A recent television advertisement on Steve O’Ban, Republican candidate for a House seat in the 28th Legislative District, paints him as having an “extreme agenda” for public schools.
The 30-second spot opens with an unflattering black-and-white photo of O’Ban, an attorney who supports conservative causes, and identifies him as a “featured speaker” at a tea party rally in February 2011. O’Ban did speak at the rally. The ad (also posted at www.vimeo.com/51558751) then makes three claims against O’Ban:
• O’Ban, if elected, would join Republicans who voted to cut $80 million in school funding.
• O’Ban supports “taking even more funds” from public schools to pay for “privately run” charter schools.
• O’Ban proposed allowing teachers without proper certification or training into classrooms.
The Washington Education Association’s political action committee paid Michael Cuddy Media $60,000 on Oct. 8 to produce the advertisement, according to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission. The teachers union has contributed $900 to the campaign of O’Ban’s Democratic opponent, Eric Choiniere, a University Place city councilman.
The 28th District includes Lakewood, University Place, DuPont and Fircrest.
Senate Republicans proposed a plan last winter that would have cut K-12 education funding by $43.8 million, higher education by $30.4 million and early learning and child care programs by $4.6 million, for a total of $78.8 million. Their plan did not pass the Legislature.
On the issue of charter schools, O’Ban supports Initiative 1240 which would allow up to 40 charter schools to operate in the state if approved Nov. 6.
The charter schools would be public schools, although they would operate independently of school districts. The Office of Financial Management’s financial impact statement on I-1240 notes that measure could increase the state’s cost to educate students because charter schools may draw students currently being educated at private or home schools not receiving public funding.
It also noted that some state funding may shift from a public school district to a charter school. OFM analysts concluded the charter school measure would not change current law that state funding follows a student, although it could have an unknown, “non-zero” financial impact on school districts. As for teacher certification, the ad cites O’Ban’s 2010 campaign website as the source of its allegation that the legislative candidate proposed allowing teachers without a proper certificate or training into classrooms.
Here’s what the website – retrieved using an Internet archive – said: “The best teachers should be rewarded and teacher-certification requirements should be eased to let talented professionals and businesspersons from the private sector participate in educating our children.”
WHAT THE SIDES SAY
Rich Wood, spokesman for the WEA political action committee, confirmed that the statement from O’Ban’s 2010 campaign website served the basis for the ad’s final claim. He contended that O’Ban’s proposal that certificate requirements “should be eased” is a call to lower those standards.
“We think it’s important to have high standards so that we have high-quality, well-trained teachers. … We should not be easing the standards or eliminating the standards for what it takes to become a teacher,” he said.
O’Ban called that claim “outlandish.” He said he just wants to figure out a way for professionals with real-world experience to be able to teach in certain circumstances. An example he gave was allowing a retired Microsoft engineer the chance to teach information technology to high schoolers.
“They have the training, background and experience to teach a high-school level course,” he said.
It’s true Senate Republican leaders proposed cutting education funding by about $80 million. But the House Republicans – who O’Ban wants to join – never voted on the budget.
The second claim about O’Ban’s support for charter schools is true. But the ad’s portrayal of I-1240 is not entirely accurate. While a state analysis found that state funding could shift away from school districts, the new charter schools would not take money from public schools because they are – in least in terms of funding – public schools. Private organizations may apply to open a charter school, but it would be still be subject to health, safety and academic standards.
Finally, it’s a matter of opinion whether O’Ban’s proposal to allow professionals who don’t meet existing certificate requirements to teach is lowering standards or giving students the benefit of their on-the-job skills.