SEATTLE – The state’s largest teachers union endorsed U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee for governor after Attorney General Rob McKenna backed out of plans to speak to the organization’s leadership on Saturday.
Washington Education Association President Mary Lindquist said the union, which was expected to endorse the Democratic legislator, decided to formally recommend him to its members after hearing his concerns about state budget cuts and their impact on education.
“He cares deeply about the children of our state. We’re very happy with what he heard from him today,” Lindquist said. “We believe he’s the kind of governor the state needs.”
At a meeting at the union’s headquarters in Federal Way, Inslee spoke of schools he had visited, teachers and students he had met and demonstrated his knowledge of education issues, she said.
WEA members were disappointed McKenna decided not to share his opinions on education with the group, Lindquist said.
“The teachers here wondered why he wasn’t here. They were speculating that he was afraid to meet with us,” or that education was not one of his priorities, Lindquist said.
McKenna’s campaign manager, Randy Pepple, said the attorney general decided not to attend the WEA endorsement interview because he didn’t expect to have a fair hearing with people who were interested in hearing his point of view.
“It became very apparent yesterday that the WEA was turning today into ‘Celebrating the Endorsement of Congressman Inslee Day,’ ” Pepple said Saturday.
Lindquist said the WEA changed the date of its candidate interviews after McKenna said he had a conflict with the original Nov. 12 date. His campaign called the union on Friday afternoon to cancel his interview with the WEA-PAC Board. The union said he also refused to answer written questions about public education.
About 60 educators from around the state traveled to Federal Way for the interviews.
McKenna’s website outlines his education plan, which calls for more dollars for schools, and a focus on improving the high school graduation rate, and eliminating the achievement gap among children from different ethnic groups. He called for more focus on early learning and extra help for struggling students.
Most, but not all, of McKenna’s education platform mirrors the union’s point of view, but Pepple said McKenna is much more interested in education reform than Inslee.
Inslee also lists education as a priority on his campaign website. He has said he would oppose any further cuts in dollars going to the classroom, wants to focus on early learning and science and math education, would like to see more innovative schools and wants to work on dropout prevention.