Teaching Profession

Washington Teachers’ Union Is No PAC, Court Rules

By Jeff Archer — September 15, 1999 2 min read

The Washington Education Association has fended off efforts to classify the teachers’ union as a political action committee. Although the union operates such a committee separately, the conservative Evergreen Freedom Foundation had argued in a civil lawsuit that the 73,000-member organization spends enough of its general budget on politics that it qualifies as a PAC. But a state superior court judge in Olympia ruled otherwise last month.

Union Standard

Since 1997, the foundation has accused both the WEA and its parent, the National Education Association, of numerous violations of state campaign-spending rules. The state attorney general last year reached a $430,000 settlement in its case against the union, but the foundation has continued to pursue its own legal challenge. (“Wash. Union Fined, Agrees To Give Refunds,” March 11, 1998.)

Washington state defines a PAC as an organization that has as “one of its primary purposes” the influencing of elections. Classifying the WEA as such an organization could have had powerful repercussions by forcing the union to collect a substantially greater portion of its fees through a process requiring annual authorization from each member.

Such authorization procedures, which affect payroll deductions, were instituted in 1994 following passage of the state’s “paycheck protection” ballot initiative.

Rejecting the foundation’s interpretation, Judge Tom McPhee wrote that the WEA’s “raison d'être is that of a standard public sector labor union,” which, he went on, was to “enhance the economic and professional security of its members.”

While the union spent more than $500,000 on political activities during one 16-month period, that amount represented only a small fraction of its total expenditures of nearly $24 million during that time, the judge pointed out.

A ‘Green Light’?

Bob Williams, the president of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, said that the ruling had given labor organizations and other groups a “green light” to spend as much as they want on politics without having to report their activities. “If that kind of spending doesn’t make them a PAC, then nothing’s a PAC,” he contended.

Union officials claim that the foundation’s true aim was to make it more difficult for the WEA to finance its advocacy and to diminish its power in the political arena. “Their whole goal is to privatize education and use vouchers to do that, and they see us as standing in the way,” said Rich Wood, a WEA spokesman. “We hope they’ll go out and attack somebody else for a change.”

The foundation, however, has appealed a related ruling that Judge McPhee issued earlier in the case. The opinion allowed that a group could spend part of its general budget on politics without having to report the expenditure to the state agency that enforces campaign- finance laws or triggering the annual- authorization rule for payroll deductions. The Washington Supreme Court is slated to hear that case this fall.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Building Equitable Systems: Moving Math From Gatekeeper to Opportunity Gateway
The importance of disrupting traditional American math practices and adopting high-quality math curriculum continues to be essential for changing the trajectory of historically under-resourced schools. Building systems around high-quality math curriculum also is necessary to
Content provided by Partnership for L.A. Schools
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Nearly 9 in 10 Teachers Willing to Work in Schools Once Vaccinated, Survey Finds
Nearly half of educators who belong to the National Education Association have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site set up for teachers and school staff in Reading, Pa., on March 15.
Matt Rourke/AP
Teaching Profession Q&A Nation's Top Teachers Discuss the Post-Pandemic Future of the Profession
Despite the difficulties this school year brought, the four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award say they're hopeful.
11 min read
National Teacher of the Year Finalists (clockwise from top left): Alejandro Diasgranados, Juliana Urtubey, John Arthur, Maureen Stover
National Teacher of the Year Finalists (clockwise from top left): Alejandro Diasgranados, Juliana Urtubey, John Arthur, Maureen Stover
Courtesy of CCSSO
Teaching Profession Teachers Are Stressed Out, and It's Causing Some to Quit
Stress, more so than low pay, is the main reason public school teachers quit. And COVID-19 has increased the pressure.
7 min read
Image of exit doors.
pavel_balanenko/iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession Opinion Should Teachers Be Prioritized for the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Not all states are moving teachers to the front of the vaccination line. Researchers discuss the implications for in-person learning.
6 min read
Teacher Lizbeth Osuna from Cooper Elementary receives the Moderna vaccine at a CPS vaccination site at Roberto Clemente High School in Chicago, Ill., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.
Chicago public school teacher Lizbeth Osuna receives the COVID-19 vaccine at a school vaccination site last week.
Anthony Vazquez/Chicago Sun-Times via AP