WEA member mailings for Gerry Pollet. Click on thumbnails to view PDFs
WEA-PAC Candidate Questionnaire
- Please list the name of your elementary school, city and state: Howell Road, Valley Stream, NY
- Please list the name of your high school, city and state: Central HS, Valley Stream, NY
- Please list the name of your college, city and state: Clark University, Worcester, Mass
- Please list any other institutes of higher education, city and state: JD, University of Washington School of Law
2. Tell us about any activity you have participated in that exemplifies your support of public schools. Describe any outcome or change resulting from this activity.
I have volunteered in our Seattle public schools, from storytelling in elementary classes and assisting in reading instruction to more fundraisers than I can remember. I was a cofounding board member of the Hands for a Bridge Foundation at Roosevelt HS, to support the innovative and inspiring program, which studies reconciliation in South Africa and Northern Island and challenges students to examine race, privilege and class in our community. The program celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. It was incredibly rewarding to see the tears of joy in the founding teachers’ eyes while they looked at the former and current students whose lives have been changed by this program.
In addition, I have been involved (through the PTSA) in setting the criteria for filling open teaching positions in Seattle schools. This has provided me with the experience this year to debunk claims by advocates for the teacher evaluation legislation that Seattle hires are only based on seniority. (My wife Janet Miller served several years on the BLT and is involved in interviewing, etc… which provided me with greater detail to debunk this myth). I have worked hard to pass statewide ballot initiatives for increasing teacher pay, lowering class sizes and providing stable funding for education.
I am one of only two public school parents or volunteers representing Seattle legislative districts in Olympia. This gives me a special responsibility to work with SEA and WEA as well as the teachers and parents in the 46th to ensure that this perspective is represented and our experiences are shared with fellow legislators. My commitment to prioritize working for our schools is reflected in my choice of committee assignments: Education Appropriations and Higher Education (there was no room to add me to Education when I was appointed). I sought out SEA and the views of teachers to ensure that I was well briefed on how the new teacher evaluation system in Seattle was being implemented, in order to effectively prevent passage of a bill that would be punitive to teachers and throw out the collaborative work done to date in Seattle and pilot districts. I was surprised to learn that other Seattle legislators had not spent time getting briefed and worked to set up a briefing (stymied by the District’s inability to schedule with SEA). My goal is to continue to serve as a bridge to other legislators and advocate relying on my relationship with teachers in the 46th, SEA and WEA.
3. In the recent McCleary Supreme Court ruling the court finds the State “has failed to adequately fund the ‘education’ required by Article IX, section 1. Will you abide by this ruling?
YES. I have worked for years (including statewide initiatives and lobbying in Olympia) to support increased taxes to fund a broadened definition of basic education including full day kindergarten, certificated librarians, lower class sizes, teacher pay raises, and early learning. My priority as a freshman in the state House has been to make our tax system fairer and more stable, while seeking to provide the increased revenues we need for education and health. I have been a leader for increasing revenue. This year, I contributed to the successful closing of the out of state mortgage bank loophole, in addition to co-sponsoring and advocating for a capital gains (unearned income) tax, and to pass a bill that would end the out of state sales tax exemption to fund full day kindergarten.
In order to meet our paramount duty to fund education for all students, we will need to raise $1 billion in new revenues next biennium. I am working to reverse proposals to cut TANF and childcare support for working mothers and other programs that are essential to enable a child to learn. We cannot fund education without funding the social safety net, health and services for our disabled. I also believe we need to increase funding for higher education and the promised access to opportunity, which we have been breaking in this state for too many years (I led efforts to restore funding for college work study and Need Grants this Session).
4. What is your opinion of the role front-line practitioners (all school employees) play in legislation discussions and decisions around public education and their rights to collectively bargain?
Nothing moves legislators more effectively than real life experiences being shared by those who are on the front-line. When legislators do not have direct involvement and recent experience in our schools, we are far too susceptible to the myths and claims of advocates with an agenda to privatize public education, to punish and blame teachers and school employees, so that revenues are not raised and the privatization agenda is advanced. Unfortunately, I am one of only two legislators from all of Seattle’s legislative districts with children in public schools and/or who actively volunteer on behalf of our public schools. I saw firsthand this year how falsehoods and myths take hold and are used due to lack of direct experience in the debate over teacher evaluation legislation. Numerous legislators repeated the falsehood that Seattle’s schools solely used seniority in teacher placement and hiring. I sat in the back of the Democratic Caucus room and in committee rooms explaining to fellow legislators that this was not true. What convinced them was explaining that I had been involved in a committee for hiring criteria and my wife served for several years on the Building Leadership Team – interviewing and making hiring decisions. Would that have happened if seniority was the sole criteria?
5. Please share your general philosophy of teacher compensation.
Our society fails to compensate teachers commensurate with the responsibility, training and societal importance that we recognize for our schools and our children. I worked for our initiative to provide increased teacher pay, and believed that the Legislature would step up and honor the will of the people. Now that I am a legislator, I intend to work for this goal. It is time for the statutory definition of basic education, which the McCleary court held we were not adequately funding, to include significant steps forward in teacher pay commensurate with training and the role of our schools in providing for the future of our nation. I believe we should be moving towards providing greatly subsidized, or free, enrollment by teachers seeking Masters Degrees. Teaching is the only profession where we insist on additional education and training, but the employer does not provide that education and training. Teachers should not have to pay for the supplies in their classrooms, and increased amounts for health care, especially after being denied cost of living increases and having basic salaries that were woefully inadequate. The health care increases sought by “reform” advocates are cuts in pay, and a cut in support for education.
6. Please share your views on innovation within our public schools to meet the diverse learning needs of our students. In the space provided please address the following:
- Please share your view on charter schools.
- Please share your view on tuition vouchers.
- What other ideas do you have?
I oppose charter schools and believe they violate our state Constitution’s requirements for general and uniform systems of schools amply funded for “all children… without distinction or preference…” I believe that charter schools are a step towards privatization and, by definition, involve a loss of local control and de-professionalization of teachers. Tuition vouchers, I believe, are unconstitutional under either the federal or state constitution. One cannot be a little bit for charter schools, without advancing the privatization and anti-union agendas. It is ironic that advocates for charter schools can’t articulate why the “reforms” that they cite for charter schools’ performance are not adoptable within public schools without ceding control to an outside operator, removing control from the local school district and removing representation of the educators.