Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center reveals how public school officials funnel millions in public money to one of the largest political lobby operations in the state
Washington Policy Center
Public school officials consistently say they don’t have enough funding, yet each year they give $3.5 million in public money to one of the largest political lobby operations in the state. The Washington State School Board Directors Association (WSSDA) uses money taken from local education budgets to lobby state lawmakers and influential local officials across the state.
In its political activity WSSDA often works against the educational interests of parents and students. For example, the national chapter of the organization, the National School Boards Association, recently called on the FBI to investigate parents who speak out at public meetings under the nation’s domestic terrorism laws. Clearly their purpose is to try to silence parents who seek to hold local school board members accountable to their communities.
In another example, WSSDA backs state-level efforts to teach Critical Race Theory (CRT) to public school children under SB 5044, the bill signed by Governor Inslee in May. This harmful and divisive curriculum says that white students are oppressors and that students of other ethnicities are disempowered victims. Instead of fostering caring and independent minds, CRT pits students against one another, and deprives them of the agency to think for themselves.
National education expert Jay P. Greene has found that CRT, also known as “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” causes harm “by reducing and dividing us into ethnic and sexual identity categories while crushing actual intellectual and cultural diversity.”
WSSDA is at the forefront of promoting CRT training for school board members, as shown here.
WSSDA, through its “Educational Equity” program, appears to promote hiring goals and quotas on the basis of race, color and ethnicity, in violation of national law and our state’s Civil Rights Act. (For more on core civil rights protections see my study “Know Your Rights” at https://www.washingtonpolicy.org/publications/detail/know-your-rights-a-guide-to-critical-race-theory-anti-discrimination-law-and-civil-rights-protections-for-everyone.)
In 2012, WSSDA worked hard against the popular ballot initiative to create charter public schools. Voters passed the measure anyway, and today 4,000 students attend 14 caring and innovative charter schools across the state. WSSDA continues to work against charter school families, and supports funding inequities that deny learning opportunities to these students.
Local school boards tell us they are chronically underfunded and they regularly cut music, art, athletics and other popular programs. The legislature should end the transfer of public money to WSSDA and instead direct $3.5 million a year to benefit music, the arts and athletics in Washington’s elementary schools.
Liv Finne is the director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center.