We bring you an “Op-Ed” by a reader who shares their thoughts on the process school districts go through to find people to write the “Pro” and “Con” positions on bonds and levy’s.
WA school districts are supposed to be teaching about constitutional republics and their associated checks and balances. School districts should be encouraging a lively debate on political issues including their own tax measures that are on the ballot. But are they?
Almost all school districts, with measures on the Feb 2023 ballot across the state, may be 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 but rarely find even a single con committee member – even though they have months to do so. Then, at the last minute, when the county voters pamphlet statement due date approaches for measure resolutions and pro/con committee member lists need to be submitted by each district, the county elections reps learn that many measures lack con committee members. Then, the county election people only have a few days to try to find con committee members. Many elections personnel (the county auditor is responsible) usually fail. They simply don’t have time.
So as you open up your voters’ pamphlet, you will know why some of the 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 one-side of the debate.” [Actually, if there is no Con statement there is no debate at all]
Please refer to the summary table for pro/con committee member counts for school district measures on the February 14th, 2023 ballot.
For the 8 bonds from 8 different school districts (across Washington State), only 2 districts did their job and found con committees members. 2 counties, with short notice, found members for 2 other con committees.
For the 37 school districts with enrichment levies, 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 but 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 society. County auditors should be tasked with finding con committee members (if not pro committee members too) early in the process with enough time and information to find committee volunteers.
It’s worth noting that some counties now require that the person writing the Pro or Con statement be a resident of the county. State law allows anyone in the State to write a position if no one in the district offers to do so. Why make it a requirement to be a resident of the County? Perhaps to reduce the likelihood that someone will write a no position?
It’s critical that voters be presented complete information and not just the “Yes” view. School districts get to create the website and do NOT need to allow any dissent. School districts get to send out mailers extolling the virtues of the levy or bond (using public funds) while regular citizens are left standing outside. School districts hold all the cards and ONLY preach the “yes” sermon.
Please demand you receive full information and multiple points of review. Then make your own decision.
The Ghost Writer