Washington's children need efficient, effective approaches to budgeting
TACOMA – As the gubernatorial candidates prepare to face off in a debate Thursday night, Washington State PTA is calling on citizens to reject Initiative 1185 and instead support efficient and effective approaches to budgeting for education and children’s services.
“Children are relying on the state legislature to pay for the education they need,” said Washington State PTA President Novella Fraser. “The state needs to resolve long-standing issues of underfunding and not get bogged down in extended debate over issues like tolling fees. Now is not the time to tie legislators’ hands.”
I-1185 requires a two-thirds legislative majority, or voter approval, for tax increases as well as legislative approval for any new or increased fees. The measure would continue policy that has been ruled unconstitutional in superior court on multiple grounds. Washington State PTA opposes placing “super majority” barriers to funding that kids rely on. The state is not supplying adequate funding for its schools and now more than ever families rely on programs like Apple Health for Kids and state food assistance.
The recession has taken its toll on families. For the second year in a row, more children live in low-income households. Nearly four out of ten children live in families that struggle to afford food, health care, housing and child care.
But perhaps most significantly, the legislature’s inability to act quickly and efficiently has put a great deal of education reform on hold. In 2009, the state agreed on a funding plan to meet its legal obligations for children’s education, but nearly four years later children are still waiting. Legislators operating under the “super majority” rule have failed to budget for the new basic education plan or demonstrate a long-term fiscal commitment to principal and teacher evaluations and college- and career- aligned learning standards.
- The state still underfunds maintenance costs at schools by at least half a billion dollars annually.
- Still only funds on average three out of four teachers, and in the state's largest district fewer than that.
- Still has not given our youngest students promised small class sizes.
- Still has not made voluntary full-day kindergarten available to all children.
- And still has not implemented new graduation requirements that align with college and workplace requirements. School districts say they don’t have the state funding to offer all middle and high school children the opportunity to complete a full six-period day that offers basic college prep classes or career and technical education.
Washington State PTA prioritizes education funding reform started in 2009 and wants the legislature to focus on implementing it. This plan, passed as House Bill 2261, has created a new, more transparent funding model that when fully implemented will better align state allocations to actual student need and make it easier for citizens to see how the money is spent at the local level. Additional reform -- Senate Bill 6696, passed in 2010 -- has added accountability measures to delivery of K-12 education to make sure public money is used effectively.
Not only is it the state’s paramount duty to amply fund education, the state must also provide for a general and uniform system of schools that give all children the opportunity to prepare to compete in today’s economy and meaningfully participate in this state’s democracy, per the state constitution and legal interpretations of “education.”
In January, the Washington State Supreme court ruled the state was failing in its legal duty to educate children and took the unprecedented action of maintaining jurisdiction in the case, “to facilitate progress.”
To comply with court rulings, the legislature must create a funding stream that covers actual school costs and shifts the burden away from local taxes while also bringing in additional revenue. The state supreme court has ruled the current system is neither ample, nor regular and dependable. To comply with the McCleary v State of Washington ruling, the state needs to infuse at least several billion dollars annually into K-12 funding within a relatively short timeframe of six years.
Washington’s children need the legislature focused on the complex task at hand.
Instead, “The state is stuck in circular conversations about school costs,” Fraser said, noting discussions continue to revolve around issues like whether the state should provide transportation to school. “The state needs to educate its children, and it needs to resolve how it is going to pay for that.”
Washington State PTA opposed a similar initiative several years ago and for years worked to repeal super majority requirements to pass local excess levies. The association also supports simple majority requirements for school bond measures.
As part of its advocacy agenda to promote the well-being of all children, the association works to identify and initiate education and action on tax and budget policies that are fair, equitable, and provide stable, adequate revenues for public education and for programs that benefit children and youth. The association opposes budget policies and other legislative proposals that negatively impact funding for child-related programs.
ABOUT US:Washington State PTA is the largest volunteer organization in Washington with more than 143,000 members last year. Founded in 1905, the association is a powerful voice for children and a resource for parents, providing leadership training and support to more than 900 local PTAs across the state. Learn more at www.wastatepta.org.
- Ramona Hattendorf, WSPTA government relations coordinator