Monday, October 31, 2011

Vote for those whose allegiance is to the people

By Laurie H. Rogers

Thank you to all community members who worked so hard this campaign season to inform the public about local political races. You helped fill a huge gap in your community, and your efforts are deeply appreciated by citizens who care about the truth.

A fundamental difference between political candidates is found in their language. Candidates’ use of pronouns tells voters nearly everything we need to know about their alliances, allegiances, priorities, and likely future decision-making. When they use the pronoun “we,” are they referring to “We, the Establishment” – or to “We, the People”? When they talk about “our" money, are they referring to government budgets – or to private dollars? When they want things for “us,” is it for the government bureaucracy – or is it for us, the citizens?

In the case of the Spokane school board race, the language of candidate Deana Brower warns of a tight bond between her and the district/union leadership. Her use of the words “we,” “our” and “us” continually evokes “We" the district, we the union, we the establishment, we the power-brokers, we the ones who know what’s best. It’s rare that Brower publicly questions anything the district does. Meanwhile, our children and teachers are being suffocated by district decisions and by an administrative elitism that shunts aside the public’s questions, concerns and needs.

When board candidate Sally Fullmer uses pronouns, however, she evokes “We," the parents, teachers, children, taxpayers, voters and community members. She naturally speaks of “Our" taxpayer dollars, our children, and our community. Through her, we hear that the government works for the people, that the system should be accountable to the people, and that absolute government transparency is necessary to a free country. My questions for voters are these:
  • Do we like how things are being done now in our public school system?
  • Do we think our children are being properly educated in our public system?
  • Do we think public-school teachers have sufficient freedom to do what they need to do in their classrooms?
  • With a public-school budget in Spokane that has exploded by $210 million (for operating expenses, capital projects and debt service) since 2002, and an administration that keeps telling us the budget has been cut, do we think our tax dollars are being spent wisely?
If your answers to these questions are “yes,” then you might vote for an establishment choice. But if you’re frustrated that more than half of the children are failing basic math tests, that most high school graduates are testing into remedial math in college, that almost half fail or withdraw from those remedial classes, that many of our middle and high-school students drop out of school -- without even the skills they need to fill out a job application – if you’re a teacher who is tired of being micromanaged and then blamed by the district – if you’re tired of your tax dollars going to fund administrative raises rather than instructional staff – you probably will vote for change.

In Spokane, if voters want the school district to be accountable and transparent to its publics, I think we must vote for Sally Fullmer as the next school board director. Spokane citizens are beginning to sense how little real administrative accountability or transparency there currently is in Spokane Public Schools.

On Sept. 28, I filed a formal complaint with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission regarding activities by Spokane Public Schools with respect to a) school board candidate Deana Brower and b) the 2009 bond and levy “campaign.” Curious to know how Brower and Fullmer would handle such a situation if they were elected to the board, I asked them about it at the Oct. 25 Northeast Community Center candidate forum. Their answers were illuminating.

Question: Project into the future. You’ve been elected as a board director, and you’re facing a situation similar to the one that we’re facing in Spokane today. The school district has violated state law by distributing campaign information for a candidate for public office, invited that candidate to attend district meetings to which no other candidate was invited, and used district resources to promote a ballot proposition. How would you hold the district accountable for violations of state law?

Deana Brower said: "I realize you’re speaking of a very specific situation that has been asked at previous forums. Some of your question addresses, that you’ve suggested (sic) is in violation of policy. In fact, it’s not. Some of it is before the PDC. Your complaint has been registered, and the PDC has not responded that, in fact, any wrongdoing has taken place. It’s being investigated.

"Flash forward. I’m on the school board. I believe that our educators, because our union, Spokane Public Schools is the second largest employer in the city of Washington – excuse me – in the City of Spokane. Our union are our employees, those are our teachers, our support staff, our custodians, our cafeteria workers. They are our employees. They have protected time in their day to conduct union business. It’s within their rights, in their contract. And so some of what you allege is wrongdoing took place during that time. And so, as a school board member, I certainly will honor and respect the negotiated contracts – the contract that’s negotiated between our administration and our employees – I find that, I will respect that fully.

"In terms of wrongdoing, should there be wrongdoing found, those individuals should be held accountable, absolutely. There should be a review of what happened and clarification of policies moving forward so that there is, we don’t, policies are not being violated. I don’t think anyone should be exempt from taking responsibility for their actions. I fully support having those be, (transparent?), being held accountable for their behaviors."

Sally Fullmer said: "In the newspaper on Saturday (Oct. 22), there was an article that says the union broke the law with the KIDS Newspaper ad. ... What happened was, there was an ad written for three candidates, including Deana Brower, that was sent home in every elementary child’s backpack in a magazine called KIDS. If I was on the board, first of all, I would stop the practice of sending this magazine home to kids altogether because it’s just full of ads, and I’m not sure that we should be sending any ads home with our kids.

"And then the district claimed that they hadn’t done any oversight of what goes home in that magazine in the past, and they’re committed to have oversight from now on. And that’s important, but they should have had that oversight before now. They shouldn’t be sending anything home in the kids’ backpacks that they don’t know what it is, or what the content of that is. So it’s very important that – we’re asking our kids to be honest and transparent and open – that the district holds to that standard, too. So I would call definitely for an investigation, and the people that have broken the law have got to be held accountable.

"I also would want to stop the practice of – and I understand that this is negotiated by our district with the unions– for them (the unions) to be coming in during school hours and bringing candidates in. I don’t think that needs to be taking place during the school day."

Also at the Oct. 25 forum, Fullmer and Brower discussed academics in Spokane Public Schools, specifically mathematics outcomes. This is what they said:

Sally Fullmer said: “One of the areas that I think we really need to make a difference in is math. I mentioned the scores before. I’ve been talking to business owners who say it’s hard to find employees that can do just some of the basic math skills they need or write in complete sentences. I’ve talked to business professors, college professors who say kids coming into the colleges lack the skills they need to do college-level work.

"And so, we need to make sure that the $12,000 per student we’re spending in the schools is being used to give them the basic tools they need to be successful. We need to teach them how to do math, not just how to use a calculator. We need to make sure they can write in complete sentences. They shouldn’t be just socially promoted through the system, because it does you no good to graduate if you don’t have the skills to move forward in life. So, I think those are things that need to be made a priority for the school board."

Deana Brower said: "In response to the math comment, we do have tremendous work ahead of us, and I’m very proud of the work that is being done. Just recently, this week, there’s been an announcement that Bemiss Elementary School received an academic achievement award for this last, most recent school year. Garfield Elementary, Logan (Elementary) and Whitman (Elementary), all received academic achievement awards for the previous year for math and/or English, some combination thereof. We have fabulous strides being made. Rogers High School, under the direction of (the principal) – they’re doing – with their school improvement grant – they’re making tremendous strides in improvements for the quality of work that the students are being expected to do and that they are producing.

"And so, we know, we do have our analyses, our test scores. The number that keeps coming up about the 10th-grade math scores – our district was right in line – within a half a percentage point of what was happening statewide. So, to look at that as a reflection of failure on our students, our teachers, or our district, I think is a little bit out of context. I think we have to step back, take a look at the broader picture at what’s happening statewide in education, and be proactive as a district in making positive strides for improvement."

That’s how these two candidates answered to the people on matters of legality and academics. (Please do click on the links I provided for the schools Brower cited as having won awards. See how they're doing.) Which candidate appears to speak for the people? To me, Deana Brower sounds just like the superintendent - excusing failure, blaming others and asking for more money. Her use of "we" consistently refers to the district and not to the People.

Our children desperately need arithmetic and grammar, and we the people need public accountability and absolute transparency. Our elections MUST be fair, honorable, ethical, and lawful. We seriously need a change in school district leadership.

Please vote for Sally Fullmer, and please ask your friends and neighbors to do it, too. For more on Sally Fullmer, see her campaign Web site:

Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is:
Rogers, L. (October 2011). "Vote for those whose allegiance is to the people." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site: /

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