Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Washington State School Directors Association vs. Sen. Rodney Tom

From the floor of the sausage factory:

Earlier today, the Senate took action on its three unfunded mandates bills: SB 5880, SB 5889 and SB 5890. Each bill would delay, suspend or repeal a series of education unfunded mandates. Each bill was adopted today with amendments; however, we specifically want to make you aware of an amendment that was attached to SB 5880. Sen. Rodney Tom was successful in adopting language that would repeal current law provisions that school directors automatically become members of WSSDA. In arguing on behalf of his amendment, he said that this was needed to ensure school districts have the flexibility to decide for themselves whether or not they will be members of the Association. He also argued that larger districts were not adequately represented by the Association — even though WSSDA's own membership recently approved of major changes to our weighted vote structure. Ironically, WSSDA made these changes following an internal review that was prompted by pressure from then -Rep.- Rodney Tom.

Sens. Rosemary McAuliffe, Mary Margaret Haugen and Steve Hobbs each asked their colleagues to reject the amendment because WSSDA provides the services and training that school directors need to be effective. Sen. Hobbs strongly said that this amendment would ultimately hurt small districts because they can not afford any other representation in Olympia. Unless an oral roll call is requested, amendments are adopted by a voice vote in the Senate. When the vote was taken, there was some doubt as to which side prevailed; however, a division was called for (essentially a "standing vote") and 33 senators voted to accept the amendment. As SB 5880 moves to the House we will have to work with legislators there in an attempt to have this potentially crippling amendment removed.
You can read Sen. Tom's amendment here; TVW Washington video here, starting at about 39:30 in. Fun quote from Senator Tom:

"WSSDA is geared towards the smaller school districts. It's very undemocratic in the way they take their votes."
Fun quote from Senator Haugen:

"It sometimes gets to be the country mouse versus the city mouse down here."
It's obvious, then--school board members need an agency fee payer option.

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