Last month a very important step towards equality was taken by the Washington State School Directors Association or WSSDA. A by-law which had been in place since 1986, called the “weighted vote”, was eliminated. The results will be an equal voice for all school districts at WSSDA.
WSSDA is the association that creates model policies for all Washington school districts. It sets legislative priorities and lobbies legislators for changes to laws. It also provides training and insurance for all school board directors in the state. The membership consists of one representative from each school district, and these members vote on the WSSDA board and committee members.
Every September WSSDA holds their General Assembly, which is a gathering of all the members for the purpose of voting on policies, positions, and legislative priorities. For a very long time WSSDA has been dominated by the large school districts mostly from King County because of the weighted vote. When voting on a policy or position if 5 or more districts ask for a weighted vote then each district receives a voting number that correlates to the size of their district. For example, Green Mountain School district gets 1 vote while Seattle Public Schools gets 19 votes. Woodland 2 votes, Lake Washington 15 votes. It is because of the inequitable nature of the weighted vote that many of the small districts, especially on the east side of the mountains don’t participate in the General Assembly.
It was for this reason that a group of school board directors submitted an amendment to change the by-laws and eliminate the weighted vote. It had a ‘do pass’ recommendation from the WSSDA board but they needed a 2/3 super majority for it to pass. This dedicated group of directors spent the weeks prior to the General Assembly calling directors from districts that didn’t participate last year trying to convince them to participate in the General Assembly and vote to pass the amendment. The hard work paid off and a record number of districts participated in the General Assembly. After 5 ½ hours of debate the vote was taken and the amendment passed 75-25%.
With the weighted vote gone every school district gets one vote no matter their size. This is a positive first step in creating a balanced WSSDA that represents the entire state, not just King County.
Jennifer Heine-Withee is running for the Washington State Education Board and has worked with multiple groups and parents protecting student and parent rights.
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