Freedom Foundation Staffer, Jami Lund Booted from the Centralia School Board After Only One Term

Election results from Centralia, WA show that incumbent Jami Lund has been ousted from his seat on the Centralia School Board after just one term. A salaried employee of the virulently anti-worker Freedom Foundation, Lund had been accused repeatedly of conflicts of interest during his term, including leading a failed campaign to coerce Centralia teachers into dropping their union. His vocal doubts about the validity of public higher education, the echoes of misogyny in his campaign and past attempts to bully teachers during negotiations likely also led to his failed re-election.

Lund’s entire term in office has been filled with controversy. Early in his tenure, Lund signed emails and letters from the Freedom Foundation to Centralia teachers at their work and at home, trying to coerce them to stop paying union dues while still receiving all the benefits. Many teachers felt their privacy had been violated and made a special appearance at a Centralia School District Board of Directors meeting to hold Lund accountable, also accusing him of a gross misuse of district resources. Lund’s director at the Freedom Foundation, Tom McCabe, claims their number one goal is to defund and bankrupt unions, including teachers’ unions. Many voters were probably forced to ask themselves which master Lund was trying to serve while in office.

Lund frequently put himself at odds with the town he was elected to serve by following the lead of his bosses at the Freedom Foundation. In an article he wrote for the Freedom Foundation’s secretive newsletter to their donors, the ironically named “Freedom Matters”, he asked, “Does the public really have an interest in Higher Education, or is all of this just another scheme to redistribute your income?” He went on to accuse the student financial aid system of being a waste, complaining, “again, what public purpose – if any – is served?” In the same article, he proposed “incentiviz[ing] private institutions” to fill in education gaps, another name for privatizing public schools. It’s not hard to imagine that his constituents would be dismayed at Lund’s disdain for public education. 

Lund’s campaign was also marred by echoes of misogyny, with implications that an empty nester man could do the job better than a mother, such as his opponent Mandi McDougall. In a letter to the editor, Dan Swecker of Rochester fawned over Lund saying, “The school board already has two ‘moms’ on it, so I think there is room for a thoughtful, qualified grandpa too.” Lund continued the sentiment at the Centralia Candidates Forum last month when he explained, “I’m at a stage in my life where I visit my grandchild once in a while and that’s the extent of my family obligations as far as taking care of somebody. And I can get out, I can go to the meetings, I can do the things, I can read the extensive material that’s required for meaningful participation.” His swipe at working mothers is despicable and most likely did not win him any new fans in the education community.

It was perhaps during last year’s heated negotiations with teachers’ unions in Centralia that Lund lost his last thread of legitimacy with citizens. The state legislature had sent a much needed boost of funds to public schools around the state, including Centralia. There were disagreements in many school districts about how the money should be applied, but few districts saw as much animosity towards teachers from the administration as in Centralia. Lund tried to intimidate teachers by proposing to cease paying the health insurance premiums of any teacher on strike. Thankfully, cooler heads on the school board prevailed, calling Lund’s proposal confrontational and “inflammatory.” It was also likely illegal.

Judging from the vote count, it’s clear the citizens of Centralia no longer want someone in office who uses the position to carry out their other employer’s political agenda. Lund’s misogyny, conflicts of interest, vocal disdain of publicly funded education and a track record of bullying teachers were enough to put him on the outs with Centralia families. Lund’s failure is also a bold confirmation that the Freedom Foundation’s anti-union mission is out of step with family values in Washington.