Washington state teachers are really mad at Terry Bergeson, and the
schools chief knows it.
The political action committee of the Washington Education Association voted April 17 not to recommend Ms. Bergeson for a third term as the state’s superintendent of public instruction.
The committee endorsed Ms. Bergeson, who was the president of the teachers’ union from 1984 to 1986, in her previous, successful campaigns in 1996 and 2000.
The political group consists of about 6,000 members of the 77,000-member state affiliate of the National Education Association. It offers favored candidates endorsements and financial support, though it has not yet endorsed another candidate in the schools chief race.
WEA President Charles Hasse said the vote reflects a dissatisfaction with Ms. Bergeson that stems from teachers’ frustration with the chronic underfunding of education, including teachers’ salaries, by state lawmakers. It also reflects the pressure educators are feeling from state school accountability rules and the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
"It’s complex," Mr. Hasse said. "She has been an advocate for resources, but she has not necessarily, to some people’s liking, made the connection between resources and school performance."
Teachers are also unhappy with the new law authorizing Washington’s first charter schools, passed this spring, Mr. Hasse said.
Ms. Bergeson has not actively supported charter schools, and pointed out in an interview last week that the new charter rules "are very constrained, oriented toward helping struggling schools and struggling students."
She said her campaign will underscore the substantial progress schools have made on test scores, the need for greater education spending, and her contention that school reform needs to be placed on a positive footing.
"We’ve got to get fixed the punitive approach that’s inherent in the mechanisms in NCLB," she said. "We can’t have an authoritative takeover approach and expect teachers to go from good to great."
Vol. 23, Issue 34, Page 25Published in Print: May 5, 2004, as State Journal