Good evening from New­port High School in Belle­vue, Wash­ing­ton. I’m here with sev­er­al dozen oth­er activists, reporters, and cit­i­zens to par­tic­i­pate in a town hall on edu­ca­tion with Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and his staff. The gov­er­nor is using the event to unveil his plan to strength­en Wash­ing­ton’s schools, which his office is call­ing the most sub­stan­tial invest­ment in edu­ca­tion in decades.

Peo­ple are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the town hall from sev­er­al loca­tions via video link: Colum­bia Basin Tech­ni­cal Skills Cen­ter in Moses Lake, Rogers High School in Spokane, and Jason Lee Mid­dle School in Tacoma.

In his intro­duc­to­ry remarks, the gov­er­nor explained that we can no longer afford to delay or post­pone invest­ing in our schools. He remind­ed the audi­ence that the Supreme Court has held the state in con­tempt for fail­ing to com­ply with Arti­cle IX of our Con­sti­tu­tion, which declares that it is the para­mount duty of Wash­ing­ton’s lead­ers to amply pro­vide for the edu­ca­tion of every child.

The gov­er­nor is call­ing on the Leg­is­la­ture to respond by walk­ing its talk.

“In the bud­get I will be releas­ing this Thurs­day, I will be propos­ing adding $2.3 bil­lion to put us back on track,” Inslee said.

His K‑12 plan calls for the following:

  • Ear­ly learn­ing: Pro­vide $79.8 mil­lion for 6,358 new spaces in the state’s preschool solu­tion for chil­dren of low income fam­i­lies, and $70 mil­lion to train child care providers, which will help 50,639 more children.
  • Reduce ele­men­tary school class size: $448 mil­lion will go towards reduc­ing kinder­garten, first, sec­ond, and third grade class sizes to sev­en­teen kids, down from twen­ty-three kids.
  • Statewide full-day kinder­garten: $107 mil­lion will pro­vide full-day kinder­garten for all stu­dents in Washington.
  • Mate­ri­als and sup­plies: To ensure teach­ers have the tools they need, $751 mil­lion would go towards mate­ri­als, sup­plies, and curricula.
  • Pro­fes­sion­al pay for teach­ers: $385 mil­lion will ful­ly fund Ini­tia­tive 732 and pro­vide a cost of liv­ing increase for teach­ers, in line with increas­es rec­om­mend­ed for state employees.

For high­er edu­ca­tion, Inslee is call­ing for a tuition freeze for the 2015–2017 bien­ni­um. He wants to increase fund­ing for the oppor­tu­ni­ty schol­ar­ship by $100 mil­lion and the col­lege bound state need grant by $25 million.

After pre­sent­ing an overview of his plan and dis­cussing some of the high­lights, Inslee began tak­ing ques­tions from edu­ca­tors and cit­i­zens at all four video-linked schools, begin­ning with Spokane, Taco­ma, and Moses Lake.

You can read the plan your­self by check­ing out this PDF from the gov­er­nor’s site.

Ques­tions from ranged to imple­ment­ing I‑1351 to poten­tial changes to the sys­tem used for eval­u­at­ing teach­ers to secure a waiv­er for No Child Left Behind.

Anoth­er ques­tion zeroed in on how the invest­ments would be funded.

“We have a sol­id, fis­cal­ly sound way of financ­ing every­thing we’ve talked about today,” Inslee said in response to a ques­tion about how the plan would be fund­ed. “I can tell you it’s a real financ­ing plan, not based on indebtedness.”

He promised to share details at a press con­fer­ence on Thursday.

“The way I look at this… we real­ly are at a fork in the road,” he said, explain­ing that mak­ing an invest­ment is the way to hon­or our state’s finest tra­di­tion­al val­ues and pur­sue excel­lence in edu­ca­tion. The unac­cept­able alter­na­tive would be fail­ing to ful­fill our con­sti­tu­tion­al oblig­a­tions as a state to our young people.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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