Brian Mittge: A victory, but keep standing strong


Even in a one-party Legislature, our voices have power — when we use them. 

Last week, during a brief public hearing on a bill that would mandate LGBTQ history and “perspectives” in K-12 school curricula, thousands of people from across the state signed in to oppose the bill. 

A new version of the bill released this week removes one of the areas of concern. However, the amended bill still shows the kind of “father knows best” attitude from the state Legislature that is slowly replacing the tradition of local control in public schools with one-size-fits-all dictates from Olympia. 

And a different bill that is nearing the finish line in the Legislature would give a top state bureaucrat the ability to withhold funding from school districts that exercise what he decides is too much scrutiny in removing material from schools.

So, it’s time to be heartened by partial victory but also to keep advocating in support of our local schools in the face of growing state control. 

Let’s start with changes to Senate Bill 5462, which aims to push “inclusive learning standards and instructional materials in public schools.”

As originally proposed, the bill would have required the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to work with the Washington State LGBTQ Commission to review and update state learning standards at all grade levels “to include the histories, contributions and perspectives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people.”

As word spread about this bill, school districts across the state began weighing in with opposition and formal resolutions urging the Legislature not to pass the bill. On Tuesday, Chehalis added its voice.

“The Chehalis School District Board of Directors does not believe curriculum should be directed by state commissions,” the Chehalis resolution read. “We do not direct our curriculum toward any partisan or ideological point of view. We oppose efforts in Olympia and elsewhere to direct our curriculum away from basic education and toward any ideology. Our aim is to graduate students prepared to think for themselves and be successful in college and career endeavors.”

Others who opposed the bill noted with concern the biography of one member of the state’s LGBTQ Commission, an individual who creates “queer porn” and edited a book called “Nerve Endings: The New Trans Erotic.” This artist who “both titillates and pushes boundaries” would, under SB 5462 as originally written, be helping define K-12 educational standards in Washington.

Amid growing public opposition, an amendment to the bill removed the reference to the state’s LGBTQ Commission co-writing rules for our schools. 

Still, the heart of the bill remains the same, even if it’s less apparent under more anodyne language. It requires the superintendent of public instruction to “ensure that the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion are incorporated into each new or revised state learning standard, and requires local school boards to adopt inclusive curricula and select diverse, equitable, inclusive, age-appropriate instructional materials that include the histories, contributions, and perspectives of historically marginalized and underrepresented groups.”

While inclusivity is a laudable goal, it’s a ironic that supporters of the bill think the Legislature can ensure diversity by strictly imposing its definitions and preferences on the 295 different — one might almost dare to say diverse — school districts across the state. 

The process is also backwards. The bill mandates new standards that haven’t been written yet. A wiser process would be to draft the proposed standards before passing a law that all districts will follow them. At a minimum, the state should require public comment on the proposed new standards when they are finally written. 

Instead, the majority party in the Legislature is pushing to pass a fill-in-the-blanks-later law requiring adherence to as-yet unwritten rules. 

And the state isn’t going to make any of this optional. Quite the opposite. School districts deemed too independent-minded in oversight of instructional materials will be punished.

The Senate on Thursday passed a law that would allow Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal to impose financial pain on any school district that rejects material because of its inclusion of a “protected class.”

House Bill 2331 “would give the state superintendent the power to cut state funding for districts if the superintendent does not approve of the classroom materials chosen by local schools,” The Center Square reports.

After a last-minute amendment that cuts back the appeals process, HB 2331 heads back to the House for a concurring vote. 

Neither of these bills have made it across the finish line yet. There’s still time to speak up. Learn how at

As the Legislature moves into its final weeks, it’s a battle between local control of our schools and a majority party in the Legislature that is preparing to flex an expansive sense of its own authority as it demands deference to its endless wisdom — or else. 

Our kids matter and our beloved local schools are worth defending. Let’s protect the true diversity and independence of our public school system by pushing back against be-diverse-exactly-like-me mandates from Olympia.

Brian Mittge’s column appears in The Chronicle each Saturday. He can be reached at