The following was testimony given by Catherine Ahl, Education Chair for the League of Women Voters of Washington at the hearing for HB 1497 in front of the House Education Committee on Tuesday, February 3, 2015:

Founded by activists who secured voting rights for women, the League of Women Voters has always worked to promote the values and processes of representative government.  The League believes in an open governmental system that is representative, accountable and responsive – one that assures opportunities for citizen participation in government decision-making.

Because of these deeply held convictions, the League of Women Voters of WA opposes HB 1497.  Under this bill voters would lose their right to elect representatives to oversee the spending of their taxes.  Elected Boards are accountable to the voters.  Appointed Boards are not and cannot be unelected or recalled.

Years ago the Washington Supreme Court defined Common Schools as being “under the control of the qualified voters of the school district.”  More recently the Washington Supreme Court made it clear it expects the Legislature to uphold its Constitutional duty to make ample provision for the education of all children.  That duty is what the Legislature needs to focus on, not bills like this.

A 2013 study found that while test scores increased and achievement gaps shrank in most large urban districts over the past decade, scores stagnated for low-income and minority students and/or achievement gaps widened in cities where school board members are appointed. (http://www.epi.org/ files/2013/bba-rhetoric-trumps-reality.pdf)   A 2014 study found that when mayors take charge of public schools, the role of parents and the community, especially among minority groups, can be marginalized and can further compromise democratic control of schools.(http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Policies/Mayoral- involvement-in-urban-schools)

Allowing a mayor to take away the right of citizens by appointing members of a School Board is simply wrong.  The League of Women Voters of WA stands shoulder to shoulder with the citizens of the Seattle School District and the right to elect all of their School Board members.  We ask that you also stand for representative government and do not pass HB 1497 out of this committee.

Thank you.

Catherine Ahl

Education Chair

League of Women Voters of WA