The Democrats are cowards.
Yesterday, Democratic Governor Jay Inslee made a big deal out of vetoing a series of obscure bills because lawmakers didn't send him a supplemental budget. But his office won't say whether it will veto a bill that stands for everything the Democratic Party opposes: the reeestablishment of charter schools in Washington state.
The bill would divert revenues from the state lottery to privatized schools. At the same time, the state continues to unconstitutionally underfund public schools serving millions of Washington children, according to the 2012 McCleary ruling from the State Supreme Court. The state's highest court has held lawmakers in contempt ever since, but they still haven't fixed the funding issue.
The right-wing wankers at the Seattle Times editorial board are celebrating and calling on Inslee to immediately sign the charter schools bill into law.
Frank Chopp, a Seattle representative and longtime leader of the Democratic majority in the House, pulled the bill from committee and let it come to the floor for a vote on March 10—even though it never got out of that chamber's education committee. An unusual move.
In a statement defending the choice, Chopp said a majority of his caucus approved of the decision. "In the months ahead we will again take the lead to ensure our public school system is fully funded," he said. In plain English: Keep on waiting for decent schools, public school students! They're coming... some day! Trust us. Make do with your crappy schools for now.
Over in the State Senate, the Republican majority is steady playing a strong game of obstructionist hardball. They unceremoniously killed the Washington Voting Rights Act—which did pass out of committee—by refusing to bring it to the floor for a vote, along with a handful of other common sense bills.
State Democrats are "breaking the number one rule in 21st century politics," said Robert Cruickshank, a senior campaign manager Democracy for America. "Never alienate your base."
Melissa Westbrook, an education watchdog who runs the Seattle Schools blog, is one of Chopp's constituents. "I think Frank is going to regret that," she said, of his decision to let the charter school bill come to the floor for a vote. "I'm very disappointed."
"For all the weirdness that's going on with the Republicans," Westbrook said, "one big schism within the Democratic party that no one wants to talk about is public schools... On the one hand, you have a lot of big money people, like the Gates Foundation [in favor of charter schools]."
On the other hand, she explained, the State Democratic party officially opposes charter schools. Inslee, who is running for re-election this year, has repeatedly said he opposes them—though his praise of a Tacoma charter school in January raised questions over whether he was preparing to flip-flop. His Republican challenger, Bill Bryant, is running on a pro-charter schools platform.
As for the charter school bill now on Inslee's desk, Westbrook said: "He has to veto it."