The Spokane Education Association, the union for more than 3,000 Spokane Public Schools employees, placed ads featuring local candidate endorsements in a publication distributed in the district’s elementary schools – a violation of state law and district policy.
In September’s issue of the Kids News, the union’s monthly ad had an explanation of why the union endorses candidates and listed the union’s choices for school board and Spokane City Council. In October, the same space displayed the three endorsed candidates’ answers to three questions.
State law prohibits the use of public facilities to assist in political campaigns. Union President Jenny Rose takes full responsibility for the violation.
“We didn’t think about it,” Rose said. “We should have known better.”
The union endorsed Deana Brower for Spokane school board, Ben Stuckart for Spokane City Council president and Joy Jones for the City Council’s District 3 seat.
A Republican Party supporter told the school district it would be only fair to give the same space in the publication for opposing candidates Sally Fullmer, Dennis Hession and Steve Salvatori.
Terren Roloff, district spokeswoman, said even though “the intent would be to level the playing field, it could still be seen as a violation of that basic prohibition.”
Instead, an apology for the misstep will run in next month’s issue.
Rose regrets using the ad space to talk about the candidates the union backs. The union pays $1,000 for the space on page 4 of the Kids News each month. Usually the content is about education or students.
“I was trying to inform the public (parents) how the union works and debunk myths that we are the ‘bad guys,’ ” Rose said.
Mary Helen Black, the newsletter’s publisher, said she ran the ad because she thought it was interesting.
“I have to admit I was not thinking,” Black said. “I will not do it again. I didn’t have any political intent whatsoever.”
Roloff doesn’t typically review the publication before it’s distributed, but she said, “I’m committed to doing that from now on.”