The 2014 state elections revealed that the Washington Education Association’s (WEA) influence in Washington State is declining. As the Washington Policy Center points out, the recent election results prove voters have become disillusioned with the powerful teachers’ union.
The WEA “directed large dues-based contributions” to the campaigns of two candidates (and union members) for the state House this election-cycle—incumbent Monica Stonier of Vancouver and Mike Wilson of Everett. Both were defeated. Wilson, a high school teacher, earned bad media coverage due to his attempts to recruit campaign workers among his students and for his use of school resources for campaign purposes.
The WEA went on the offensive in several targeted state Senate races, fighting hard for the Democrat candidate. Yet, despite the union’s best efforts, Republicans won in every single race. Their victory helped ensure a GOP majority in the state Senate for the first time in 10 years.
Rejection by voters didn’t even stop in the bastion of liberal ideology, Seattle. The WEA’s sponsored Proposition 1A to fund a preschool program. Seattle voters rejected it, “preferring instead an alternative offered by members of the City Council and the Mayor.”
The only victory for WEA—Initiative 1351—has not turned out to be a victory at all. According to the Washington Policy Center, the so-called class-size reduction measure was predicted to pass by 66% of the vote. The WEA and “other unions spent about $5 million in member dues on the initiative, and there was no campaign against it.” Yet, I-1351 squeaked by with less than one percent of the vote.
Since then, I-1351 has been lambasted by politicians—even those who receive campaign funds from the WEA—and the media alike. Though too late to make a difference at that point, Jay Inslee informed the public that he voted against I-1351. Democrats like Rep. Ross Hunter, Rep. Reuven Carlyle, Rep. Tana Senn, Rep. Judy Clibborn, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells and Sen. Jamie Pedersen have all publically opposed I-1351.
“The Washington Education Association invested a small fortune on Initiative 1351 to reduce class sizes. It could pass…though lawmakers would likely suspend it in 2015 due to its high cost.
“And they would act without much fear of political retribution because the WEA demonstrated little clout in affecting the outcome of legislative races this year, even those involving its members.”
So, why has the WEA’s influence declined? The Washington Policy Center,
The likely answer is years of bad publicity over union actions that protect its interests but harm students. WEA union executives are often seen to take policy positions that work against children, rejecting a $13 million Advanced Placement math instructional grant in Washington, opposing charter schools for low-income children, opposing parent choice in education, helping block a series of Senate-passed reforms, and pressuring lawmakers to vote against a bill to preserve the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver, thus losing district control over $40 million in education funds…
The public appears to be growing increasingly skeptical that WEA union executives and the political candidates they support have a primary concern for children. A pattern of actions over the years has presented WEA union executives with a serious image problem: that they seem to be mainly interested in their own finances and influence in the system, while denying new learning opportunities to help children get a better start in life.