Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Education supporters agree: Restoration of majority rule is an opportunity

People from who care about kids are celebrating Thursday’s Washington Supreme Court ruling striking down the provision at the heart of Tim Eyman’s I-601 clones. Parents, teachers and other advocates for great public schools agree that simply cutting funding from other vital public services and reallocating the money to education – the only option on the table before Thursday’s ruling – will never ensure that we are meeting our paramount duty as a state.

To provide the $1.4 billion needed this biennium to meet the state Supreme Court’s mandate to fund K-12 education, Washington needs to raise more revenue.

The Washington State PTA welcomed the ruling. WSPTA is the largest volunteer organization in the state, with over 140,000 members, both Democrats and Republicans. Members of both parties can see that we have a problem: Washington consistently ranks at the bottom nationally in per pupil spending relative to the income of state residents. From WSPTA:

The association welcomes the state Supreme Court ruling this week that strikes down the two-thirds majority requirement for state revenue increases. This ruling gives policymakers the flexibility they need to make practical and balanced choices for children.

The association also opposes SJR 8205, which seeks to embed the two-thirds requirement into the state constitution.

The inability of legislators to effectively and efficiently deal with the significant underfunding of our K-12 educational system is hurting our children. This fall, our association voted to support additional revenue to pay for children’s education and programs that keep them healthy and safe.

The League of Education Voters was the lead plaintiff in the case and we thank them for fighting in court for our kids. The League is ready for the legislature to seize this opportunity and better fund our schools:

LEV and its partners challenged the law in court because it hamstrung our legislators’ efforts to uphold their paramount duty to invest in the quality public schools our children need to succeed in life.  Our kids suffered at the hands of a small minority of legislators who could veto any new revenue options for education.

This decision comes at the perfect time–our legislators are working right now to develop a plan to fully fund K-12 education. This ruling puts all options on the table. We all want what is best for our students, but year after year, thanks in part to Initiative 1053, the legislature has not provided the funding to pay for basic resources need to educate our students.

The state teachers union has seen its members’ salaries shrivel through years of state budget cuts. Teachers have also seen the impacts of reduced funding in their schools and overcrowded classrooms: school librarians, nurses and counselors have vanished, textbooks are outdated and buildings are under-maintained. From Washington Education Association President Mary Lindquist:

This latest Supreme Court ruling paves the way for the legislature to fully fund K-12 public schools as mandated by the Washington Constitution and the Court’s earlier McCleary decision. We urge the House and the Senate to increase funding for our schools so we can begin to reduce overcrowded class sizes and expand all-day kindergarten. Our students’ future depends on it.

Thursday’s momentous Supreme Court decision created an opportunity for the legislature. But will they use their new power to provide the high-quality education that our kids deserve, or will they be paralyzed by their fear of “the voters’ will?” We need to let our legislators know that we want them to act. Bring back the librarians, fix the leaks, buy the books, and ensure our teachers have the resources they need to help all of our kids realize their full potential in life.