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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Your choice is Accountability with Fullmer --- or more of the same with Brower

By Laurie H. Rogers

Do you think the school district is being run well? Do you want it to remain as is? When a board candidate says "we" -- should that refer to "we, the people," or "we, the district leadership"? Your answers to these questions will bear on how you'll vote this week for the District 81 school director position. I hope a majority of voters clearly sees that serious change is needed and that the candidate who will work for that change is Sally Fullmer. Her commitment to the voters was apparent beyond a shadow of a doubt last night in Spokane at "Face Off at Ferris."

The Leadership Class at Ferris High School has much to be proud of today. That class again gave city residents a good look at how journalism could be done in Spokane. The first half of the "Face Off" dealt with the school director race, and the questions chosen by the Leadership Class were relevant, hard-hitting, and fair. I said - and I heard people around me saying - "Those are great questions!" If we had print reporters in this town asking similar questions, we might actually get somewhere.

Well done, folks. I'm immensely proud of all of you.

Immediately below is a table indicating the topics of last night's questions, and whether the candidate's answers appeared to me to align with the district and/or union leadership's positions. If you doubt my interpretation of the candidates' comments, following the table is a transcript of the school director portion of "Face Off" - minus the candidates' opening and closing statements.

Candidate's Comments Align with the Interests, Positions or Plans of the District Leadership and/or Union Leadership?

Comments align with district/union Comments align with district/union
1. Where is the district money going?
2. How is mathematics being taught?
3. What is the state/federal role in education?
4. Why were no Spokane schools graded as exemplary?
5. What is your top priority?
6. Explain your approach to transparency.
7. Is Sally Fullmer a one-issue candidate?
8. What do you think about the Tacoma teacher strike?
9. Do you support assessing teachers on other than seniority?
10. How will you assure taxpayers you answer to them?
11. What's your view of federal mandates?
12. What's your view of "green" schools?
13. Do you think the superintendent is paid too much?
14. Why do private schools cost less and achieve more?
15. Who benefits from unions?

Transcript of questions asked of school-director candidates at the Oct. 17, 2011, "Face Off at Ferris"

Question 1: Spokane Public Schools is spending more than it ever has, and yet, since the year 2000, the number of students has decreased by nearly 3,000. If the money is not going to the students, where is it going?

Sally Fullmer: That is an excellent question, and that’s one of the things I think needs to be looked into. No administrator is left behind when it comes to pay in the Spokane Public Schools. We have 110 administrators who make more than $100,000. These are people that are not directly teaching the children. So I think we need fewer administrators. We need to look at what they’re doing and if that’s necessary. Our teachers are professionals; they don’t need to be micromanaged by instructional coaches. We also don’t need to be paying our superintendent more than the governor. The administrator salaries would be a good place to start. We need to spend the money as close to the classroom as possible so that the money is going to education of the students. The money per student is around $12,000 per student; that’s if you don’t include capital projects and debt service. I think we need to demand results for the money we’re putting into the public schools.

Deana Brower: I agree we need to have high expectations and look for results for our students. The cost structures in education are very interesting right now. I think we have to look at where the money goes, education, certainly goes towards teacher salaries and books and things of that nature. But we also have buildings to maintain, heat and light, and these expenses have gone up significantly in the last couple years. I know I’m paying more for gasoline and food in my family’s budget and I know the school district is doing the same. This topic has come up and I wanted to get some concrete numbers. One of the areas I find interesting is insurance. In 2005, our district paid on average per employee, paid about $650 per employee. And it’s gone up to $1,100, almost double.

Question 2: Is it true that District 81’s math program fails to adequately prepare a majority of students for college-level math? An example of this is that 98% of the Running Start students must take remedial math at the college level. What is the problem, and what specifically would you do to alleviate this math crisis?

Deana Brower: I think math is an interesting topic and one that we – our district is taking a very close look at. I was fortunate enough to attend a math summit late last spring where the math curriculum was discussed in great detail, and I was encouraged by what I was hearing. There is a call, definitely an interest in a return to procedural proficiency, and I appreciate that as a parent and as a volunteer in our school district. But then I also heard that we need balance, we need good solid practice in our math classes, we need application that gives students an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in more abstract situations. So I appreciated that. What you have shared, goes against a little bit of some data my opponent and I received (at the) Citizens Advisory Committee last Monday, a week ago. We have some information to share. Those numbers for community college students going into math were much lower. So I would like to know where those numbers are coming from. We saw with our dropout rate not long ago that there was some discrepancy between how things were calculated. I’d like to know how they were calculated so that we can make sure we’re directing the proper services where they need to go, and not giving them to a number that’s more, maybe, “inflated or exaggerated.” All that aside, we need solid curriculum, we need our students to be college and career ready, and I feel that we’re moving in that direction. I’m very pleased with the direction we’re going.

Sally Fullmer: I think we need some major changes in our math program. It’s very important for people to understand statistics, and how studies are done, and how statistics can be used to say whatever a person wants to have them say. Right now, our board has refused to put a better math curriculum in place, especially in junior high. They started to put it in place in the high schools, and yet they’re micromanaging the teachers and not allowing them to teach from the book. Our kids have got to be taught the basics in math and given the tools with which to move forward in math. So, basics in arithmetic, then they can be given the problem solving and taught the concepts. This has become a big issue for all of you parents who have ever tried to help your kids with their math homework or have been shocked when your kids go to college after getting As in honors classes and have to go take remedial classes that you have to pay for. To me, this is a very core issue that must be addressed immediately. We can’t wait.

Question 3: Do you believe state and federal government has too much input in our schools? Critics say we should reduce the role of government and return control of our schools to our elected school boards. What do you say?

Sally Fullmer: I believe it is certainly moving in the wrong direction. Our governor and state superintendent of public instruction, as well as our state legislature, have already signed us over to national core curriculum, standards, where basically the federal government will have more control. Corporations will get in on the act. Pearson Corporation and others [couldn’t hear] a curriculum to the whole country. We need to retain local control so that our elected officials can choose from a variety of curriculum and choices, and not have one mandated by the federal government to rule them all – one way that things have to be done, because I think choice is what is best. It is part of our state duty to fund education, and so I believe the state has a definite role in that, but I think anything the federal government takes over and becomes a monopoly – creates more problems than it solves. I did not want to see us move in that direction. However, our school board has already set aside $500,000 for the nationalized math curriculum, and that is going to cost about 4 times that amount – even though they haven’t seen it yet and don’t know totally what’s in it. Instead of fixing it now and putting the books into place that will help the kids now, they’re waiting for this curriculum. That’s not great if you’re one of those kids that’s losing this year of math instruction.

Deana Brower: Because my opponent brought up [can’t hear] in that example, I would like to point out that my son Joshua in 7th grade uses Holt Math textbooks. I’ve yet to see him use a calculator. He may have lost it for all I know. But our kids use a solid math curriculum. The curriculum that my opponent referred to – the common core – our district has – these are not coming down from the federal government. These are programs that as a school board, as a school district you can opt into. Forty states nationally have opted into this curriculum, and I think that at times there, it can be very beneficial in the world of education to not recreate the wheel, but rather come together, combine resources and put together a solid program from which everyone can benefit. We see all too often kids going out-of-state to colleges, and it’s very nice to see children competing nationally.

Question 4: The state board of education recently graded all of the schools in the state. Not one Spokane public school received the highest ranking of exemplary. What are some of the reasons for this, and what would you do to fix it?

Deana Brower: I think we’re doing a lot of things really well in our district, but we still have much more [can’t hear]. And I can say that with [six?] years of experience working on our Middle School Advisory Committee. I think that’s a great example where a group of folks were brought together to say, “All right. We have a problem. We have concerns over our dropout. How are we going to solve those issues?” Well, Priority Spokane came together and met, and said let’s look at .. They did a study. They said, “You can immediately identify - very quickly identify - your at-risk students while they’re in junior high.” And they listed the factors. So, as a school district, we can get right on those factors. And we’re in that process of momentum and change right now. It’s a very exciting time. It’s a time that I’m excited to be involved in our schools. We‘ve got great programs in place like the ICan program in middle schools, and programs like Avid in science, uh academy. All sorts of great programs to help our students achieve opportunities for themselves. We have more students here in Spokane going off to four-year colleges than the state-wide average. We know the direction that we’re headed, and we need to look at the programs that are working well, and support them, and encourage those programs [can’t hear].

Sally Fullmer: If you’re going to solve a problem or look at an issue, the first thing is to be willing to admit that there is a problem. That is something I think sometimes our district has trouble doing. They’re very good at public relations, and that’s great, putting the best foot forward, and that’s important. But you also have to be willing to look at where you do have problems, figure out the best methods, [can’t hear], and then have the courage to implement that, rather than just trying to cover them up. So, it goes back to making sure we have strong curriculum. We already have great teachers, but many of them are being micromanaged by the administrators - the instructional coaches - who are telling them how they want things to be taught and when they want things to be taught. We need to give our teachers the freedom to teach.

Question 5: If you could implement one school reform within existing resources by reprioritizing funds and staff time, what would you push for?

Sally Fullmer: I’m going to go back to the math again because I think math is the new reading. To get a good job in many fields, you have to understand your math. We need to have kids be ready. I’ve been talking to business owners who say, "I can’t find employees that can make change or handle customers – or the basic things in math." We have industries that can’t find the employee base they need in Spokane because the kids don’t have the level of math they need. This is not the kids’ fault. This has not been offered to them. And I don’t blame the teachers, because they had to work with great constraints with the curriculum and constant experimentation. Teacher-directed learning to get the basic tools is where it starts [can’t hear]. So I would change the math curriculum and let the teachers loose to teach.

Deana Brower: I would be very interested in seeing a continuation of our improvement in our graduation rate. I think we need to make sure that every student who graduates from any of our schools are college and career ready for a path of success when they leave our schools. And it doesn’t just come from the math. Math is important. I agree, wholeheartedly. But we have a spectrum of subject areas that we teach to and that we’re dedicated to, and we need to make sure we’re meeting all the students. Direct instruction works very well for many students, but for some students, they need alternative programs. We need to make sure that their needs are being met and that we are taking them through their educational experience with what their opportunities [can’t hear] their potential. I’d like to see programs that have had great success be encouraged and grown [can’t hear].

Question 6: Would you support putting the detailed budget and union contract agreements online for everyone to see, and is it true that people have to file a public disclosure petition to get full details of Spokane School board meeting minutes?

Deana Brower: I absolutely support full disclosure. I think it’s a contract agreement between elected officials and the public. I think a good example of that is that I worked very hard just three years ago on our last bond and levy election. I was the speaker’s bureau chair, and I was out in the community asking for money for this very remodel at Ferris High School, levy funds to pay for that music program that you heard as you came in. We worked very hard for that. I went out in the public and asked for support for these programs. Therefore, I am a steward of that [can’t hear], and I look forward to being a good steward of those dollars on the school board. In terms of requesting public records, I would be all for having records more easily accessible. Absolutely. I think there are times in contract negotiations where there are issues of sensitivity and I think we have to respect that. We’re dealing with the second largest employer in the City Spokane, and there can be very difficult contract negotiations from time to time in discussions. I have to trust that those who have gone before me know - were giving guidance on that. But I absolutely agree with full disclosure on school board meetings.

Sally Fullmer: As I said in my opening, that’s one of the things I really want to see improve: full disclosure. I recently wanted to look more at the budget. The 185-page budget is available online, but this 40-page document that has [explanatory figures] that you can’t get without putting in a public records request. So I had to put a public records request to get that. And then to get the code for that, you have to go to some other Web site. I’ll go to read the minutes of the meetings – Quite often, they’ll talk about we’re going to change this policy or that policy, and just have a number, and then you are left to go find that policy. Quite often, you can’t find that anywhere without filing another records request. So, we definitely need to improve on that. Transparency when we’re asking the public for money is crucial. If we’re going to say, collect levy money from people, then we need to know where that’s going [can’t hear].

Question 7: (To Sally Fullmer) Some people think you are a one-issue candidate, concerned with the location of Jefferson school. True or false, and if not, please explain.

Sally Fullmer: False. I’m not a one-issue candidate. I think I’ve made that clear from my opening. You can go to my Web site and read a lot about all of the issues I’m concerned about. It is true that I don’t want Jefferson School to be moved. And I am a member of an organization that filed a lawsuit to hold the district accountable for what they put on their bonds and levies. On the 2009 bond, they said they were going to modernize four schools, and Jefferson was one of them. And instead, they decided to move the school six blocks away onto Lewis & Clark High School athletic fields. The court will simply clarify whether they can actually use that money to move something and build new buildings instead of modernize it. Everyone is excited about a new Jefferson – either a remodel or a new building – It’s a question of, was it transparency in the bond to use that language. So that is my involvement in that. Because of that involvement, I’ve also found what it’s like to go before the school board when you’re on the other side of an issue. You get a little bit different reception than when you have the same viewpoint as the board does. That is why I’m so keen on respect for students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers. The board is elected officials, so when the people come to talk to you, they should be respected. We have this problem in our city council – we need people to be respected when they come down to speak to elected officials. So that’s a thing that I would really like to see improve.

Deana Brower: As far as I know, my opponent has not been involved in our schools in a voluntary capacity beyond our neighborhood school and the discussion of this move. If you look at the effort to make broad progress in our schools, you see individuals who put themselves out to volunteer on committees, and work with our educators and our parents to bring improvement to our schools. I haven’t seen this. I’ve seen a candidate come forth out of anger, with one particular situation, and I don’t think that that’s broad enough for the leadership we need of our entire school district. I also find, when you talk about transparency, that we have one individual funding my opponent with $3,850. I think that’s very, very significant in this race. So in terms of independence and transparency, we have to take that into consideration.

Question 8: Recently, teachers in Tacoma went on strike, defying state law and a judge’s order to return to work. Documents now show it was part of a larger plan by the teachers union. Did the WEA want to send a painful message to parents and lawmakers? Do you see the same thing happening in Spokane? And if so, what would be your reaction?

Deana Brower: I don’t know what WEA – I’m not privy to their discussions, but what I do know is that I have the endorsement of our education association. I’m very proud of that. I have a good working relationship with our educators in Spokane. I’m very proud of that. I also have a good working relationship with administrators, and former superintendents and former school board members. And what that allows us to do in situations, unlike Tacoma … in most school districts across America, the breakdown happens between management and labor. That’s where the lockout happens. That’s where the problems arise. When you have school board members who have good working relationships, and strong collaborative, problem-solving history with our educators and our administrators and our parent community, I think that allows those situations to be worked out long before they turn into the situation like we saw in Tacoma. I’m very, very proud of the working relationships that I’ve established, and I look forward to bringing that to our school board, and I think we need those relationships now more than ever.

Sally Fullmer: I have a hard time with people who have a great-paying job, paid for by the public, who refuse to go to work and do their job. They need to work out their problems some other way. I’m opposed to public employees striking. So that’s where I am with that.
As far as the other volunteering in the public schools – Deana’s only been here for six years and was in California previous to that. So she doesn’t realize what I’ve been doing since 1999 – volunteering in the classrooms with my kids, being involved in the music programs at LC, in the sports programs. I was involved [can’t hear] and working in the classrooms there also. So that’s just a lack of information on her part.
I also would like to talk about support and endorsements. I’m pleased to have many private citizens endorsing me, and some of them have given large sums of money to counteract and allow me to get my message out, because I don’t have the backing of the union and their money and all of the other ways that they support Deana, which I’ll talk about later.

Question 9: Would you support strengthening District 81’s ability to retain or place teachers based on criteria rather than seniority?

Sally Fullmer: Yes, I would. I think it’s really important that we have the best teachers that we can for our students. I think teachers are professionals, and we need to make sure that when we hire teachers, that they’re trained and ready to go. I know though, that as you teach and gain experience, you improve, and you learn more about what works and what doesn’t work. And teachers are supportive of each other and helping them that way. So we can’t always tell when we hire someone. So there has to be a process in place. [Can’t hear]. It is very difficult to let go of a teacher who’s not being successful in the classroom. There needs to be additional ways to work on that issue. I wish the unions would come along and say “Hey, we recognize that this is a problem and we want to work on that.” I don’t see that. [Can’t hear] We have to step up and say, “We demand something different now."
(I'll also talk about how) other than money, the union also supports Deana and also the administrators. For one thing, they have brought her into the public schools to speak to teachers during the school day about her candidacy. They have also done a lot of funding through small contributions through individuals and then you don’t have to say who they’re from. So that doesn’t show as a large contribution. There is this newspaper called Kids that’s sent home in every elementary child’s backpack across the city. In September and October, the union put an article in there. It’s actually an ad endorsing Deana and several other Democratic candidates. So to me, that’s the kind of support you can’t pay for. What would that cost be?

Deana Brower: I’ve been an educator for 12 years in the classroom. I taught high school, social studies for 8 years and middle school, social studies and English for four years. I know firsthand the challenges of teaching a classroom, particularly when budgets are in flux like we see right now. We have teachers who are coming on to the job with some of the largest class sizes that we’ve seen in many, many years, and with resources diminishing right before their very eyes. When they were student teaching, they’re coming into their classrooms the first year with conditions unlike anything that they’ve ever seen before. We need to provide support for our education professionals so that they can do the best job that they can. In terms of hiring and retaining, I think we need to support our educators and make sure we’ve got the best teachers working in our district that we can provide our students.

Question 10: (For Deana Brower) You have been endorsed by the teachers unions, received union campaign contributions, and attended union candidate schools. If elected, how will the voters know that you will act in the interests of the community and not the proxy of the unions?

Deana Brower: I’m glad to be able to address that. I’d love to address the financial question. $800. Two $400 checks from the education association, representing 3,000 members, that’s about $.25 per employee. I don’t feel I owe anybody anything for $.25 per person, not that I could be bought that easily anyway. I’ve been criticized for having the support of the education association, and I’m criticized for having the support of the administration. Again, that’s labor, that’s management. If I can work with those two groups successfully, I feel that that is a winning combination for our students in Spokane. My greatest loyalty is to my children and to their generation, and to the legacy of education here in Spokane. That’s where my priorities will be as a school board director. I think that’s significantly different than taking a chunk of money -- Most campaigns you cannot take that kind of money from one candidate. There are campaign contribution limits in most campaigns. $3,850 from one individual who is on record as voting against our levies time and time again is significant in terms of [can’t hear] what would be represented on the school board, and that’s not the voice that I would bring.

Sally Fullmer: Like I said in my opening, I will be an independent voice, not beholden to anyone. If it weren’t for individual citizens helping me get my message out, I wouldn’t have a voice, because the traditional methods that the school uses to contract people using school emails, to contact teachers using school resources, are not available to me. I was not invited to come into the schools to meet with teachers as Deana was. Also, these people have chosen to donate to my campaign because they believe in my message, and they want to help me get it out, and have not asked for anything in return. Although I do know that they are really big on transparency, as I am, and I think the majority of people want to know where the money is going, and what’s happening with that in the school district.

Question 11: School administrators have asserted that local tax dollars are going to Washington, DC, but they’re only getting a fraction of those dollars back. Meanwhile, many federal mandates are unfunded. As a school board member, what would you do to change that?

Sally Fullmer: First of all, I think right now we do have local control over many things, so it is our board’s choice to chase after those federal dollars. They did not have to apply for Race to the Top or any federal grant. We need to look at those monies, and say, “What do you have to do to get that money? Will that benefit our students? Is that going to improve their education? Or is that going to take us down another rabbit trail, and leave us with things we have to do and pay for after the federal money runs out?” When I’ve gone to board meetings, I sometimes felt like all they’re about is where can we get more money? How much money would ever be enough? When are we going to concentrate on making sure we’re getting the best education for the money that we have available to us? So, we do not have to follow the federal mandates. You can challenge federal mandates. School districts across the country are doing that. They’re not accepting that money. They’re not being controlled by that. It usually is a very miniscule amount, that asks you to do a lot more than what we’re getting for that money. So I would challenge that involvement.

Deana Brower: We have to make sure that our mandates are funded. First and foremost. And we have to make sure that the state is honoring its paramount duty in making sure education is a top priority. And that includes fully funding state programs as well. We have had some interesting state financing as of recently. Education finance is very interesting, insofar as, the state kicks the money into school districts that have lower-income rates than other parts of the state. Say, compare Spokane to Bellevue for example. Our property rates are lower here than they are in Bellevue. It’s easy for Bellevue to pull in levy money and support their schools. We have something called levy equalization that the state kicks in. The state is looking to cut levy equalization in the upcoming budget session they’re going into. We have to make sure that money is protected so our schools are fully funded.

Question 12: Studies show that so-called green schools are not as efficient or cost-effective as widely promoted. Please define green schools, and also, should we be spending substantially more of taxpayers’ money to build them?

Deana Brower: Green schools obviously are those that are energy efficient and using energy and environmentally friendly products or materials. It’s funny – just today I saw a news release awarding Shadle High School for their architectural plan. I find it interesting what appeals to say, one group in a population might not appeal to another group. I think when we’re building schools, we have an obligation to our community to make sure that they are friendly to our environment. We owe it to the educating future of our community and our students. We also need to take care of our community and our environment. I’ve heard funding reports both ways, that say it’s right in line with any other spending, and then there’s criticisms that say it’s exorbitant and costs too much. We need to look at that. I’ve not examined the budget of every school built, however, I do feel that our district in general has been good stewards of the bond money. In fact we have the highest rating a school district can have in their bond ratings. And that comes from a review of how that money is being spent, and in maintaining integrity and trust with citizens. So we’ve demonstrated – the district has demonstrated responsibility with [can’t hear] funds, according to this group that evaluates how bond dollars are collected and spent, and a higher financial rating [can’t hear].

Sally Fullmer: When we’re going to build new buildings and modernize schools, I know that at times, there has been extra funding available if the school is built to a certain green standard. One of the things that they found, though, in studies, is sometimes it costs more to build them to that standard and then it costs more to operate them when they’re built that way. I think we have to take a look at those as more of that information is coming in. Of course we want to do the best that we can for our environment at all times. Sometimes the latest trendy green thing in the end doesn’t turn out to be quite as sustainable as it looked in the beginning. So we need to again stick with [can’t hear] proven things and not go off on every new fad that comes along.

Question 13: The amount of money paid to public school superintendents in the state of Washington is a hot topic. Superintendent Dr. Nancy Stowell is paid much more than the state schools chief, and even the governor. Are public school administrators paid too much money?

Sally Fullmer. Yes. And I also believe that their pay in their contracts isn’t tied to the results that they’re getting in the district. Administrators are very keen to tie teachers’ pay and results to what results they get out of the students. But who’s telling the teachers what curriculum to use and what to do? It’s the administrators and the board. So let’s tie the administrative pay to the results of the students, and I think suddenly, they would be much more interested in how the students are doing.

Deana Brower: I think sometimes when we look at things isolated in Spokane, it makes us scratch our head a little bit. Take a step back and look at it state wide, and you start to get perspective. We have the second largest district in the State of Washington, and our superintendent Dr. Stowell doesn’t make the second largest salary, or the third or the fourth or the 8th or the 10th. Her salary is the 12th, and I think that’s a competitive place to be to maintain quality professionals here in our school district. If statewide, that number is too high, and we as a community and we as a state don’t value that level of service for our students, then put it all in check. But we cannot take our one superintendent and look at her out of context. We are, we have, most figures, if you look at district administration is in line, and salaries are in line with what we’re seeing statewide.

Question 14: Deana Brower, you have called for more state taxpayer money for schools. Yet Spokane Catholic schools pay significantly less than the $11-12,000 per student that District 81 spends, and with better measurable results. Is more money really the problem, or is there another issue?

Deana Brower: I would argue the measurable results. I think we do a fine job in our public schools. I’m proud to have my children in our public schools. We are a large, urban school district. 28,000 plus students in our school district. We have 60% of our students on free and reduced lunch, and with that comes responsibility and an obligation to fully serve our students in a way unlike our private schools in our community. We have 24% of our student population are from minority groups. There are challenges. You don’t see that exact population breakdown in our private schools. We have 55 languages being spoken in our public schools. I think all of that provides a very rich culture and diversity in our public schools, but it’s completely different to those challenges faced by private schools in our community. We’re still very fortunate to have strong schools in general – public and private – and I really believe the more investment our community makes into our education – be it public or private or otherwise – it supports our entire system. And I’m very proud just recently of Spokane being named one of the 100 best communities for youth in America. In large part, it’s because of that. We are one of those communities that traditionally supports our levies. We are one of those communities where folks come out and support our education consistently. And that’s where a sense of pride in education comes in our community. I hope to continue that tradition for a good long time.

Sally Fullmer: I don’t believe that a lack of money is the problem. I believe we can educate a student very well for $12,000 a year, and possibly even less. I don’t think there’s any amount of money that would satisfy the ever-growing bureaucracy that is the government school industry. It’s a case of not really looking at what the problem is, and just saying everything’s great. We need to make sure we’re not taking property taxes from people who have an average salary of $32,000-45,000 a year here in Spokane, and using that money to give raises to administrators who are making over $200,000 per year. I think the people of Spokane want their money to be used efficiently and productively.

Question 15: The controversy over teachers unions. Who benefits most from teachers unions – the students or the teachers – and why?

Sally Fullmer: The purpose of teachers unions is to bargain for better conditions for the teachers as workers. I think they’re doing a great job at that. However, their purpose is not to bargain for what’s in the best interests of the students. It’s very important to be clear about that difference. I’m not saying that everything they bargain for couldn’t be in the best interests of the students, for example, class size is obviously in the best interests of the students, so there are times those things overlap, but the primary purpose of the union is to bargain for teachers.

Deana Brower: The union is the teachers. There is no separation. They are educators. They come into this profession to serve our children. And they do a very good job of it. There’s quality of intent, and quality produced. Quality delivered. There are financial situations that enter into the picture. I think that is the business side of education that management and labor have. The more collaborative that relationship is, the better that situation is for everyone.

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