Districts Quietly Prohibit Dissent on Tax Measures

Districts Quietly Prohibit Dissent on Tax Measures

By Jeannie Magdua, Legislative Action Team Leader

WA school districts are supposed to be teaching about democracy and checks and balances. School districts should be encouraging a lively debate on political issues including their own tax measures that are on the ballot.

Almost all school districts, with measures on the Feb 2023 ballot across the state, are failing to practice what they are supposed to be preaching and teaching.

By state statute, school districts are supposed to find pro committee members AND con committee members (up to 3 members for each committee) for the voters’ pamphlet to write the for and against statements for their own measures. School district reps readily seem to find pro committee members (usually paid staff) but rarely find a single con committee member – even though they had months to do so. Then at the last minute, when the county due date approaches for measure resolutions and pro/con committee member lists to be submitted by each district, the county elections reps learn about the missing list of con committee members. Then the county reps only give themselves a day or two to try to find con committee members. And most county reps (the county auditor is responsible) usually fail.

So as you open up your voters’ pamphlet, you will know why that almost all con statements in the pamphlet say, “No con statement was submitted.”

The pamphlets should have stated, “The school district didn’t try very hard to find 1 to 3 people to oppose their own measure and the county auditor didn’t try that hard either or didn’t have time to. So, you voters will only receive a one-sided debate.”

Please refer to the summary table for pro/con committee member counts for school district measures on the February 14th, 2023 ballot.

School District Measures February 14th 2023 | The School Data Project

For the 8 bonds from 8 different school districts, only 2 districts did their job and found con committee members. Two counties, with short notice, found members for 2 other con committees.

For the 37 school districts with enrichment levies, again only 2 of the districts bothered to find con committee members. The respective county auditors found 8 other con committees.

This is why a revised law is needed.

WA school districts have a blatant conflict of interest. Currently, school districts are charged (by statute) with finding and selecting pro AND con committee members for the voters’ pamphlets for their own measures! These school districts always seem to find plenty of pro committee members (usually paid staff) but they rarely find a single con committee member. Then at the last minute, the respective county elections department reps need to try to find con committee volunteers – and they usually fail. Citizens are rarely made aware of the opportunity to present the contrarian view. WA State legislators need to correct this obvious obstacle to providing voters with both sides of the issues – a fundamental principle of our democracy. County auditors should be tasked with finding con committee members (if not pro committee members too) early on with enough time and information to find committee volunteers.

If you want further information about the levy or bond in your district, you can visit www.schooldataproject.com (and click on “Districts” at the top right), or email info@schooldataproject.com


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