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Sun., March 8, 2009, 6:39 a.m.

Smart Bombs: education, accountability, pork

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Teachers are busy, so they might not have time to weigh in on education issues. Not to worry, the Washington Education Association has them covered.

At its Web site, the teachers union denounces various bills being debated in Olympia and provides a form letter for its members to send to lawmakers. All they need to do is plug in their name and location. Say, if students did this, wouldn’t it be cheating? Anyway, the form letter urges lawmakers to focus on funding, not teacher certification, evaluation and compensation.

Union leadership knows that the bills are a product of a long-overdue analysis of the failed basic education formula. The entire effort is predicated on adequately funding schools so that students can get a high quality education. Teachers are the single most important factor when it comes to quality. They have to be in the equation.

Fault lines. It’s been a head-shaking week for accountability mavens. Here’s a brief recap of developments:

In the Libby asbestos case in Montana, W.R. Grace lawyers said that even if executives did know that the vermiculite dust the workers and their families were inhaling was deadly dangerous, it’s the Environmental Protection Agency’s fault for not stopping them.

At his trial, suspended Spokane police officer Jay Olsen suggested Shonto Pete was to blame for getting shot in the head. That’s what he gets for fleeing an angry drunken man with a gun.

In the case of the Spokane Police Department and its strip-search of an allegedly anal-retentive suspect, the city told a judge to forget its initial defense that the department did not have a formal policy. You see, there was a search warrant, after all. So, please, reverse the finding of fault in that civil rights lawsuit.

So what should the public think of this comment from Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick: “The law is clear: You do not do a strip-search in the field”? And that intimidating countersuit the city filed? Forget that, too?

It’s a world of laughter … In Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s speech on the federal stimulus package, he noted that the bill is “larded with wasteful spending,” singling out “$8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a ‘magnetic levitation’ line from Las Vegas to Disneyland.”

That’s interesting in light of this report from the Times-Picayune, New Orleans’ daily newspaper:

“Louisiana’s transportation department plans to request federal dollars for a New Orleans to Baton Rouge passenger rail service from the same pot of railroad money in the president’s economic stimulus package that Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized as unnecessary pork on national television.”

Smart Bombs is written by Associate Editor Gary Crooks and appears Wednesdays and Sundays on the Opinion page. Crooks can be reached at or at (509) 459-5026.

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