Tag Archives: Mark Schoesler

A generational solution that puts students, hard-working taxpayers first

By ericcampbell | Published on June 30, 2017

I’m reminded today how more than seven years ago, a group of Republican senators proposed a way to significantly increase state funding for public schools and in turn take the pressure off local school districts to come up with money for basic education.

I was a co-sponsor of that landmark plan, introduced by former Senator Joe Zarelli. It would have simultaneously reduced the local-levy authority of all school districts by approximately half and increased the state property-tax levy by an equivalent amount.

The idea, as my former colleague explained it at the time, was to give school districts a more dependable and more equitable funding source while reducing property taxes for a majority of school-district taxpayers.

Olympia was under full Democrat control in 2010. Our bill got what amounted to a courtesy hearing and vote from the Senate’s K-12 education committee, but that was it.

By the time our Majority Coalition Caucus took over leadership of the Senate in 2013, the Supreme Court had already ruled in the McCleary case. Outside forces also had mobilized against the idea of what they disparaged as a “levy swap,” even though it was the most constitutionally sound approach.

The new budget and education-funding plan being voted on by the Senate and House today certainly reflect the spirit of that original Senate Republican proposal. But for students and hard-working taxpayers across our state, the 2017 approach is a good piece ahead of the 2010 proposal.

To start with, more school districts will see an increase in funding. And by simultaneously increasing the state property tax for schools by 81 cents while capping local school levy rates at $1.50 (the local-levy average across Washington for 2016 is $2.54), more property owners will see tax relief.

Better yet, today’s legislation surpasses what Republicans offered in 2010 because it ties funding to the needs of students, instead of adults. While that has attracted strong labor-union opposition, there is much for teachers to like – even if they don’t want to say it publicly.

Lately I’ve been referring to the McCleary situation as a generational issue, because of how the inequities in the public-school system crept in over decades. It’s too bad that Republican efforts to head off the situation in 2010 couldn’t gain traction. But seven years later, I’m glad we finally have a generational solution at hand.

 

School administrators look to Goebbels, Lenin for advice?

By ericcampbell | Published on May 05, 2017

Wearing a T-shirt with an image of a prominent Nazi war criminal might be enough to get a student sent home. But the Washington Association of School Administrators thinks it is OK to share public-relations advice from a prominent Nazi war criminal if you’re trying to get school administrators to be effective advocates.

The Washington Policy Center’s Liv Finne recently noted how a WASA slideshow titled “Who’s Telling Your Story?” included a quote from Joseph Goebbels, complete with photo. There was also a quote and photo from another famous humanitarian, Vladimir Lenin.

To be fair, Aristotle and George Bernard Shaw also had their own slides. But the ancient Greek philosopher and Nobel laureate were ahead of a half-dozen slides filled with quotes from the League of Education Voters, Freedom Foundation, Democrats for Education Reform, Stand for Children, the Washington Roundtable/Partnership for Learning, and Finne herself.

Goebbels and Lenin, and their observations about what happens when a lie is told often enough, followed the quotes from the various education-reform groups. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist – or a school administrator – to connect the dots.

WASA has reason to demean the groups quoted in the slideshow. They are reformers, and WASA represents the status quo. But come on.

The WASA lobbyist who posted the slideshow wasn’t foolish enough to give the Goebbels-Lenin treatment to things our Senate majority has said about our Education Equality Act – even though that legislation is all about reforming the K-12 funding system, and therefore opposed by those who are desperate to keep the status quo.

Still, WASA finds ways to take a swing at us. Like when we brought the House Democrats’ tax package (the largest tax increase in state history) before the Senate budget committee for a hearing on April 26, in the form of a Senate bill. The WASA lobbyist was right there to testify in support. Two days before, in a report to WASA members, he had described the upcoming hearing as “gamesmanship.”

Gamesmanship? This from an organization that took part in the campaign about the so-called “levy cliff.” And don’t forget the administrators (Seattle School District and elsewhere) who have eye-popping compensation packages ($354,000 in salary and benefits, in Seattle) in districts that have seen huge jumps in funding, and still plead poverty.

And people wonder why education-funding reform has been such a tough nut to crack.

Senators: Thank you for your service

By Laudan Espinoza | Published on January 03, 2017

Legislators leave office for a variety of reasons, and the when and how of their exits generally dictates our options for saying farewell. Sometimes an announcement comes during a session, which allows us to respond in person; otherwise it happens later in the year, and that opportunity is lost. We learned during the 2016 session that a few members of our Majority Coalition Caucus would not be with us in 2017, and that number doubled after the Legislature adjourned. Each of them deserves a public tip of the hat.

  • Senator Don Benton’s close re-election victory in 2012 may not have been the biggest factor in creating the Majority Coalition Caucus, but it was the last piece we needed. His work on protecting property rights and controlling the growth of taxes are well-known; other accomplishments, particularly his efforts on behalf of the homeless and veterans, didn’t get enough recognition. Don served 20 years in the Senate after a term in the House. He had no equal when it came to knowing Senate rules and parliamentary procedure, and that may be what I, as leader, will miss most.
  • Although Senator Bruce Dammeier was in our caucus for just one four-year term, following two terms in the House, his work on K-12 education did much to put the Legislature on track to comply with the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. Bruce also had a gift for translating complex education-policy issues into plain language, and that will be not be easy for us to replace. His leadership potential was evident, and I’m not surprised the people of Pierce County decided to make Bruce their county executive starting today. He will serve them well.
  • Elected in 2000, Senator Mike Hewitt became Senate Republican leader right after the 2006 election reduced us to 17 seats – a low not seen since 1965. During the next seven years, as the Democratic majority ran up state spending during the real-estate boom and then ran up taxes when the boom went bust, the number of Republican senators steadily climbed until it reached 23 and allowed the formation of the MCC in late 2012. Mike set the leadership bar high, and I appreciated his counsel greatly after succeeding him as Republican leader. Good fishing, my friend.
  • One of the biggest benefits of forming the MCC was that it enabled Senator Steve Litzow to become chair of the Senate committee on early learning and K-12 education. He was no one’s puppet, which meant education-policy reformers finally had an even chance of having their views considered. The 41st Legislative District has become a “swing” district if there ever was one, and Steve’s loss in the 2016 general election is no reflection on his six years as a senator. Washington’s students and parents should hope the Legislature continues to follow the course he helped to set.
  • Leading legislative-caucus meetings isn’t easy, with so many personalities in one room, but Senator Linda Evans Parlette did so with grace for 10 straight years, as the Senate Republican Caucus evolved into the MCC. To her, being caucus chair meant looking out for staff as well as members, and made it feel even more like one big family. Linda was a strong voice on health care and natural-resources issues and had enough energy to continue serving much longer – but after 20 years as a legislator (16 in the Senate) her desire to spend more time with her real family won out. Is there a better reason to leave?
  • Her 2014 re-election to a record seventh term made Senator Pam Roach the longest-serving female senator in Washington history. She will be remembered for many things, and they should include her work on behalf of children and families, and public safety, and defense of the people’s right to initiatives and referenda. As an outdoorsman I appreciated her efforts to introduce legislators to the shooting sports. Anyone familiar with Senator Roach’s devotion to her family knows that while being elected to the Pierce County Council meant giving up the 31st District Senate seat, it offered another chance to serve alongside her son Dan (a former state representative who became a council member in 2011). A fair trade, I think.

Thanks to them all!

Reflections as our Senate majority coalition enters its fifth year

By Laudan Espinoza | Published on December 09, 2016

My former Senate colleague, Ed Murray, made a dire prediction ahead of the formation of our Senate Majority Coalition Caucus four years ago. In an interview with TVW, the now-Seattle mayor predicted that if two Democrats (Senator Tim Sheldon and former Senator Rodney Tom) joined with the Senate’s Republican members to form a new Senate majority, it would “poison the atmosphere” for years to come.

Clark County was still counting ballots when Senator Murray, the new leader of the Senate Democrats, offered his forecast. Because then-Rep. Barbara Bailey of Oak Harbor had just prevailed over a longtime Democrat incumbent to become senator for north Puget Sound’s 10th Legislative District, a victory by Senator Don Benton of Vancouver in the 17th District would mean 23 Republicans in the Senate and make a Sheldon-Tom-Republicans philosophical majority possible. For Ed to spin that scenario as he did – warning that chaos would result, and a bipartisan majority would be too unstable to lead – was completely predictable for someone in his awkward position. It also was completely wrong.

Senator Benton won his fifth term in a very close race, Senators Sheldon and Tom opted to align with us, and on Dec. 10 of that year we announced the creation of the MCC. The only poisoned atmosphere I remember was at the governor’s inaugural ball in January 2013 – specifically, the hissing from Democrats when Rodney (rather than Ed Murray) was introduced as the new Senate majority leader.

The MCC’s political “tent” instantly became the largest at the Capitol, and growing pains were inevitable. But chaos and instability? Maybe in other corners of the lawmaking process, but not in our coalition. I expected the MCC would serve at least as a counterbalance to our Democratic governor and the Democratic majority in the House; in hindsight, as our record of accomplishments shows, we have done so much more. Washington’s students, families and employers have had no better friend in Olympia these past four years.

As we move into our fifth year tomorrow, the MCC’s priorities remain true to our founding principles. Those include providing for a world-class education system; creating a job-rich, employer-friendly economy; serving Washington’s most vulnerable residents while being mindful of the needs of middle-income families; and an approach to budgeting that lives within the means provided by taxpayers. In short, we’re about protecting Washington’s future.

Happy anniversary, MCC!