Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mark Shattuck on education in Washington state

Recently, after a post where I wondered what the two remaining candidates for the 35th District's senate seat thought about education, I got a response from one, Mark Shattuck, a Republican running without official endorsement. Mr. Shattuck emailed to describe his educational street cred, writing,
I do have close contact with people in your profession as well as the experience gained from having 8 kids go through school. My sister is a teacher at M.T. Simmons Elementary, my daughter is a teacher at Timberline High School, my brother in law is a teacher at Tumwater High, and one recent high school graduate daughter thinks she wants to become a teacher.

I hear the good things and the bad about schools, administration and student behavior. I also have worked through my company, Tumwater Electric, with several districts. All I can tell you is I know I do not support all the WEA decisions but I do care about teachers and students.
I asked Mark if he could be more specific about WEA's stance, and he wrote back,
I mainly disagree with the WEA in two ways: money plus more money does not equal better education, and I do not believe in mandatory dues being used for political purposes, particularly from state jobs.
So there you have it.

Mr. Shattuck might be surprised to learn that I largely agree with him on both counts: WEA members, even politically active ones, aren't drones. First, throwing more money at education isn't a solution. There has to be research, a well-made plan, and accountability to taxpayers. Second, using mandatory dues for political purposes is weasely.

Where we part ways, though, is whether the WEA's stated aims are unreasonable in either respect. Shattuck's first legislative goal: "Restore spending and taxation limits imposed by the citizens." He might also consider ensuring equitable funding for education, given that Washington's constitution declares education our state's "paramount duty." Smaller class sizes and increased teacher pay might cost, but they also get results. (A tax structure that doesn't punish poorer districts is worth consideration, too.)

Furthermore, the WEA insists that it does not use non-member dues for political purposes, and that those who wish to opt out of membership are given ample opportunities. So far, every EFF legal challenge has failed. If the Supreme Court decides that the WEA's stance is unconstitutional, then so be it. Until then, though, presumption favors the union.

Shattuck's website lists a goodly number of goals, but, surprisingly--especially for someone surrounded by teachers--not one specific plan for education. I encourage him to think beyond talking points, and address in detail an issue that concerns an overwhelming majority of Washington's electorate.

Shattuck seems like a good guy, and his willingness to reach out to the netroots is encouraging. Given his opposition, a vote for Shattuck is at the very least a way to shake things up in Mason County. Hardly a ringing endorsement--but then, his opponent is Tim Sheldon.

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