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

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I-920 Endangers Our Future

This is the first in a special, several part series on the threat that this year's crop of right wing ballot measures pose to the sustainable future of Washington State. A reminder that you can help the progressive movement take advantage of our First Amendment rights by reporting right wing signature gathering activity when you observe it occurring. And don't forget that you have every right to urge fellow voters not to sign a petition for a right wing ballot measure.

Several months ago, a group of anti-tax zealots led by right winger Dennis Falk launched a 2006 initiative campaign to repeal Washington State's estate tax and wipe out hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for public schools.

The group, known as the Committee to Abolish the Washington State Estate Tax, is funded mostly by a few wealthy Washingtonians who don't want to pay their fair share to support the state's education system.

State law directs that the revenues collected from the estate tax be placed directly in the Education Legacy Trust account.

The Office of Financial Management notes that the Education Legacy Trust Account is used only for deposit into the student achievement fund and for expanding access to higher education through funding for new enrollments and financial aid, and other educational improvement efforts.

The Education Legacy Trust helps fund a number of important projects:

  • Initiative 728, which voters overwhelmingly approved to help keep class sizes in our schools manageable;
  • 7,900 higher education enrollments;
  • Financial aid for higher education (increasing the State Need Grant to 65% of the state median income from 55%); and
  • Other education needs (increased Learning Assistance Program – LAP spending).
And this assault on educating funding comes at a time when we as a state can least afford it. We are already facing a crisis:
  • Washington ranks 46th in the nation in class size.
  • Washington ranks 42nd in the nation in education spending.
  • We have $2 billion less for schools this year because of the decline in state funding that began two decades ago.
  • We spend $548 less per student than we did in 1992.
  • We are dead last in compensation among the five West Coast states -- and well below the national average, too.
Our state's sustainable future - the legacy of the Evergreen State, the well being of our communities - is endangered by Initiative 920.

We cannot afford to have a substandard education system. Our country and our state are facing huge challenges, and there is no way future generations will be ready to tackle tough problems if they do not have a good education.

NPI believes that every child is entitled to (and should enjoy) an enriching and fulfilling life. Every child deserves an opportunity to succeed and prosper. A strong and robust public education system gives every child such opportunities and discriminates against no one.

We cannot have a strong and robust education system if we do not provide adequate funding. The old arguments that schools are inefficient or wasteful (and therefore undeserving of additional funding) are conservative diversions. I-920, however, is not even about providing additional funding - it would take away existing funds.

The estate tax affects only the richest Washingtonians. It is the most progressive mechanism available to raise revenue our state desperately needs to meet its commitments. Any other way we raise revenue will force lower and middle income families to pay more - and that's unfair.

We have a moral responsibility to defeat proposals such as Initiative 920, and ensure that every child gets the opportunities they deserve to be successful. If you are approached to sign I-920, tell the petitioner you oppose this assault on our sustainable future - and report the incident to Permanent Defense.

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