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Three seek to lead state teachers union

 

By Jerry Cornfield

Special to the Reporter

Washington's powerful union of public school teachers will elect a new state president today when representatives from around the state cast their ballots in Bellevue.

Seeking the job are Everett Education Association president Kim Mead, Oak Harbor Education Association president Peter Szalai and Mike Ragan, the WEA vice president. The winner will succeed Mary Lindquist as head of the 82,000-member Washington Education Association.

The winner will and be thrust into an intensifying debate among state lawmakers on the amount of reform and revenue required to improve the performance of students.

WEA is pressing lawmakers to fully fund education in accordance with a Supreme Court decision last year. But groups like Stand for Children are pushing back, saying that decision is as much about money as it is about making reforms that will improve the quality of teaching and performance of students in schools.

"It's been very frustrating to not be able to turn the conversation away from one that is blaming teachers and shaming schools to one that focuses on the issue that affects schools most and that is chronic underfunding," said Lindquist, who has served a maximum three terms. "That has been my biggest challenge and that is going to be the challenge of the new president."

Roughly 1,200 delegates, chosen by members of the locals, will vote. If none of the three candidates captures at least 50 percent of the vote, there will be a run-off between the top two vote-getters. The winner will begin their term July 6.

Most of the WEA's membership are certificated teachers employed in the state's 297 public school districts. WEA also represents noncertificated classified personnel in several districts.

And its membership includes faculty at 10 community and technical colleges, the three regional universities – Western, Central and Eastern – plus The Evergreen State College.

 

Jerry Cornfield covers politics for the Herald newspaper in Everett. He can be contacted at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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