Union Contributions to Justices Face Scrutiny

Washington_quarter,_reverse_side,_2007Teachers’ union support for the campaigns of state Supreme Court justices in Washington is under scrutiny, following recent Supreme Court rulings on charter schools and education funding.  In a piece for the Seattle Times,  columnist Danny Westneat writes that the court’s ruling that charter schools are unconstitutional “touched off a rash of judge-bashing from the right.” But he adds that the Washington Education Association’s (WEA) donations to the campaigns of seven of the nine justices inevitably raise questions and eyebrows.

The campaign support “doesn’t mean the court is doing the teachers-union bidding,” Westneat writes. “But what’s troubling even to me, the son of two teachers, is that the WEA was a named plaintiff in both the charter-school case and the recent McCleary case about overall funding of the public schools. How can it not be a conflict of interest for judges to weigh cases brought by a top campaign backer?”

Meanwhile, circumstances surrounding the education funding ruling have drawn impeachment  threats against the justices. Earlier this year, the court ruled that Washington state had failed to adequately fund K-12 public education.  A few months later, it issued a ruling fining the state $100,000 a day until the legislature produces an adequate funding plan (see Gavel Grab).  A state legislator responded with a call to impeach the justices, and a group of legislators reportedly began drawing up impeachment articles days later (see Gavel Grab).