State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center held a joint town hall meeting with state Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Felida on Saturday. Though the two lawmakers took time out of their holiday weekend to discuss the education budget and recent teacher walkouts, their effort to engage with their constituents was not received well… to say the least. As the Columbian recently put it, “tempers flared” among those in attendance while others “shed tears.” According to our sources, that’s putting it mildly.
Shift sources describe the town hall meeting as a “bloodbath” with teachers in attendance yelling at Sen. Rivers than high-fiving one another for their rude efforts. Additionally, teachers in attendance accused Sen. Rivers (a former teacher) of being “run out of the teaching profession” (which is not true). When Sen. Rivers attempted to respond, she was shouted down. One source said they had “never seen a legislator or anyone at a town hall treated so rudely.”
Teachers in attendance also took issue with the timing of the Rivers and Vick’s town hall meeting. Apparently, many did not appreciate it being held over Memorial Day weekend because of the difficulty of attending. This, from the teachers in a school district who decided to illegally strike on a school day, canceling classes for the day for about 38,000 students and adding an extra day to the end of the school year.
According to the Columbian, “both legislators said they had no choice but to hold the meetings during a holiday weekend.” Rivers explained that the “alternative would have been to hold them after voting on the funding plan next Saturday” which would have been disingenuous.
It remains unclear why teachers have decided to illegally strike. What is clear is that the Washington Education Association (WEA) needs to lie in order to advance its selfish agenda, because—when confronted with reality—rational people quickly realize teachers’ have no reason to strike… much less deride state Senate Republican’s education funding.
Here’s what Republican lawmakers have done for students this year:
- Introduced the greatest investment in K-12 of any budget in state history
- Invested in all-day kindergarten, K-3 class size reduction and fully funded costs of maintenance supplies and operations
- Dedicated 47 percent of the budget to K-12 education, the highest share since the 1980’s
- Prioritized education spending at a 3:1 ratio, a marked contrast from the past 30 years when Democrats prioritized non-education spending by a 2:1 margin over education
- Proposed a $2.7 billion spending increase for K-12 education, bringing total education spending from $15.3 billion in 2013-15 to $18 billion in 2015-17
- Allocated an additional $1.3 billion toward basic education addressing the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision
- Allocated an additional $440 million in teacher pay and benefits, including voter approved teacher cost of living adjustments (COLAs)
- Proposed building 2,200 classrooms to lower class size for K-3 grades
As Shift recently pointed out, given the great lengths Republicans go to prioritize education compared to past budget, the question of “why now?” must be asked. For the 2009-11 budget, Democrats cut K-12 funding by $340 million and did not fund teachers’ COLAs. The 2011-13 budget cut K-12 funding by $652 million and, once again, did not fund COLAs.
It’s only when Republicans were able to have a say in the budget that education spending was re-prioritized. The 2013-15 budget diverted $1.6 billion back to education funding, though it did not fund COLAs. However, Senate Republicans’ budget would add $2.7 billion to education and, as previously stated, would fund COLAs. So, why now?
The WEA signaled the answer when it decided to exclusively attack Republicans, though the GOP budget does more for education than Democrats’ spending plan. The illegal teachers’ strikes are highly partisan attacks, opportunities to hit Republicans.