State teachers union’s radio ad is one big lie

We’re living in an era of extreme political voices, especially at the national level. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then our state teachers union, the WEA, must be blushing. Ratcheting up the pressure, truth be damned, has been its M.O. for some time now.

The group is running newspaper ads and a massive radio campaign against the Senate Republicans’ budget proposal. Political arguments inevitably involve shading the truth toward one’s preferred outcome, but there are limits. You wouldn’t know it from these ads.

When they start the radio ad saying the Senate’s budget proposal is “a page out of the Trump-DeVos education agenda,” you know it’s only going to devolve from there.

The WEA’s ads have no connection to the truth. Their assertions beg for point-by-point refutations, but the short version is this: These ads are just one big lie.

In their own words
Here is the meat of the WEA’s claims from its radio ad:

“The Senate Republican budget is a page out of the Trump-DeVos education agenda. They promise a lot, but their budget is just a shell game that doesn’t increase funding or address inequality in our schools.”

“The Senate Republican budget slashes spending for special education, takes away local flexibility and local control of schools, forcing many districts to cut teacher pay and fire school employees.”

The WEA wants to paint a frightening picture of dastardly Republicans slashing schools funding. This is laughable. The reality is, schools funding has risen precipitously in recent years, including in Republican budgets. As you can see in the chart below, state K-12 spending has risen significantly, and will grow even more under the Senate Republicans’ budget proposal to satisfy the McCleary case.

On a per-student basis, it’s phenomenal growth. To say that this budget proposal “doesn’t increase funding” is absurd.

“Local control” is sleight-of-hand
You might recall (OK, you probably don’t) that last December I predicted to you that “local control” would be the WEA’s top buzzword for 2017. Sure enough, the WEA is trying to scare voters into thinking the Senate Republican budget proposal “takes away local flexibility and local control of schools.”

This whole local control argument is just sleight-of-hand. It’s a diversion to focus your attention away from what the WEA doesn’t want you thinking about. The Senate GOP’s budget involves a “levy swap,” a very sensible proposal to raise the state property tax for schools while lowering local property taxes.

The WEA doesn’t like this idea. In its ideal world, the state would increase K-12 spending significantly to meet the McCleary decision but still allow local school levies to stay at the same high rate. They want it all. It’s a soak-the-taxpayer plan.

That’s the WEA’s end game. That’s what it means by “local control.” It’s safe to say, that’s not most taxpayers’ end game. But a more sensible approach is a “shell game,” according to the union.

Who is for inequality?
Despite saying the Republican budget doesn’t “address inequality in our schools,” the WEA’s preferred approach is exactly what would exacerbate the inequality problem. Keeping local property tax rates high means letting the gap grow between rich school districts and the rest of the state’s districts. That disparity is unconstitutional; in fact, it’s a key component of the McCleary case.

Opposing incentive pay for attracting teachers to high-poverty schools – which is a WEA position – likewise makes the inequality problem worse.

The Senate Republicans’ budget proposal spends much more on K-12 schools, fairly spreads out the tax burden while respecting taxpayers’ sacrifices, and institutes a just per-pupil spending model. The WEA would rather distract you with arguments about “local control” so they don’t have to talk about what they really want: Higher state taxes and higher local taxes.
-Rob McKenna

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.