Last week when Tim Eyman’s I‑1053 was declared uncon­sti­tu­tion­al there was much cheer­ing and rejoic­ing across the state of Wash­ing­ton, not least through the halls of Face­book and Twit­ter. Many of these voic­es were stu­dents at our uni­ver­si­ties, who have seen more than 1.4 bil­lion cut from our state high­er edu­ca­tion sys­tem since 2009, increased debt, and less acces­si­ble forms of finan­cial aid because of the increased use of the State Need Grant and cuts to work study. While work study sur­vived its pro­posed sus­pen­sion last year, the cur­rent pro­gram serves 2/3rds (that num­ber just keeps on pop­ping up does­n’t it?) less stu­dents than just a few years ago.

As stat­ed on Cross­cut last elec­tion season:

For high­er edu­ca­tion, cuts in state fund­ing are direct­ly linked through the super­ma­jor­i­ty require­ment to shrink­ing finan­cial aid and sky­rock­et­ing tuition that have been so cru­el to ordi­nary fam­i­lies and their chil­dren. That’s because when tax­es can’t be adjust­ed under the super­ma­jor­i­ty reg­i­men, the only alter­na­tive is greater reliance on tuition and fees not sub­ject to the choke­hold. The result for many young peo­ple is doors slammed shut to high­er edu­ca­tion and for busi­ness­es a slen­der and under-pre­pared work­force Most agree that these are a very bad, very short­sight­ed directions.

In fact, recent­ly a poll was released which shows that vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton “over­whelm­ing­ly sup­port pub­lic high­er edu­ca­tion and want to see fund­ing for the state’s col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties increased”. Not only do stu­dents who have seen uni­ver­si­ties become less acces­si­ble and afford­able want to see more mon­ey for high­er edu­ca­tion, put their par­ents, friends, and fam­i­lies do as well. As Rep. Ross Hunter stat­ed in his leg­isla­tive update yes­ter­day, “High­er edu­ca­tion is one of the areas at great­est risk in our bud­get process this year”, and this is pre­cise­ly because the leg­is­la­ture is unwill­ing to raise rev­enue to fund high­er edu­ca­tion and its oth­er commitments.

This is why try­ing to rein­state the 2/3ds super­ma­jor­i­ty plan into Sen­ate par­lia­men­tary rules is an attack on our Wash­ing­ton col­leges and oth­er ser­vices that stu­dents need to suc­ceed, because, hav­ing to beat back a pro­ject­ed 2.3 bil­lion dol­lar deficit, either tuition will be raised, or ser­vices that some stu­dents rely on to suc­ceed, like child­care, will be cut. When our new econ­o­my needs a high­ly edu­cat­ed work­force from all back­grounds, this is not the way to adapt.

Stu­dents are cel­e­brat­ing the Supreme Court rul­ing. But unless the leg­is­la­ture intends to use the door that has been opened to gen­uine­ly fund edu­ca­tion, to fund it more than just in name, to make the words “pro­tect afford­abil­i­ty” (because our edu­ca­tion sys­tem has become any­thing but afford­able) ring true, then our vic­to­ry is hol­low, and we have let Tim Eyman suc­ceed in turn­ing the clock back on our shared society.

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