Dear Spokane Community:
I’m writing to give you information that the local newspapers have so far declined to give you.
As you vote this week, understand that we need to get arithmetic and grammar back in our schools. We taxpayers need accountability and absolute transparency for the $500 million that will be spent in Spokane Public Schools this year. We desperately need administrators who respect teachers as professionals, children as individuals, and parents as allies. We need school board directors who see themselves as accountable to the people, not as allies of the superintendent.
As you vote, take a moment to feel sympathy and sadness for the children and their teachers, all of whom are bludgeoned daily with a clunky, inefficient, ineffective system – forced on them by administrators who aren’t accountable to you. Understand that the children want to learn and the teachers want to teach, and that the main thing standing in their way is administration. Understand that instructional positions are being cut so that the district can fund administrative interests.
The union leadership, local newspaper, and various administrators and others in leadership have indicated that they want Deana Brower to be the new Spokane school board director. It comes as no surprise when you know how close are the ties, connections and personal and business interests of all of these people. But who is looking out for the children and the teachers? District administrators often say, “It’s all for the kids,” when the truth is closer to, “It’s all for us, on the backs of the kids.”
Deana Brower's positions clearly align with the positions of district administration and union leadership. Forgive me for saying it so bluntly, but the district and union leadership seem more concerned with their own interests and with stroking like-minded political and business allies, than with supporting the best interests of students or teachers. Classroom teachers soon will be assessed based on an unproved “value-added model,” when they know they don’t have the classroom freedom they need to properly add that value. How fair is that? Who is fighting for the teachers on that?
As you vote, understand that this district needs a serious and dramatic change in its leadership – across the board and top down.
The newspapers haven’t told you much about these issues. Instead, they'd have you believe that math is hard, that everything is fine, and that if it isn’t fine, the children probably have dyscalculia.
Local newspapers were given notice of the formal Public Disclosure Commission complaint I filed Sept. 28, which expresses concerns over possible school district violations of election law. Why did they choose to not tell you about this formal complaint BEFORE you received your ballot?
I filed a formal complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission regarding Spokane Public Schools and school board candidate Deana Brower. The PDC complaint concerns RCW 42.17.130, which prohibits public agencies from using public resources to campaign, directly or indirectly, for a candidate for elective office (such as a board candidate) or to promote a ballot proposition (such as bonds and levies).
Most people don’t realize that school districts are prohibited from using taxpayer dollars to campaign for elective candidates or for bonds and levies. Public records from District 81 indicate that:
- Earlier this year, district employees invited board candidate Deana Brower onto district property to talk with teachers and staff. Brower also was invited to multiple district meetings, breakfasts and gatherings to which other candidates were not invited. Some of the events took place during so-called “union-protected” time; others didn’t. Some were promoted using private emails; others were promoted using district emails.
- In September and again in October, the district also distributed to every elementary school a publication known as the KIDS Newspaper. Both issues contained union endorsements of three political candidates, including board candidate Deana Brower.
- Public records also appear to indicate that district employees used district resources to promote the 2009 bond and levy, which passed in a March 10, 2009, vote. In 2009, students were taken out of class to talk about helping to campaign for the bond and levy. District administrators sent home bond and levy materials with elementary school children, gave more than 100 presentations across the city, told principals they had to schedule at least two presentations at their school, used district emails to ask employees to wave signs and hand out leaflets, asked parents to write letters to the editor in support of the bond and levy, challenged parent groups to donate to the bond and levy campaign, and told teachers to mention the bond and levy before school district music concerts and drama performances.
- Board candidate Deana Brower (who was a co-chair of the local bond/levy advocacy group Citizens for Spokane Schools) also worked on the 2009 district bond and levy campaign. Public records indicate that Deana Brower worked with the district on the next levy campaign, making plans to meet with the superintendent and administrators to talk over strategy.
As mentioned, in September and again in October, the district distributed the KIDS Newspaper to at least 34 elementary schools in Spokane Public Schools, as well as to several other area school districts. According to KIDS – supposedly a nonprofit venture – 30,000 copies are distributed with every issue. Spokane Public Schools distributes KIDS throughout the school year, but in September and October, the editions for Spokane each contained a full-page article written by Jenny Rose, president of the Spokane Education Association (the teachers union). Those articles cited SEA endorsements for three candidates for political campaigns, including Brower.
The district used public resources to stuff this newspaper into the children's backpacks to take home to parents and extended family members. Copies were left out in each school for parents, which is how I got copies of it, and also were provided to the public at the downtown district office, which is how a community member got a copy. The district said nothing about any of this until the community member called to ask if sending out the newspaper with the endorsements was permissible under Washington State law.
In response to this question, the district contacted the Public Disclosure Commission. District Community Relations Director Terren Roloff issued an email to the community member and to me stating that the district will prepare a statement for an upcoming issue and that, in the future, it will not send out endorsements of specific candidates.
The Oct. 22 issue of The Spokesman-Review (SR) said that the union broke the law, that everyone failed to "think about it," that everyone is sorry and that everyone promises to not do it again. There was no other voice in the article. To the best of my knowledge, the SR - which endorsed Deana Brower - still hasn't informed the public about the PDC complaint.
These responses are ... words fail me ... insufficient. Whatever the district does about its distribution of the KIDS Newspaper from this day forward, it will not be able to withdraw its implied endorsements of three candidates for public office. It's too late for a retraction or any other action that might attempt to reverse what the district has done. How does any independent candidate overcome this kind of free assistance? The three candidates NOT in those newspapers were not endorsed by the union and their viewpoints were NOT distributed by the school district.
I believe that Spokane Public Schools, in twice sending out materials that endorsed specific candidates, might have critically influenced three elective races. It’s personally offensive to me. Honorable people with our Armed Forces - including my husband - have shed blood for the Republic and for principles that are at risk here. I do not accept this pitiful response from the district.
Please stay tuned. There’s more to tell you about the people who run Spokane Public Schools, and about the elected board directors whose job it is to be accountable to taxpayers and voters. These are your 500 million tax dollars they’re spending for operating expenses, capital projects and debt servicing, and these are your children they’re supposed to be educating. Your children deserve to have a good education, we deserve to have the truth, and we must be able to participate in free and unbiased elections.
As you vote this week, please ponder these issues, and consider our desperate need for academics, accountability and transparency in this district, for adherence by all to the laws of this Republic ... and for real consequences for their failure to do any of these things.
And then, to Spokane voters: Please vote for Sally Fullmer for the District 81 school board.
Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is:
Rogers, L. (October 2011). "District distributes campaign material to students and community." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site: http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com/