An Open Letter From Erin Jones to The Stranger

Comments

1
Seems like a person of integrity. I'd vote for her over the white guy, just because.
2
I don't see *anywhere* in this open letter clear and open commitments to doing specific work to address the needs of LGBTQ students in WA schools. All I see is an incredible defensiveness. She and her supporters think the problem here is that the Stranger was mean to her, rather than that Erin is clearly not a strong LGBTQ ally - or at minimum lacks the experience needed to be an effective leader of WA schools.
3
I said this elsewhere but to consider:

1) Jones said some ill-advised, unclear things to a conservative education blog and ERW and yet it wasn't until The Stranger asked questions that she walked them back.

2) She also lead a chapter of Young Life, a high school Christian group. That's fine but some chapters are homophobic;she says hers wasn't. I did check with the regional YL and their leaders all have to sign a "faith and conduct" contract for their own lives which is to embracing their teachings and reject "the gay lifestyle." They also said all kids are welcome and not questioned about their views and the leaders are not there to try to change anyone.

She also said - at her campaign Facebook page -

"When I answered "NO" I was referring to both the sexual orientation being a choice question as well as if it (sexual orientation) was a sin question. The answer is NO to both. I do not believe people make a choice in regards to their sexual orientation or it is a sin for those that are apart of the LGBTQ community."

You'll note she does not directly say "being gay is not a sin"; what she said was that it is not a sin to be a part of the LBGTQ community.

She also has not answered any questions about her role as state superintendent and guidance to schools on supporting transgendered students.

It's all a little confusing about what Jones does or does not believe on these issues.

I have a hard time believing in someone like Jones who does not speak with clarity on her positions and seems to shape-shift during a campaign. She's a smart, decent person but I don't think she's ready for this job.
4
The charter thing is still a no go for me.
5
Great letter. Great learning. Great example. You've got my vote.
6
For the SECB to pull their endorsement two months before the election and without getting the whole story is short-sighted and petulant, but hardly surprising. If Seattle wants thoughtful analysis and mature insight, it should probably just follow Doug's Voter's Guide.
7
#3 I am gay, and when Jones said she does not believe being gay is a sin for members of the LGBTQ community, to me that meant the same thing as being LGBTQ isn't a sin. After all, aren't LGBTQ people a part of the LGBTQ community? However, I do acknowledge that her involvement in a Christian youth group which forces leaders to sign a contract denouncing the 'gay lifestyle' is deeply troublesome, and that makes me remain sceptical about her stance.
8
#2 and #3 did I mention to you that she took in two children thrown out into the streets because they were gay. No contract signed would cover that. She states that her church does not have that. That being said, her actions defy any church contract. I am only troubles that we are getting into a religious litmus test to hold office.
9
@7 except that if you follow the Catholic Church way of thinking, you can gay as LONG as you don't act on it. So you could be part of a community but you shouldn't act as part of it.

I commend The Stranger for listening and learning and changing their mind. Kind of like what Jones did.w
10
#4 for the 1000th time, she does not support Charter schools and has made this clear at nearly every legislative district, county district, and community organization. I find it odd to think that she gets to wiggle room on change and growth. Theses the progressive Washington that I moved too.
11
The real issue in this race is her connection with the Evergreen Freedom Foundation and her support of charter schools. Those, more than anything else, disqualify her for this office. ,
12
@7. The big difference is that the Stranger has the upper hans and they are not running for an office. This , to me, violates level of trust that the paper are suppose to have. With very little background work, the board switches its endorsement. Let this be a warning to any and all candidates that their endorsement is subject to change should they find issues they do not care about. BTW if Chris Rekydal was that great of a candidate, then why did they not go with, what seems like, there first instinct. If I ever run for office, this is the endorsement I would be most concerned about. Now if they are not ripping to shreds those that they are not going to endorse, now they are yanking away the endorsement for quotes they do not like. Scary, and something Jones have never done, go back on her word after she made the commitment to support someone.
13
@6

That looks like a pretty good voter's guide.
14
There is a big issue here, which is what got her into trouble in the first place: Should teachers be able to discuss/mention/teach sexual orientation to 5 year olds. She dodges the issue in her letter, only giving lip service to "age appropriate" sex ed, without going into specifics. She's a great politician, I'll give her that: She dances with words like a champ. She brings up how she's so compassionate, pushes her experience, and when she apologizes, she's really saying, "I'm sorry I didn't say the right code-words to manipulate you. I'll know better how to manipulate the right audience in the future." And like a good panderer, she avoids specifics like the plague.

Reykdahl, otoh, has been clear and precise about his support for comprehensive sex ed.
15
@5 - So you created a Slog account solely for the purpose of posting this warm endorsement of Jones? How long have you been a close friend / supporter of the candidate?
16
"Should teachers be able to discuss/mention/teach sexual orientation to 5 year olds?"

Probably not.
But willing to hear other view.
17
@17) She's trying to say that she didn't really say what she said, and doesn't actually believe in what she didn't really say because what she said can unbelievably be construed as what she actually meant . So vote Erin!
18
I voted for her in the primary. But this YoungLife thing? A dealbreaker. Anyone christian enough to lead a YL group is too christian for me to vote for.
19
@18) Agreed, any Xtianleader shit they brag about is a deal breaker. Xtian anything always equates to 'judgemental' / love thy neighbor EXCEPT for THOSE people....
20
"sexually diverse communities"
Have to get a chuckle over that one. Communities with both sexes, not just all men logger camps. Language is funny.

Five year olds shouldn't be getting transgender education or taking standardized tests, they're supposed to be playing and learning about simple stuff they can understand.
21
I'm actually more curious on her views on testing and data collection and how much valuable time and resources should go to that.
22
Money talks and bullshit walks. Jones is backed by campaign contributions from charter school operators, education "reform" billionaires like Chris Larson, known union busters in the phony Gates-funded group "Teachers United," Teach For America executives, and the odious Don Nielsen of the evolution-denying Jesus-rode-a-dinosaur Discovery Institute -- among many others. This is, thanks to the Public Disclosure Commission, all a matter of public record. I don't see those people supporting Reykdal. Only one color matters in the election for this position, and that color is green. I don't care what she says, and I don't care how many gay children adopted her. I follow the money. I'm voting Reykdal.
23
18/19: A lot of us have Christian backgrounds, but go on to understand the human condition with great clarity because of prior religious and spiritual experiences. People grow. People change opinions. These people just don't memorize the talking points of what to say, but have had an epiphany and hold solid convictions, move on from prior beliefs, and are passionate about what they have come to understand.
24
What are her views on education hate groups like Stand for Children, or Democrats for Education Reform?

I'd be a little more concerned about her affinity for groups like that than Young Life.
25
Give Erin Jones this much: she knows how to adapt as a politician. I know, I know, we're falling all over ourselves to somehow avoid voting for the white guy (Reykdal), but the fact is that his policy prescriptions have been consistently progressive, whereas Jones's recent history is wrapped up in an intolerant Christian youth organization and the charter schools industry. Hat tip to @22 for summing it up better than I. Why vote for a chameleon when Reykdal is the real deal?
26
@20, what about the first grader whose 6yo schoolmate is transgender? That would be my 6yo whose little school mate is transgender, and by that I mean that the child in question changed gender in the middle of the first grade year, started living as the opposite gender, using a name of the opposite gender, etc. And let's leave aside questions about whether we support the parents in facilitating this change (I do, for the record). So the question at hand is, how do we talk about the changes that the children are seeing in class, in a way that's supportive and affirming for everyone including the child who changed gender.

Can we talk to the kids in that class about what gender means, briefly, in simple terms? Or what? Can we say, it's ok for boys to wear pink or wear nail polish (as my son likes to do)? Can we say, it's okay for girls to wear pants and get dirty? When people talk about "developmentally appropriate sex/gender education" for little kids, THIS is what they mean. And they're pretty clear that this is what they mean. So, stop with the whole: First graders shouldn't be learning about sex business. That's obvious and everyone knows it.
27
Religion shouldn't affect whether someone stands for public office, and it bugs me that the Xtians hate atheists so much, but I'm no better. I would not vote for a candidate who had strong religious views and inserted them in their policy decisions. I can vote for Tim Kaine even if he's personally anti-abortion, because he doesn't legislate his personal beliefs. I wasn't won over by Erin Jones's defensive letter at all.
28
All you need to know about this story is that Erin and her supporters are spending their time attacking anyone who criticizes Erin or even raises concerns about her, including the Stranger - rather than making it clear they are fully committed to the cause of LGBTQ rights, especially in schools. They've forgotten that the folks who we need to be protecting are LGBTQ kids, rather than any particular candidate for office.
29
The LGBTQ allies I know don't put "coming out" in scare quotes.
30
Maybe Erin Jones' views on LGBTQ issues are just fine - the problem is, now I don't know. She says one thing to one group and a different thing to another. She says one thing in writing, when she has time to think about it and for staff/consultants to draft/edit it, and she has said different things off the cuff in interviews. She chalks these up to learning experiences, misunderstandings or miscommunications. Maybe she's right and she is growing and learning but I don't know how anyone can be sure what she actually believes.

I know what Chris Reykdal believes on LGBTQ issues, and he stands with the community 100%.
31
My vote for State Superintendent won't be based on single issue or narrow interests. I haven't read as much analysis or digging into her opponent's past. Is he not religious to her youth Christian past? Is that important? It wasn't that long ago our president and future president, Hillary Clinton, weren't all that clear on same sex marriage either. I voted for Obama regardless.

The whole "I'll vote for Ms. Jones 'cause she's black" comment is a pretty good tactic by her detractors. There are plenty of people who won't vote for her because she is black. She might not win Eastern Washington. Now, paint her to be a religious, anti-LGBTQ and she'll lose the progressive votes on this side? Make her a pro-charter candidate and she'll lose the union votes?

I hadn't really examine the endorsement or withdrawing the endorsement by the Strangers until I started reading the comments. Reaching into her religious background to throw shade sets off my radar. If people are going to delve this far into a candidate's background, the same should be done of the opponent's.

What I care about is McCleary. How to get the money for education for a million of our students? The rural-urban gap. Outcome gaps and how to close it. That's what I want to know from these candidates.
32
Much more class than the Stranger showed her. I voted for Reykdahl in the primary but will vote Jones in the general.
33
I shared the original Stranger story to alert my friends, but I wanted to wait for her response before I made a decision regarding whether to vote for her again. I was surprised that the Stranger then moved to withdraw their endorsement so quickly, without giving her time to respond.

Her response strikes me as genuine and heartfelt. This is how everybody should react upon being called out for discrimination, and genuine apologies are rare among politicians. Yes, there are those who won't forgive (which is probably part of the reason that proper apologies are so rare in politics - if you can't get the votes back, might as well double-down...unless, of course, you really ARE sorry). I don't demand perfection; the willingness and ability to listen, learn and grow are more realistic goals, and (in the position she's running for, at least) far more important.

Yes, she still has my vote.
34
The fact there has been zero discussion or investigating into where the white candidate stands on matters critical to black students is both troubling and telling. Why aren't we talking about the fact that research shows that African American students, and especially African American boys, are disciplined more often and receive more out-of-school suspensions and expulsions than White students. Perhaps more alarming the finding that over 70% of the students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement were Hispanic or Black. Do LGBT issues matter? Of course, however they’re not they only issues relevant to being the SPI. It would be nice for white LGBT folks to include non-LGBT issues in their narrative. It’s also worth noting that LGBT kids of color will likely face more discrimination than white LGBT kids or straight black kids
35
See Comment #34

"Unequal Education: Federal Loophole Enables Lower Spending on Students of Color" Center for American Progress

"Being Black is not a Risk Factor: A Strength-Based Look at the State of the Black Child" National Black Child Institute

"Racial Disproportionality in School Discipline” Implicit Bias is Heavily Implicated" Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity The Ohio State University

"The Urgency of Now: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males" The Schott Foundation for Public Education

"Black Lives Matter: 2015 The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males" The Schott Foundation for Public Education

"The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children" Phillip Atiba Goff, Matthew Christian Jackson et al.
36
@16: Discussing or mentioning sexual orientation wouldn't necessarily be in-depth at all, and disallowing it could make it impossible to discuss queer people and their families at all. Queer teachers being open about their families to their classes in age-appropriate ways - a teacher having a picture of his husband and kids on his desk, a teacher being asked if she has a family saying she has a wife and a daughter - might not be allowed, or might feel close enough to not-allowed that it's less risky to avoid it. Age-appropriate material involving queer families (there are plenty of books for young children where the main characters happen to have two moms or two dads) might be in similarly risky territory. If a kid with two moms or two dads wanted to talk about their family, the teacher might not be able to correct misconceptions about it if discussing orientation isn't allowed, and that might make it harder to foster a safe environment for that child.

Teaching about orientation directly could be done in an age-appropriate way that doesn't focus on the children themselves as future sexual beings, but on how different types of families exist. There is nothing inappropriate about preparing kids to be around kids with different types of families, and that sort of thing could cover a lot of non-orientation-related situations, too (single parents, multigenerational homes, etc). "Some kids have two dads because some grown-up men marry other men" isn't teaching kids about sex.
37
She made the same 'mistake' when discussing Charter Schools. She clearly supported Charter Schools in action and in language and then turned around and said she doesn't support them? I didn't vote for her because of her wishy washy language around charter schools and this just seems like more of the same.
38
"People grow. People change opinions."

That's true but they usually don't do it in the middle of a campaign. That's what's troubling. The issue of supports for transgendered students has been in the news for months. She didn't think to do her homework then? She didn't think to tell ERW, "Gee, I really don't know but I will do my homework on this subject to get better informed?" That certainly would have served her better than all this shape-shifting.

I agree - there are many public education issues to talk about including the treatment of and supports for students of color. This one just happened to come out because of her answers to three different entities.

I think the debates between Reykdal and Jones are much more important now and, hopefully, people are paying attention. But I have trouble with a candidate who has to constantly explain her changing views.
39
@34:

The Opportunity Gap

For too long, we used the phrase “achievement gap” to describe the persistent difference in academic performance between Caucasian students and students of color, English Language Learners, and other diverse communities. This leaves too many people believing that students have vastly different abilities. The raw truth is we have an opportunity gap that results in an achievement gap. Our students are diverse and may learn, develop, and achieve at different rates, but they are all capable of remarkable things. Our failure to address inequitable resources in our communities and in our schools leads to the opportunity gap. Native American students, African-Americans, Hispanics, and a host of other ethnic and racial populations are systemically discriminated against in the way we fund schools, our inability to address poverty, our discipline policies, and our narrowing definition of how students demonstrate proficiency by use of standardized, often culturally biased, and generally English-only exams. We cannot approach 100% graduation rates until we take a more sincere, more persistent, and more honest approach to how we connect our diverse communities with our public education system. Our education system was designed by people of privilege, it reflects their advantages, right down to the nine month agrarian calendar. Our communities of color, students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and students in poverty, deserve a fully funded education system that is not a function of where they were born, or to whom they were born, or the property wealth of their neighborhood. Students of color deserve school boards that are as diverse as their communities, administrators as diverse as their schools, and teachers as diverse as their classrooms. State resources must be targeted beyond formula funds to schools that need additional support. Our data systems must drill down to understand the disproportionate impacts of our education policies and our funding decisions.

As Superintendent I will diversify the OSPI staff and create a policy framework for the organization that embeds solutions to the opportunity gap in everything we do! Not a single policy will be promoted from my office that does not fully examine the impact on our diverse communities. From policy development, to grant funds, to professional development for our school districts and education service districts; everything OSPI does to approach 100% graduation rates must have an acute eye to the populations that have been systemically denied opportunity in our past and still today. Embracing diversity is not an exercise in being color blind. Quite the opposite; it is absolutely about seeing color, seeing diversity, seeing barriers, having crucial conversations, and strategically moving our communities to a greater passion about their public schools and the expectations of all students.
40
The Opportunity Gap

For too long, we used the phrase “achievement gap” to describe the persistent difference in academic performance between Caucasian students and students of color, English Language Learners, and other diverse communities. This leaves too many people believing that students have vastly different abilities. The raw truth is we have an opportunity gap that results in an achievement gap. Our students are diverse and may learn, develop, and achieve at different rates, but they are all capable of remarkable things. Our failure to address inequitable resources in our communities and in our schools leads to the opportunity gap. Native American students, African-Americans, Hispanics, and a host of other ethnic and racial populations are systemically discriminated against in the way we fund schools, our inability to address poverty, our discipline policies, and our narrowing definition of how students demonstrate proficiency by use of standardized, often culturally biased, and generally English-only exams. We cannot approach 100% graduation rates until we take a more sincere, more persistent, and more honest approach to how we connect our diverse communities with our public education system. Our education system was designed by people of privilege, it reflects their advantages, right down to the nine month agrarian calendar. Our communities of color, students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and students in poverty, deserve a fully funded education system that is not a function of where they were born, or to whom they were born, or the property wealth of their neighborhood. Students of color deserve school boards that are as diverse as their communities, administrators as diverse as their schools, and teachers as diverse as their classrooms. State resources must be targeted beyond formula funds to schools that need additional support. Our data systems must drill down to understand the disproportionate impacts of our education policies and our funding decisions.

As Superintendent I will diversify the OSPI staff and create a policy framework for the organization that embeds solutions to the opportunity gap in everything we do! Not a single policy will be promoted from my office that does not fully examine the impact on our diverse communities. From policy development, to grant funds, to professional development for our school districts and education service districts; everything OSPI does to approach 100% graduation rates must have an acute eye to the populations that have been systemically denied opportunity in our past and still today. Embracing diversity is not an exercise in being color blind. Quite the opposite; it is absolutely about seeing color, seeing diversity, seeing barriers, having crucial conversations, and strategically moving our communities to a greater passion about their public schools and the expectations of all students.