Washington parents should start thinking about the potential consequences if the Legislature doesn’t reach a deal on school funding reform.
NOTE to Washington parents: Start making alternative plans for early September. School could be canceled this fall if the Legislature doesn’t get its act together and come to a compromise on school funding reform that satisfies the Supreme Court and the voters.
Remember the 2017 Seattle Public Schools strike that lasted five days? This could be worse.
The 105-day legislative session is half over. All lawmakers are saying about the Legislature’s answer to the Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision on school funding is: the other side isn’t playing fair, and it’s their fault they haven’t agreed on a deal.
Tell your lawmakers
Call your lawmakers and urge them to ensure all Washington students have access to the best education and that the state pays for it. More money is needed. How should the state pay for it — property taxes, new capital gains tax, business taxes, a new carbon tax or some other way?
Find your lawmakers:
Come to think of it, lawmakers might want to start thinking about their next jobs. Parents won’t want to send them back to Olympia just to fail. Again.
Lawmakers must stop the political games and get to work. [The state Supreme Court has fined the state $57 million, as of March 5. To see breathtaking comparisons to that sum, check out our graphic.]
They know what needs to be done — make sure the Legislature invests more money in education in a way that improves equity and helps more children graduate from high school ready for college or career.
The scope of the problem is defined — lawmakers need to find about $3.5 billion a biennium to pay educator salaries and either eliminate or severely limit local property tax levies for education. That money must be spent in a way that helps struggling students, while making sure every school offers a great education for all.
Lawmakers should throw away the proposals that will never pass the Legislature. There aren’t enough votes to dramatically raise local property taxes for middle class homeowners around the Puget Sound. Don’t make Washington’s tax system more regressive. Don’t pay for public schools by cutting higher education, mental health services, assistance for the homeless or other programs that help low-income people or keep Washington safe.
New money is needed to reach the state’s equity goals for all kids. The pennies under the couch cushions have already been spent.
Time to do the really heavy lift and agree on a way to fund basic education. Lawmakers must focus on what is possible and stop focusing on wishes and dreams (see couch cushions above).
Separately, the Republicans who control the Senate and the Democrats in charge of the House have made good progress on some incomplete plans. Together they may have one real proposal.
Remember what’s at stake. Failure to reach a deal this Legislative session will have dire consequences: from shutting down schools to a dramatic budget intervention by the Supreme Court.
The legislative session is scheduled to end April 23. The clock is ticking. The Supreme Court and the voters are watching.
More than ever before, lawmakers need to hear from voters. And those lawmakers need to listen.