The Parallels Between Washington and Connecticut Aren’t The Ones You Think

Recently, there have been quite a few Connecticut anti-reform activists touting the Washington state Supreme Court’s ruling on charter schools.

I’ve already written about this issue, but the issue truly deserves more scrutiny – especially the relationship between the unions and the judges who ruled against charter schools.

The verdict is troublingly cozy.

According to Seattle Times Columnist Danny Westneat, seven of Washington’s nine Supreme Court Justices received the maximum allowed donation from the Washington Education Association (WEA) during their last campaigns.

The WEA was a key plaintiff in the charter schools case.

If that wasn’t enough, four of those justices – Debra Stephens, Mart Yu, Charles Johnson and Mary Fairhurst – received donations of $1,900 in 2014, after WEA was named as a party to the charter schools case, and after the case was appealed to the Supreme Court.

That is just the most recent donation information. According to Westneat, Justice Susan Owens has been “arguably the court’s biggest WEA beneficiary.”

In addition to receiving maxed-out contributions from the WEA in 2012, the union gave $50,000 to a PAC that supported Owen’s campaign in 2006.

Unsurprisingly, Owens ruled in favor of the union, on not just the charter schools case, but also in another case dealing with school finance.

None of this is illegal in Washington state, where donor rules only suggest that judges may disqualify themselves if donations from a party to a case “cause the judge to conclude that his or her impartiality might be reasonably questioned.”

Not illegal doesn’t mean it’s ethical.

As Westneat puts it, “How can it not be a conflict of interest for judges to weigh cases brought by a top campaign backer?”

Of course, Connecticut anti-reform columnists writing about the Washington state Supreme Court case on charter schools haven’t bothered to mention any of this.

Keep in mind, this is the same group of activists that criticize education advocacy groups for spending money on lobbying, yet they have zero problem with state Supreme Court judges taking money from these plaintiffs.



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