Washington News
theseattletimes.com, February 27, 2012

Another Democratic donor raises concerns about education changes

By Andrew Garber

Paul Brainerd, a major Democratic contributor, has joined a growing number of party donors who say they feel the state is lagging on education reform.

Brainerd, a technology entrepreneur and the founder of Aldus Corp., has contributed more than $900,000 to various causes since 2000, including more than $200,000 to the state Democratic Party and state House and Senate Democratic campaign committees, according to state records. He's contributed thousands more to individual Democratic candidates, including Gov. Chris Gregoire and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee.

I tried reaching Brainerd for a story about the party rift that ran in the Sunday edition of The Seattle Times. He was traveling in New Zealand and responded by email too late to include in the article.

Here's my email Q&A with him:

Do you agree with (venture capitalist) Nick Hanauer that the state is lagging in education reform, specifically by not allowing charter schools and by not linking teacher evaluations to improvement in student test scores?

Yes, I think the state is lagging in educational reform efforts and needs to be studying what other states have done and try new approaches to improve student performance. We can't afford not to. The future of state's economy and the employment opportunities for our children are at stake. Providing quality educational experiences for all of our children is the key to our state's competitive position in the world economy. We are moving much too slowly. Political leadership is sorely lacking.

Do you agree with Hanauer's position that the Washington Education Association has too much influence in the Legislature and that Democratic leaders too often are afraid to buck the union?

Yes. This issue is too important for one interest group to block reforms.

Do you worry that the Democratic Party is losing to Republicans on the education issue?

Yes. The party leadership needs to formulate positions on educational reforms and promote them in their campaigns. Hopefully they could engage the WEA in this effort, but regardless they need to be providing a plan for legislative initiatives that will allow for changes and experimentation in the state's schools.

Do you think this could hurt Jay Inslee's campaign for governor?

Yes, Inslee needs to have a position on how to improve the quality of schools in Washington state which includes reforms that he would support. He needs to be making this an important part of his campaign message.

Which gubernatorial candidate do you expect to support?

Jay Inslee, given his stance on environmental issues. I haven't had an opportunity to study (Republican gubernatorial candidate) Rob McKenna's positions on education given my travels. 


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