Island Voices

Washington State Parents Get a Seat at the Table

By Eryn DeFoort*

I have good news for Washington State parents.

On September 30, a text came from my friend who is a Washington school board president. He was in the middle of a virtual meeting for the Washington State School Directors Association general assembly. 

WSSDA is the association that oversees and governs all 295 state school boards. They meet annually to vote on resolutions and policy for the upcoming year. He texted me because a topic he knew I cared about deeply had just been proposed as a resolution, and it had ignited a controversial debate.

His first text was cryptic. “Eryn, I’m in the WSSDA general assembly meeting. Parents being recognized as stakeholders has just been proposed! It passed!”

“Tell me more! How are they wording it? What’s the language of the resolution?”

He didn’t answer for a long time. Then, another cryptic text: “No. Wait. The bigger districts have called for a weighted vote.” Weighted votes change the procedure from allowing one vote per district to a “weighted” vote which gives each district a certain number of votes based on their population. This gives more votes to districts like Seattle, Bellevue, and Shoreline.

To understand the sheer gravity of this resolution and the ripple effect it could have for parents’ rights, let me apprise you of a little background. Last year, I and over 100 other volunteer coordinators formed a network of 10,000+ parents across Washington state that worked tirelessly for months to educate each other about a gaping hole in state law. RCW 28A, which creates and provides for the public school system in Washington, provides no mention of parents as decision-makers in their children’s education. 

Nothing. Nada. 

We think that the system gives us a voice through our elected school board, but legally we have no actual standing in the business of what happens to our children once they step onto school property. Our state clearly outlines public school as a business, and only the Washington legislature is recognized as a stakeholder. Not only are parents not acknowledged, but we have been slyly prevented from having a seat at the table by a network of unelected bureaucrats.

We’ve always been this powerless. We just didn’t know it until the assumption of our rights was tested last year through the lockdowns, masks, and mandates. In an effort to regain our legal rights, many parents took classes from the Center for Self-Governance. We learned that we needed to be strategic and willing to execute a plan that might not see fruit at the legislative level for a couple of years. 

The plan started (and was successful) in Tonasket County, where CSG students introduced a school board resolution stating that parents are the primary stakeholder in their children’s upbringing. The word “upbringing” is essential because “parent’s rights” end after a child turns 18. Upbringing is a concept that continues after the age of 18.

Resolutions are easy to pass because they have no legal teeth. They are not policy. Their magic is similar to a corporation’s mission statement. All policy needs to meet the standards of a board’s resolutions; otherwise, it needs to be evaluated, rewritten, and voted on again. 

See the magic? If these resolutions had been passed prior to the pandemic, parents would have had a legal leg to stand on when they came to school board meetings in droves and were given the silent treatment. We could have pulled up that resolution and requested our rights as recognized stakeholders.

Last year, my network of mama bears rallied from 20 to 100 parents in each of 60 districts to share letters with their school boards asking that this resolution be considered [Editor’s note – this included Vashon]. The response was unanimous. School board members across the state assumed, just like we had, that parents were already legal stakeholders in the school system. They didn’t see the point of the resolution because they assumed it to be painfully obvious and redundant. 

The few school board members who took the time to consider the resolution were met with the opposition CSG had prepared us for. WSSDA-trained lawyers erected roadblocks in every school district where we attempted to introduce the resolution. Fortunately, CSG leaders had trained us not to be too disappointed by the rejection. 

In the 2022 legislative session, Representative Brad Klippert proposed the “Parents are Primary Stakeholders in Their Children’s Upbringing” resolution. He was shot down. The GOP house attorney said it contradicted too much of what was already written into Washington state law.

Please read that last sentence again and let it sink in. 

Do you see why I was so shocked when my friend texted me that a resolution acknowledging parents had made it all the way to the WSSDA general assembly?

At the assembly, the resolution was initially met with the same confusion that our school boards experienced. Why does this need to be formally acknowledged? Isn’t it obvious that parents are stakeholders? Then others remembered our letters from last year and piped up, wondering if there was more to this resolution than they realized. My friend said the debate was heated and went on for quite a while. 

The weighted votes were cast, and the resolution did not pass. This is where Misipati “Semi” Bird, a school board member from Richland, Washington, came in. Semi knows his Roberts Rules of Order and was able to use his strategic “nay” in the weighted vote to call for more discussion and another vote. 

He made an impassioned plea to the general assembly to recognize that voting down this resolution would make them look very bad to parents. 

The third vote was called for, and the resolution passed.

Our next step is to introduce the resolution, “Parents are Primary Stakeholders…” in every school board across Washington. Once passed, it can be made policy. And once we have achieved a tipping point of awareness, we can find more support and eventually propose legislation in Olympia.

Patience is a virtue. WSSDA can no longer deny Washington state parents a seat at the table.

* Eryn DeFoort is a former Vashon resident; this article was revised for brevity by Caitlin Rothermel with the author’s permission. For a link to the full article, and to read more of Eryn’s work, go to

November 24, 2022

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