Mullet.
Mullet. COURTESY OF WASHINGTON STATE LEGISLATURE
On Thursday afternoon Sen. Mullet released a long statement accusing teacher's unions of trying to kill a bill that he tried to kill only a few days before. The bill would allow school districts to tax themselves more to fund desperately needed education services, and Mullet doesn't like that. His weapon of choice was a poison pill amendment in the Conservatory (aka the Senate Ways and Means committee) at 1:30 a.m., when everyone was loopy on sleeplessness.

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In the statement, Mullet calls reports on his amendment—like mine, for instance—"inaccurate." He claims his amendment "does not limit teachers' right to collectively bargain," and argues that "under no circumstances would any teacher receive a pay cut."

That would be news to his colleague, Sen. Lisa Wellman, prime sponsor of the bill Mullet (and Sen. Guy Palumbo) more or less killed, who wrote the following in a letter to Senate Democrats on Wednesday: “Many of you have seen the statement from the Washington Education Association explaining that if this bill were to pass, teacher salaries would be cut and their bargaining abilities would suffer. That is accurate.”

So, who is right?

Here's Sen. Mullet's bad amendment.

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SB 5313

The first provision, (B), essentially freezes part of a teacher pay until 2022. Which part? The supplemental contract part. What's that? I'm glad you asked.

Teachers do more than create and execute lesson plans 6.5 hours per day. They also tutor kids after school, run departments, coach soccer games, oversee special education programs, etc. Money earned from doing this work is called Time, Responsibility, and Incentive pay, or TRI. Teachers negotiate pay for this work through a "supplemental contract" with the district. Incidentally, Washington is in the middle of a teacher shortage right now, so this "extra" work, this work on top of work, this work teachers do because they know it needs to get done, is especially difficult to cover at the moment.

Districts often pay for TRI using levy money, which Mullet wants to limit access to.

So, after freezing TRI pay until 2022, Mullet's amendment then says teachers can only bargain for a 3 percent raise relative to their base pay.

Telling teachers they can only bargain for a 3 percent raise is, contrary to what Mullet says, limiting teachers' right to collectively bargain. He's literally limiting the amount of money they can ask for at the bargaining table. And if they can only ask for a 3 percent raise in TRI when they could have asked for more, teacher pay would essentially be cut under this amendment.

Mullet is exploiting the difference between base pay and TRI pay in an effort to reduce the amount of levy money districts can use to fund teachers' salaries because, as I reported yesterday, he's worried that we'll create the same conditions that led to the McCleary decision, which found that the state was over-relying on local levies to pay for education and therefore wasn't fulfilling its constitutional duty to pay for basic education. Which, they weren't. And so they got sued.

But Mullet wouldn't have to be worried about another lawsuit if he and the rest of the Senate decided to fully fund education this session. They have the power. They can do it. And the fix doesn't have to come at the expense of teachers' bargaining rights. It doesn't have to come at the expense of teacher pay, either. It should be coming at the expense of rich people.

Instituting a big ass capital gains tax to increase revenues would help—not near enough, but some. However, Mullet is against a capital gains tax. Why? Because he thinks the state already has too much money!

If, at the end of the day, Mullet would rather cut teacher pay and limit bargaining rights than impose a tax on Jeff Bezos when he sells a billion dollars in stocks, then he does not get to call himself a Democrat anymore. I'm sorry. Those are the rules. And after Issaquah, Snoqualmie, and Maple fucking Valley overwhelmingly supported Kim Schrier for Congress in 2018, he doesn't get to say he's just adding conservative poison pills into bills because he represents a "swing district." The 5th isn't a swing district anymore. It just isn't. And it shouldn't be represented by a former bank executive who basically retired to Issaquah to run an ice cream parlor and fuck with unions.

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Looks like progressive organizers are having the same feelings. On Friday afternoon, Indivisible WA 8, a congressional advocacy group that campaigned for Democrats in Mullet's 5th Legislative District, demanded a clean version of the bill. "Step up Mullet, or you can expect to step down in 2020," the release reads.

The 5th LD Democrats posted a similar sentiment on their Facebook page. "Please contact Sen Mullet and demand that he works to pass a clean levy lid lift bill that provides levy flexibility for every Washington school district. Any amendment that cuts teacher pay, undermines bargaining rights, or gives more money to charter schools is unacceptable," the group wrote. "While you're at it, let him know that you support a capital gains tax on the wealthy so that we can fully fund education in Washington state."

Anyway, the bill as amended "has no path forward" in the Senate, according to a spokesperson for Sen. Guy Palumbo. The bill could make it to the floor, however, where Mullet's and Palumbo's bad amendments can be scrubbed or watered down, so the underlying bill is still very much alive. But Palumbo and Mullet can pop up at any time and fight for their amendments to be included. If you haven't already, you could ask them politely to stand down so that the legislature can pass a clean levy flexibility bill that allows school districts to access the education funding that voters already approved, but, you know, only if you've got time.

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