The opening of the WEA-RA started off with a number of items, but I thought I’d highlight the speeches.
John Okamoto, the WEA Executive Director, spoke and specifically applauded the WEA delegates of the previous year for passing New Business Item K. According to Okamoto, this NBI changed the direction of the WEA’s approach to working with and among the other institutions vying for political clout and influence in education. He credited the following successes stemming from Item K:
- a spending increase of $757 million to protect core programs in the state,
- an increase of the levy lid,
- protections of member health and retirement plans,
- SB 6696′ research-based reforms,
- a 20% WEA-PAC increase, and
- the NEWS court victory which noted that the state is not providing “ample provision” for education.
While I enjoyed hearing of the successes, I do tire of “winning” battles and gaining no ground or losing ground (i.e. loss of paid days). At some point, we can’t claim victories if we’re standing still. However, things could’ve been much worse.
One quotation I liked hearing from Pat Sullivan, the recipient of the WEA Friend of Education Award, was this little gem:
“Policy without funding won’t do anything.”
One other item that was discussed centered on the Living Wage Campaign. This initiative centers on all education employees being able to support themselves independent of the assistance of others. One specific victory, according to the video we watched, was the end of the “coffin lane” quota system in the Lake Washington School District. (A video here details the “funeral” of this quota system.) This practice forced employees to wait until someone in the pay bracket above them retired or died in order for another employee to enter that pay bracket. Now, each classified employee earns a percentage wage increase each year.
Overall, the first day went smoothly, and we finished earlier than scheduled; it’s nice to have some rah-rah before getting into the thick of things, and I definitely felt ready for the debates on business items which can become somewhat heated.