NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

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.

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