Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Many of you have contacted me over the past few weeks to discuss the progress of budget negotiations in Olympia. I'm happy to report that the capital budget is nearly finalized and the transportation budget has been approved and signed by the governor.
The sole remaining piece to finishing the operating budget is funding K-12 education. Although there are still some competing interests, I'm happy to report that negotiators are putting Washington students first and solutions and compromises are finally being made.
Although I am not part of the negotiating team, I'm optimistic that I will soon have the chance to vote on a compromise. When I receive my copy of the proposed operating budget, I'll be looking closely for ample funding for a quality education for all of our state's students; a reduction in unfunded mandates; protections for our most vulnerable citizens; and, a commonsense approach to environmental protections — all without raising taxes.
Washingtonians deserve the best their representatives can offer and I hope to vote on a budget that is truly a good compromise for all.
The Evergreen State College
You may have heard about the recent events at The Evergreen State College (TESC). I have received some calls asking for further details and clarification of my stance on the current situation.
In brief, tensions around race recently reached a tipping point when an annual “Day of Absence” event took a turn. In past years, students and faculty of color have left campus on this day to educate about the impacts and benefits of diversity on campus. This year, in an attempt to reverse the staging of the activity, white students and faculty were asked to voluntarily leave campus while students and faculty of color remained.
Brent Weinstein, a white professor, shared his objection to the request via an email exchange. A small group of students associated with Day of Absence then accused Professor Weinstein of racism, and ultimately sought his suspension. Students made threats of violence against Professor Weinstein that forced him to hold his usual lecture off campus.
Videos of these protests are available online and have gained significant media attention. A few news articles are available here:
- College professor Bret Weinstein holds class off campus, citing students threatening violence (The Washington Times)
- Lawmakers propose defunding Evergreen State amid protests (campusreform.org)
- George Bridges statement in response to student demands (The Cooper Point Journal)
TESC President, George Bridges, has said he will meet many of the students' demands. A recent letter by a fellow state representative has been sent to the Washington State Human Rights Commission calling for a full investigation.
My biggest concern in this chain of events is the safety of all students and faculty at TESC. Students have a right to safely attend the classes they've paid for and the faculty has a right to educate without fear of physical harm. The events that have transpired show that neither are available or protected at this time. And still, further, I am deeply concerned that all of these events transpired at a state-funded institution.
For this reason, I have joined with some of my House colleagues in calling for a swift change in leadership at TESC. Should the college choose not to act, I would consider the re-evaluation of taxpayer dollars being allocated to this school.
I'll be watching closely as conversations at TESC unfold over the coming days. Students deserve access to a safe education, and the actions of TESC administration will determine whether or not that will be ensured.
I will continue to update you as budget negotiations continue and I will send a full report of my work in Olympia once our business has concluded.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with your questions, concerns and suggestions. You may reach me via email at Joyce.McDonald@leg.wa.gov or by phone at (360)786-7968.