in early October, to share with activists and government leaders the lessons EFF has learned in our effort to reform Washington’s election system. During my time there, I found two very different views of election reform. One viewpoint was espoused at a conference I attended on the first day of my trip, hosted by a trio of liberal (progressive) policy groups. Assuming that the legislators, candidates, and advocates attending would disagree with many of EFF’s recommendations for election reform, I was purposefully vague about my ideology. I was “just there to learn.” My assumption turned out to be true. All agreed that voting is an absolute right that should be made as easy as possible. Attendees advocated giving all felons
the right to vote, doing away with photo identification requirements, allowing Election Day registration, and increasing the use of absentee ballots as much as possible. Sincerity was plain on the faces of all the participants as they rose to offer support for these recommendations. Despite this laudable desire for change, all of the reforms proposed will dangerously weaken the security of elections. Since sincerity will translate into action, however, I left the conference with the conviction that, if we don’t continue to support meaningful reform, these non-solutions will fill the void. On the flip-side, later in my trip I met with several Ohio activists and government leaders who are working on constructive solutions for their election system. Over breakfast I shared EFF’s viewpoint on elections: Convenience must be balanced with security, and voting should only be open to those who meet the eligibility requirements. Precautions like photo
identification for registration and voting are reasonable and necessary to restore voter confidence. Many agreed with our recommendations, and took our material with them to spread the word in their circles of influence. I shared these lessons again at a later meeting with the legislative director for the Ohio Secretary of State, and she was excited to apply what we had learned to legislation currently moving through the Ohio Senate. This legislation already included many excellent reforms, some of which we may recommend to Washington legislators. As a result of the meeting, Ohio may use our suggested language for an effective photo identification requirement. My trip convinced me that groups like EFF must continue trumpeting the need for meaningful election reform. Many leaders see the need, but often are turning to weak or even dangerous solutions. EFF can act as a resource and support reforms that will actually make a difference.
EFF releases “Best Practices” report on state election reforms by Jonathan Bechtle
lection results are supposed to reflect the will of the people by placing in office those who received a majority vote. In the last five years, however, hanging chads in Florida and multiple recounts in Washington have cast doubt on the integrity of the voting process. Our election system should precisely and securely distribute, receive, and count ballots, while also allowing all eligible voters a chance to cast a ballot. Congress addressed concerns about the election process by passing the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), but each state has the responsibility to implement the needed changes. In many cases, states need greater reform than the minimum requirements of HAVA. To facilitate this implementation, EFF has produced “A Blueprint for Change: Recommendations on Election Reform for States.” After examining election practices in all 50 states, the report highlights state “best practices” in four main areas: • Voter registration requirements and enforcement; • The development of, updating procedures for, and attempts to maintain accuracy of statewide voter databases as required by HAVA, including the removal of ineligible registrants and duplications;
• Best voting practices including requirements for voter identification, best procedures for handling provisional ballots, and, as absentee voting expands in this nation, identifying the best known procedures for the prevention of fraud and abuse of the system; and • A review of efforts by states to increase security for, and the accuracy of, electronic voting machines. Suggestions to the states are important, because state and local governments have broad discretion in the conduct of state and local elections. Recognizing this, the National Commission on Federal Election Reform co-chaired by former President Jimmy Crater, recently issued 87 specific recommendations for state election practices. While we agree with many of the recently issued recommendations contained in their 2005 report, EFF recommends that states go further. With this report, EFF continues its tradition of providing solutions to problems. Implementation of the recommendations in this report offers a chance for America to improve election structures, re-establish transparency in the system, and rebuild citizen confidence in the elections process.
Myth-busting continued from page 4 . . . Public Policy Institute concluded that “on average, students identified as receiving [learning assistance] services had slightly smaller (rather than larger) performance gains than other low-scoring students.” This conclusion was accompanied by a disclaimer about the limitations of data for review, which highlights the need for an objective evaluation of the program. To date, no long-term studies have been completed to determine its overall effectiveness. Yet the state continues to increase spending for learning assistance. And then there’s bilingual education. Between 1997 and 2002, less than ten percent of the students in our state’s transitional bilingual education program were able to transition into mainstream English classes. Less than two percent went on to graduate from high school. Parents know our state’s bilingual education program is a failure. A recent column in the Seattle Times credited the presence of a successful “language immersion” program at the John Stanford Elementary School in Seattle for high demand among parents in that city. Some parents even rented phantom apartments in an attempt to get around geographical residence requirements.
Choice and competition (empowering parents) can change the district’s tune in a hurry. In Seattle, 25 percent of all parents choose to pay double (taxes for public schools and tuition for private) and send their children to private schools. Declining enrollments have school officials wracking their brains to figure out how to attract those parents back into public schools. Voila: Competition. A plan was recently announced to replicate the successful bilingual program used at Stanford Elementary in other public schools. The improved quality resulting from competition benefits all parents, but especially those who haven’t the means to pay for better alternatives. Myth #5: Education is too complicated for average people to understand. Many parents, members of the media, and other concerned citizens are overwhelmed by the complexity of education policy. They often feel unqualified to question the decisions made and the products offered. This needs to change. Educational outcomes are not complicated and parents are usually the best qualified to
know if their children are getting what they need. The goal of our state’s schools should be literacy. In a successful system (which may not look like one system, but many), a large majority of students will be able to demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, mathematics and the sciences, as well as knowledge of our cultural, scientific and historical heritage. We will know if we’re achieving this goal because students will be able to successfully enter the workforce, pursue and earn college degrees, and create and achieve their many unique dreams. Our current education system is failing to deliver on this promise, and a large part of the solution is to put parents back in the driver’s seat where they belong. Conclusion It’s time to get past the myths creating obstacles to meaningful reform in our state’s schools. We can do it by sharing facts. Please join the effort and spread the word!
carried across the beach and the highway and set down on top of a two story Holiday Inn— proving that a rising tide truly does lift ALL boats. In Biloxi, 5,000 of the 25,000 structures are gone— not heavily damaged, but totally destroyed, and many more will be condemned as unsafe for habitation. The beautiful, historic towns of Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian, which survived Hurricane Camille in 1969, are virtually leveled, with 90 percent of the structures gone. One hundred miles inland, in the city of Laurel, more than half the buildings were heavily damaged or totally destroyed. You’ve seen how Louisiana and New Orleans officials responded. Let me tell you how Mississippi responded. Governor Haley Barbour begged people to leave the Coast before the storm hit and acted quickly to reverse the southbound interstate lanes to aid in the evacuation effort. The governor announced early and often that he had ordered all law enforcement officers to, quote, “deal with looters ruthlessly.” He then CALMLY appeared each day at news conferences, where he CALMLY gave his assessment of the situation, and he CALMLY reassured everyone that the Coast would rebound. He spent as much time as he could on the Coast to reassure people in person, but he also spent many hours each day doing what you know he does best—exhausting his vast Rolodex to get private donations of relief supplies that were so badly needed on the Coast. And, he knows a few people in government, and he called them as well. You haven’t heard a lot of complaints from Mississippi about the lack of federal response because there have been very few complaints. I’ve talked to reporters, legislators, volunteers who have been to the Coast, and people who live there, and they all confirm that there have been very few complaints. The prevailing attitude seems to be driven by some confusion: “Why should we be mad about the government not coming to help? That’s not their job; it’s ours.” The Building Officer in Pascagoula, home of the Chevron refinery and NorthropGrumman Shipbuilding, was quoted in the newspaper as saying, “We’ve always taken the opinion that outside help is nice, and we appreciate it. But we don’t want to depend on it.” This week, the governor told the legislature about one of his wife’s many relief missions to the Coast. She and some state law enforcement officers took supplies to a family with eight children whose house trailer had been destroyed. The people took a part, but they wouldn’t take everything— they wanted to leave enough for others to have. They told Mrs. Barbour that there was a widow, a shut-in who lived down the road that would need help. They told her to be careful not to miss a little road just down the way—one that was easy to miss—because four or five families lived down that road and would need help, too. As the governor said, “These are poor people, who had virtually nothing before the storm, and lost what little they had, and their concern is for others to get help.” Folks, this is Mississippi, and it’s why I’m proud to be a Mississippian. In my state, we are all family. (Not literally, of course...that’s Alabama.) But we all help each other and would never dream of expecting government to do what the family is supposed to do. It’s that spirit that gives me hope that this disaster can truly bring a renaissance not only the way we build our infrastructure, but in the way we think of ourselves and what role we expect government to play. Of course, not everyone holds that view under normal circumstances. But I’m hoping that the response of the people in these unusual times will remind us of the way things are supposed to be in the normal times.
Leisha Pickering, wife of Congressman Chip Pickering (and daughter-in-law of Judge Charles Pickering), responded to the immediate aftermath of the storm by working with many churches across denominational lines in the Jackson area to create a distribution center for goods that were being sent from all over the country. Every day, 400-500 volunteers would unload trucks of stuff (most of which arrived unannounced), sort the stuff, rebox it according to the needs that had been called in from shelters around the state, put it in pickups, on trailers, or any other vehicle that would then be driven by volunteers to wherever they were needed. My favorite quote of Leisha’s is this: “Because there’s no bureaucracy, we are able to respond to within hours to every request for help.” Churches have responded very biblically to the storm. Virtually all of the shelters in the Jackson area were run by churches. The Southern Baptist Disaster Response Teams were on the ground within 48 hours of the storm, serving up to a half-million meals per day throughout the region, including Louisiana. Churches from all over the country have sent teams to help in the relief stage, now the clean-up stage, and there is a growing interest among churches in helping rebuild the homes of people who were without flood insurance. And, on that topic, the flood plains were drawn according to the water levels reached during Hurricane Camille in 1969, a category 5 hurricane. Since the Europeans settled in what is now Mississippi, flood waters have never passed those lines. This storm surge went at least twice as far inland as Camille’s. EFF President Bob Williams (pictured For people outside the flood plain to have above) and the staff of EFF are working bought flood insurance would be akin to your with other think tank leaders to prepare buying more health insurance or life insurfree-market solutions for Mississippi Gov. ance than you need. Haley Barbour (pictured below). Well, what’s next? Two weeks after the storm, Governor Barbour told the legislature, “The crucial thing we should never forget is that private capital, entrepreneurs, and small business people are going to have more to do with how the Coast comes back than all the governments in the world.” He has created a Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal— which he refers to as the “Renaissance Commission”— to develop a plan for revitalizing and revolutionizing the Coast. It’s an advisory commission, and the plans will be up to the local folks to implement. But they are inviting the advice of experts. The Commission’s report is due to the governor by the end of the year, but the real work will be done in the committees they have created, and their work is due by early December. So, basically, we have two months to get our free-market ideas into the Continued on page 8
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
Waste Watchers PR I O R I T I ES M AT T ER
Pork spending soars to new heights
s the sale of Alaskan salmon a priority of the federal government? Apparently, it is. A $500,000 federal grant was recently used to paint an Alaskan Airlines jet to look like a salmon, in an attempt to boost salmon sales. It seems painting commercial jets is just as important as the war in Iraq, the War on Terror, and disaster relief. Alaskan Airlines now has a very large, very expensive flying fish, thanks to misspent tax dollars. This flying billboard is only a small part of the tax dollars being
spent on convincing people to eat Alaskan salmon. Over the past two years, the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board has spent $29 million in tax dollars on the marketing campaign, and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute receives $5 million each year for the same purpose. If Alaskan salmon really needs large flying billboards, that should be an investment of those trying to sell the fish, especially considering all the money our federal government is shelling out already. And who is going to be up at 30,000 feet to see the flying billboard, anyway?
NO DISASTER BIG ENOUGH TO PERMIT
SCHOOLCHOICE by Neal McCluskey
atrina was one of the most devastating hurricanes to ever strike the United States. Federal, state, and local governments’ responses to it, sadly, were almost as calamitous. For some politicians, though, there has never been a disaster big enough to convince them to loosen government’s grip on the people. Just take a look at education: Whether it’s parents from hurricane-ravaged Louisiana trying to get their children’s education back on track, or just parents faced with hopeless public schools, government has consistently stood in the way of families trying to help themselves. Recently, as part of its disaster relief package, the Bush administration outlined a plan to provide federal educational relief to the families whose lives were destroyed by Katrina. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the administration is “proposing up to $2.6 billion in funding for elementary, secondary and post secondary relief” including “up to $488 million to compensate families for the costs associated with attending private schools.” That last part translates into federal school vouchers. Without question, there are excellent grounds to oppose Bush’s plan, including the vouchers. Perhaps the most compelling one is that the Constitution grants the federal government no specific, enumerated, power—the only kind it may legitimately exercise—over either education or disaster relief, and if the government has proven one thing in the aftermath of Katrina, it is its complete inability to handle anything it was not specifically designed to confront. This, however, is not even close to objections to Bush’s plan voiced by most of its opponents. They are happy to involve the federal government in both disaster relief and education. What they object to is any proposal that might give victims even a little educational freedom.
Sen. Edward Kennedy demonstrated this in a press release late last month. He said that although he applauded the administration’s relief efforts, he was “extremely disappointed that [Bush] has proposed providing this relief using such a politically-charged approach. This is not the time for a partisan political debate on vouchers.”
That said, pressed to not completely ignore the desires of the roughly one-third of parents in hard-hit southeastern Louisiana who had sent their kids to private schools
before Katrina, Kennedy is reportedly preparing to offer them his own, big-government brand of assistance: a convoluted proposal to dispense through public schools all aid for displaced students attending private and religious schools. According to a recent report in Congressional Quarterly, Kennedy’s plan would route all relief funds for students in private schools through local public school districts, which would then supply private schools with books, computers, and teachers, as well as oversee all expenditures. In addition, all instruction would have to be taught on a non-ideological and non-sectarian basis. Details of this proposal are still being worked out, so nothing is set in stone. But from what we have so far, it seems Kennedy’s concept of compassion is either to push thousands of Katrina’s youngest victims into public schools, or to push public schools under private school roofs. Of course, government compassion ending when politicians and special interests might lose control is nothing new—education has proven it for decades. Kennedy, countless other politicians at every level of government, and special interest groups ranging from teachers’ unions to school board associations have long preferred to trap students in disastrous public schools rather than give parents choice. Apparently, they aren’t about to let some natural disaster change that. Despite their objections, none of those who feed from the government trough can change the fact that the private sector has always been far more reliable than government, whether in education or disaster relief. Indeed, much as Wal-Mart provided water and filled prescriptions well before FEMA arrived in the Gulf Coast, private schools all over America, often at their own expense, took in refugee students before hearing a peep from Washington. Even the prestigious Phillips Academy in Massachusetts enrolled 19 displaced students according to Education Week, five of whom had attended public schools before the catastrophe. For politicians like Ted Kennedy, though, none of that matters. There will never be enough proof either of government failure or private sector success to justify getting government out of the way and letting parents take control of their children’s education. Neal McCluskey is an education policy analyst at the Cato Institute (www.cato.org).
After the Strom continued from page 6 . . . plans. They have created 12 committees, covering topics ranging from land use and other infrastructure issues, to public finance, to education, health care, and several others. The primary goal is to create a region that will invite private capital to rebuild the area. I’ve talked with the director of the commission, who is a friend of mine— and is a movement conservative— and he asked me for a list of experts who can be involved in the committee process. Bridgett Wagner, Tracie Sharp, Bob Williams, and Scott Hodge have taken the lead in helping me develop a network of experts we can call on, both to participate in the committees’ deliberations, and also to provide white papers or other perspective on issues that come up along the way. This is a very complex issue involving every imaginable aspect of public policy, and I invite your help. The Mississippi Center for Public Policy’s newlydesigned website was scheduled to go live in mid-Sep-
WE CAN’T DO
EVERYTHING WE WANT TO DO, WHAT ARE THE CORE FUNCTIONS OF GOVERNMENT—THOSE THINGS WE SHOULD DO?” tember and feature some nifty new tools to help people see the data for their local school districts for the past twelve years, drawing graphs and comparing their districts with others. But right now, nobody cares how much money was spent in schools last year. So, our site will now feature the papers that have already been produced by Heritage, Reason, AEI, and others. We’ve also been working with Geoff Segal from Reason, Ron Utt from Heritage, and Bob Williams, among others, to help us do some papers that will be published by us alone or jointly with their organizations. Since many of these communities have no tax base, it’s a good time to ask, “Since we can’t do everything we want to do, what are the core functions of government— those things we should do?” What are some alternatives to government financing of public structures, such as the deal struck a few years ago in the District of Columbia, of all places, where a private company built a school at no cost to the taxpayers in exchange for some land the school wasn’t using anyway? The company built an apartment building on that land, and they are using the revenue from that to pay off the privately-underwritten, but tax-preferred bonds they issued to build the school. Many of you have sent ideas to me, and I appreciate that very much. Keep ‘em coming. Even if it’s just a passing thought, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As you can imagine, many of my financial supporters are now struggling themselves. And, since Mississippi is family, the people in the rest of the state have been giving generously to the relief effort. When I mentioned that just briefly in a message I sent out a couple of weeks after the storm, I was overwhelmed by the response. Lynn Harsh from Evergreen, Tracie, Bob, and Bridgett, all acted immediately, and we even had a number of personal contributions from people in this audience. Dan Peters and Shirley Roe saw the opportunity and responded generously, and I am grateful for that. In Mississippi, we have a long way to go, and although I’m proud of our response so far, the story is still being written. But we have a chance now to dream of how to recreate communities in a way that restores our founders’ views of what an American community ought to be. If we do this right, then 10 years from now, when you think of Mississippi, you will think not of the winds of a hurricane that brought death and destruction, but the winds of freedom that brought hope and—winds that began in Mississippi in 2005 and swept across the land to your state as well. Note from EFF staff: Now you know why we encouraged our donors to remember Forrest and our sister think tank, the Mississippi Center for Public Policy. We are very proud to call him friend and colleague.
Fight continues for open government by Jason Mercier
The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created. The public records subdivision of this chapter shall be liberally construed and its exemptions narrowly construed to promote this public policy. - RCW 42.17.251
uilding on my acceptance last month as a board member for the Washington Coalition for Open Government (WCOG), I had the honor of serving as a panelist on the Attorney General’s public records forum in Olympia on October 3. Sponsored by the Olympian, other forum participants included Attorney General Rob McKenna, McKenna’s public records specialist Greg Overstreet, fellow WCOG board member and State Auditor Brian Sonntag, Olympian Executive Editor Vickie Kilgore, and Olympian Editorial Editor Mike Oakland. Among the issues frequently mentioned at the forum was whether or not government officials are entitled to deny a public records request on the basis of attorneyclient privilege. You may recall this controversy arose out of a state Supreme Court decision concerning the Seattle monorail. In its Hangartner ruling, the Court held that even though there was no pending litigation concerning the monorail’s financial documents at the time of the records request, the details were not subject to public disclosure due to attorney-client privilege. As noted by the Olympian in a September 30 editorial, this broad-based exemption likely cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Hangartner contended that it was impossible to build the monorail on the tax base government officials had put forward. He wanted access to financial documents to prove or disprove his theory. It turns out Hangartner was exactly right. Seattle officials pulled the plug on the monorail project just last week when the finances didn’t pencil out. But Seattle officials fought Hangartner’s requests for records every step of the way, saying they were protected under attorney-client privilege. Unfortunately, the state Supreme Court ruled against Hangartner in a 5-4 decision. Had officials disclosed those records in a timely fashion, millions and millions of public tax dollars could have been saved. Along with the issue of attorney-client privilege, I raised the problem of government officials signing nondisclosure agreements with private companies concerning tax subsidies. This occurred with former Governor Locke’s Boeing deal and the pending NASCAR racetrack proposal. Focusing on lessons learned from EFF’s battle to obtain the full details of Locke’s Boeing deal, I stressed the fact that details concerning taxpayer subsidies should not be subject to redaction or non-disclosure. Next Steps Suggesting that the Attorney General may want to submit legislation next session to strengthen the state’s public records law, I offered the following reforms: • Restrict attorney-client privilege exemption. Only those records subject to pending litigation should be exempt from public disclosure on the
basis of attorney-client privilege. After all, government lawyers work for the people first, then for the government. The people are ultimately the clients. • Increase penalty violations. The current penalties for violating the public records law range from $5 to $100 a day. This is a flat per day penalty, not per record per day. To increase government’s incentive to liberally adhere to the state’s public records law, penalties should be increased and assessed per record to serve as a necessary deterrent to records violations. These increased penalties should then be indexed to increase with inflation. The cost of copies of public records should also be indexed to inflation. • Move toward civil penalties. Along with increasing the penalties for records violations, the state should follow the lead of Idaho and Texas and adopt civil penalties to hold government officials directly responsible for records violations. Under current law, if a penalty is awarded, it is the taxpayers, not those who violated the law, who are responsible for paying the penalty. • Sunset review for exemptions. Numerous exemptions to records disclosure have been added since the people adopted the public records act three decades ago. These exemptions should be subject to a sunset review to see if they are still necessary and whether or not they comply with the original intent of the people’s public records act. • Create a public records advocate. Last year Representatives Toby Nixon and Kathy Haigh introduced a bill to create a public records ombudsman. The records ombudsman would; “Provide training and legal advice to public agencies and the public regarding the provisions of the Public Records Act; investigate the refusal of an agency to provide public records; provide legal representation to individuals that have a legal claim to public records; provide training to state and local agencies on agency responsibilities under open public meetings; establish and maintain a public records clearinghouse and an informational web site; and submit annual reports to the Attorney General and the appropriate committees of the Legislature analyzing the work of the office.” This proposal should be reconsidered by the legislature next session. Without adequate access to public records, the goal of ensuring transparent and accountable government becomes increasingly difficult. This is why we will continue to fight for the above reforms and for the people’s right to know.
“We truly appreciate all the work that EFF has does to hold government accountable.”
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
EFF sends emergency clause survey to legislators by Jason Mercier
ollowing the events of the 2005 Legislative Session and a summer Supreme Court case, EFF is asking legislators if they support reform of the oft-abused emergency clause exemption to the people’s right of referendum. Washington’s constitution clearly states that “the people reserve to themselves the power to propose bills, laws, and to enact or reject the same at the polls, independent of the legislature, and also reserve power, at their own option, to approve or reject at the polls any act, item, Section, or part of any bill, act, or law passed by the legislature.” There is one exemption to the right of referendum, however: Article 2, Section 1: “The second power reserved by the people is the referendum, and it may be ordered on any act, bill, law, or any part thereof passed by the legislature, except such laws as may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, support of the state government and its existing public institutions....” This is what is referred to as an “emergency clause.” During the past session, legislators applied the emergency clause to nearly 100 bills, claiming crises such as: • HB 1397 – Adopting California vehicle emissions standards, even though this emergency legislation will not go into effect until the 2009 car model year. • HB 2255 – Rolling back some of the unemployment insurance reforms adopted two years ago. • SB 5034 – Amending Initiative 134 to allow unions and corporations to make campaign contributions in excess of original limits adopted. • SB 6078 – Amending Initiative 601 to suspend the 2/3 vote threshold mandated to raise taxes, effective immediately and until June 2007. • SB 6096 – Amending Initiative 402 to create a standalone death (estate) tax. • SB 6103 – Increasing transportation taxes/fees, with gas tax increases occurring on July 1, 2005-2008.
Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch): Yes “In my 15 years in the Washington State Legislature, I’ve seen the emergency clause language terribly misused. For example, building a professional sport stadium can’t possibly be an emergency. However, possible legislation regarding a flu pandemic is clearly an emergency. My observation is that emergency clauses are clearly used for political purposes nearly every time and should be reformed to reflect the views of the framers of our state Constitution.”
The legislature misused the emergency clause provision to prevent voters from potentially using referendums to overturn decisions they made. Any doubt that this is true can be dispelled by the following exchange between Sen. Jim Honeyford and Sen. Karen Keiser. It occurred on January 27, at a Senate Hearing, concerning the addition of an emergency clause to SB 5097. This bill required that 15 percent of total labor hours on state public works projects estimated to cost $1 million or more be performed by apprentices. Sen. Honeyford: “If it’s already in existence, then what is the emergency? I see nothing here that’s for the public health, safety, peace, support of state government. It’s already in existence, so I think we abuse the emergency clause thing, and I think this is another example.” Sen. Keiser: “It’s unfortunate, but the legislative intent has been several times revoked by actions following the legislature’s adjournment through various devices [emphasis added] that are now available. I think if we don’t have an emergency clause on controversial bills [emphasis added] like this, that we will find the same kind of practice being utilized, and I think we need to make,
as a legislature our intent not only clear, but effective.” Sen. Honeyford: “With that discussion, it seems like then that this emergency clause is to abrogate, I guess, the rights of citizens to bring some further actions if they’re opposing this, and I think that is wrong when we shut out the citizens from the process.” We agree with Senator Honeyford. This is why we challenged the legislature’s use of emergency clause to gut I-601, our state’s previous spending ceiling. The state Supreme Court ruled in the legislature’s favor, but the minority opinion issued by Justice Richard Sanders was scathing to say the least: The majority betrays the sacred trust the people of this state place in this court to preserve inviolate their constitutional right to veto unwanted legislation through referendum. A legislature determined to inoculate itself from referendum, a secretary of state determined to violate his statutory and constitutional duty to allow a referendum petition to at least circulate, combined with a supreme court openly hostile to the people’s check on the legislature, brews a potent poison to the people’s constitutional role in the legislative process. Justice Sanders went on to say: Where the legislature uses an emergency clause simply to avoid a referendum rather than respond in good faith to a true ‘emergency’ as defined by Washington Constitution article II, section 1(b); where the secretary of state declines to discharge a clear ministerial duty; and where the court essentially delegates its independent role as a constitutional guardian to the legislative branch of government in its power struggle against the popular branch of government; I find little left of the people’s right of referendum. As a result of the Court’s unwillingness to protect the people’s right of referendum, constitutional reforms are now necessary. So, in October, EFF sent a survey to lawmakers to gauge their support for a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislature to enact an emergency clause. The EFF Emergency Clause Survey reads in-part: To ensure the people’s right of referendum is secure, any enactment of the emergency clause should be limited to true emergencies. Constit utional reforms, such as the following model language, are now necessary to protect the referendum right:
Article 2, Section 1: (b) Referendum. The second power reserved by the people is the referendum, and it may be ordered on any act, bill, law, or any part thereof passed by the legislature, except such laws as declared by a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house with full compliance with Section 12, Article III, of the Washington Constitution, may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, support of the state government and its existing public institutions.... Should the legislature’s use of the emergency clause be reformed?
Rep. Jim Buck (R-Joyce): Yes “The emergency clause has been turned into a procedural move to get around the voters of Washington. It needs to be reformed so it can not be used to circumvent the state constitution.”
If yes, do you support a constitutional two-thirds vote threshold for enactment of an emergency clause? A two-thirds vote threshold is a reasonable expectation for the legislature to reach in order to enact an emergency clause. If a true emergency exists, both political parties will be able to recognize it. The people’s right of referendum should only be suspended in those instances of a real emergency, not for political expediency. Legislators have been asked to return their survey by November 18. If you believe this is an important issue, please contact your legislators and encourage them to return the survey. We will post the results on our website.
Teachers’ union officials illegally use public facilities for political purposes . . . again! by Ryan Bedford
he Washington Education Association (WEA) chronically fails to educate its members on the legal and illegal uses of public school facilities for union politicking. More than 37 Federal Way teachers are at risk of being investigated by the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) for illegally campaigning using school property. A hot election contest is underway as two members of the Federal Way School Board run for re-election this year. The Federal Way Education Association (FWEA) announced its endorsement of challenging candidate Grace Rawsthorne in a front-page article of its newsletter. The article encouraged members to attend the candidate’s campaign kickoff
celebration and gave the date, time, and location of the event. Private organizations are free to endorse candidates in their newsletters. However, it is a recipe for disaster when the FWEA instructs teachers to distribute newsletters containing endorsements to colleagues using their school’s internal mail systems. State law (RCW 42.17.130) prohibits the use of public facilities to engage in political campaigning. “No elective official nor any employee of his office nor any person appointed to or employed by any public office or agency may use or authorize the use of any of the facilities of a public office or agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of any person to any office or for the promotion of or opposition to any ballot proposition.”
The PDC issued guidelines to help school districts, teachers, and union officials understand the law. In its publication “Guidelines for School Districts in Election Campaigns” the PDC specifically states: “Union representatives… [s]hall not use the school’s internal mail or email system to communicate campaignrelated information, including endorsements.” Union operatives have been repeatedly fined for breaking this law. Just last January, four WEA building representatives were fined $500 each for using school district mailboxes and e-mail systems to coordinate some of the WEA’s referendum and initiative campaigns. Upon learning of the campaign activity in Federal Way, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) filed a complaint with the PDC, reminding investigators of the recent convictions and asking the PDC to clarify the law for the WEA. The PDC responded, indicating it believed an investigation was warranted. EFF followed up, explaining that the violations were not limited to one particular school. The newsletters were distributed through the internal mail systems at each of the Federal Way School District’s 37 schools. EFF provided the PDC with a complete list of FWEA building representatives and urged the Commission to expand its investigation as necessary to stop the practice. The issue is not about any one teacher or building representative. Many are unaware that some of the activities the union instructs them to do are illegal. The real blame lies with the Washington Education Association and its local affiliates. EFF believes the law might best be enforced by investigating FWEA president Shannon Rasmussen, who specifically instructed members to use school internal mail systems to distribute the newsletters. WEA officials regularly engage in political campaigning and know Washington’s campaign law; yet they continue to put teachers in jeapardy by failing to adequately inform them. This is not fair for teachers. It just shows, again, union officials are more concerned with their own interests than those of their members.
Union picketed by its own staff by S. Alex Bohler, J.D.
chool has already begun, but the Washington Education Association’s (WEA) labor battles are not over. In a strange bit of irony, the state’s largest and most powerful union is embroiled in a bitter dispute with its own employees over wages, benefits, and other employment policies. That’s ironic, since its local affiliates habitually threaten individual school districts with illegal public sector strikes. The WEA is offering its own employees a one percent raise over the next year. This move so angered WEA employees that it prompted many of them to hold an informational picket outside union headquarters in Federal Way during a recent WEA board meeting. The labor dispute has been ordered to federal mediation for resolution. WEA executive director Armand Tiberio told reporters the union must balance the financial interests of its workers and dues-paying members. “We’re not questioning the value of [our employees],” he said. “We’re just trying to balance this all out.” Tiberio also pointed out the escalating costs of health care make it difficult to offer the same level of benefits to employees. That’s strange. School districts and legislators have long contended that rising health care costs have made it difficult to improve teacher salaries, but this concern
has been ignored or minimized by the WEA hierarchy. In fact, WEA officials repeatedly attack local school board officials for making the exact argument. Apparently the WEA understands the importance of “fiscal responsibility” when it comes to its own bottom line, but could care less about the struggles facing local school districts or the taxpayers of Washington. Contrast the WEA’s meager offer to its own employees with its collective bargaining strategy during school district negotiations. The union’s litany of hardball tactics—delaying contract negotiations, creating community dissention, threatening illegal teacher strikes—all place school administrators in the position of balancing the aggressive agenda of union officials with legitimate school district financial restraints. Sound familiar, Mr. Tiberio? Just this fall, local affiliates of the WEA in the Bethel, Peninsula, Clover Park and Mount Vernon school districts threatened school administrators with strikes over disagreements in contract negotiations. Strikes by public employees are illegal in Washington state, but this did not prevent the WEA from using the threat of strikes to squeeze concessions from those cash-strapped districts. As a result, parents and students were held hostage by the uncertainty of whether schools would open on time. When the union actually follows through with its threat, as it did in Marysville two years ago, months can be lost dealing with the fall-out. Faced with the
prospect of school delays and the avalanche of parent complaints that results, school administrators are often forced to bend to the coercion and agree to unsustainable contracts. Although WEA operatives expect school districts to pay for increased teacher compensation, there is little discussion about what parents and students can expect in return. The WEA generally opposes merit pay, higher teacher standards and increased tenure requirements. Everyone agrees that teachers should be compensated fairly, but unions rarely negotiate with regard to the strapped financial position most districts find themselves in—or with the interests of students in mind. The WEA must understand after this embarrassing internal labor rift that it has two constituencies: its own employees and its members. So far, it has refused to recognize that school districts share a similar balancing act. Districts not only must take care of employees, they also have an obligation to provide excellent education, at a sustainable cost, to the surrounding community. It says a lot about the arrogance and hypocrisy of WEA leadership that it was forced to accept federal mediation in a labor dispute with its own employees, especially when it purports to be the great defender of education employees. Maybe the WEA should start treating its own workers with the “dignity” and “respect” that it demands for its teachers.
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
Labor Policy Center Update by Michael Reitz
esidents of the Northwest are well-acquainted with “sun breaks.” After long winter months of drizzle, a break in the cloud cover is wonderfully therapeutic. Similarly, there are times in our battle against union monopoly when good news is rare. This month, however, we’re happy to update you on several new “sun breaks” for our Labor Policy Center. As you may know, Washington state’s paycheck protection law, which requires unions to get written permission from members before spending dues on politics, has been a model throughout the country. The Washington Education Association’s violations of this law are well-documented, and the WEA is still on its streak of bad press, with no positive newspaper editorials since 1998. Most recently, the Vancouver Columbian called for a right-to-work law so teachers are no longer forced to join the WEA. Paycheck protection has been launched into the national spotlight because of California Proposition 75. It’s on the ballot this November. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed the initiative at the California Republican Convention, and we have received dozens of calls from activists and journalists with questions about how the law works. In early October, a reporter from the Los Angeles Times flew up to Olympia and interviewed us while researching EFF’s battle to enforce Washington’s paycheck protection. On October 5, the Wall Street Journal labeled Proposition 75 the “referendum of the year” and cited EFF’s State of Labor report on the effect of paycheck protection around the nation. Unions are fighting paycheck protection in California with all they’ve got—literally. The California Teachers Association raised dues by $60 per teacher and mortgaged its own headquarters in order to stock its political war chest. The union has already spent $60 million dollars on this election cycle and is seeking a loan for an additional $40 million. Ironically, teachers
have to pay for the union’s battle to defeat paycheck protection. The success of Utah’s paycheck protection law gives us a clue as to why the unions in California are fighting so hard. After the law passed in Utah in 2003, voluntary contributions to the Utah Education Association’s political fund dropped by 90 percent. Just this month a Utah newspaper reported that state’s public employee union was forced to zero out its political fund because members are no longer contributing. The goal of paycheck protection is to give members control over how their union spends their money. Teachers and other public employees in Utah finally have a union that is only as political as they want it. Evidence that members do not support the union’s radical political agenda continues to mount. Earlier this month, the results of the National Education Association’s annual membership survey were released. A full 50 percent of members surveyed identified themselves as conservative! The top reason new members gave for joining the NEA is because they have “no choice.” We take great encouragement from these developments. Thank you for making it possible!
“...the Wall Street Journal labeled Proposition 75 the ‘referendum of the year’ and cited EFF’s State of Labor report on the effect of paycheck protection around the nation.”
An animated cartoon depicting the California teachers’ union as an obstacle to reform runs on Governor Schwartzenegger’s website.
The rise of a new majority by Ryan Bedford
eventh grade language arts teacher Judy Bruns is the loving mother of three grown children and the grandmother of six. Over more than decades of teaching, she has invested herself in the lives of hundreds of students. Mrs. Bruns is also a member of the National Education Association (NEA), a teachers’ union known for its left-of-center ideology. However, when asked where she stands politically, Mrs. Bruns says she is a conservative. Judy Bruns’s answer is becoming increasingly common among teachers. In fact, she is one of more than a million NEA members (50 percent of the union’s membership) who describe themselves as conservative. If the developing trend continues, she will soon be in the majority. The NEA commissions an annual survey of its members. The results are generally confidential, but a few months ago the study was leaked to the Education Intelligence Agency (EIA), a union watchdog. In October, EIA issued a report revealing several trends sure to make NEA officials uneasy. The most resounding discovery found an increasing number of NEA members to be self-described conservatives: fifty percent. At the same time, only 40 percent describe themselves as liberal or leaning liberal. This trend threatens union officials’ power. If they continue to reject teachers’ calls for balance, they may face challenges similar to the AFL-CIO’s split in July. NEA officials have taken decisive action, but instead of building bridges, they have implemented a plan to infiltrate and undermine conservative coalitions within the organization. One of the first visible moves was to
assist Shawna Adam, an experienced union official, in becoming head of the NEA’s Republican Educators Caucus. Another move increased funding for the caucus intending to “infiltrate the Republican Party with an anti-voucher agenda.” Another cause for officials’ concern is abnormally low member participation. Only fifteen percent of NEA’s members are substantially involved. These are the activists and officials like Miss Adam who keep rankand-file members “strapped to the mast.” Thirty-six percent do not participate in the union in any way. Younger members who have been with the NEA for less than three years are even more distant. Only five percent are substantially involved. Forty-eight percent of newer members are not involved in any way. This is a striking trend considering these younger members will soon lead the NEA. The study hinted at the root of newer members’ apathy. When asked why they joined the NEA, the top answer for new members was they had “no choice.” While the public perceives the NEA as a left-leaning organization that doesn’t always represent its members’ political beliefs, the survey found many teachers and lower-level union officials agree. Considering the NEA’s reputation, this consensus is not surprising. Rather, it indicates the fundamental disconnect between the minority holding power, and rank and file members who must pay dues. NEA officials engage in a host of activities pushing their left-of-center political agenda. They admit spending almost half of their members’ dues on non-representative activism, and they do not limit their activism to education issues. Rather, they engage in all levels of policy and politics to
influence social issues and put hand-picked candidates into office. To that end, the NEA is organized to double as a formidable political machine rivaling those of established political parties. Many teachers are becoming fed up with the feigned sincerity of NEA officials and are tired of being forced to subsidize their out-of-touch political agenda. As a result, officials are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit members and fund their political agenda. EIA reported NEA membership increased by only 11,342 teachers last year and only 15,055 education support employees. For the 2.7 million member organization, that is a 1.3 percent increase. Flattening enrollment, increased retirements and increasing member dissatisfaction may soon lead to decreasing membership and funding, and a decline in power and influence. The minority power-brokers holding the reins have proven they do not want accountability and democracy. Yet with the rise of a new majority, their position is tenuous. If NEA officials continue to stonewall reforms and trample teachers’ rights, the rest of us must take up the banner. Teachers must be given their professional freedoms back. Just as they need freedom in the classroom to meet the unique needs of students, teachers need freedom in the workplace to meet their own professional needs. This includes the ability to join or leave a union. Union officials must also be prohibited from forcing teachers to subsidize their political agenda. Only then will the rising majority of teachers like Judy Bruns be accurately represented.
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