Is K-12 education fully funded? Not so fast

In 2009 I voted against an “education reform” bill that, amidst devastating cuts, promised fully-funding K-12 education by 2018. As I asked then, how could we expect future Legislatures to possess the courage of our convictions if even we didn’t possess that courage?

The 2009 bill’s promise was to avoid litigation, now known as the “McCleary case,” over K-12 funding inadequacy. The Washington state Supreme Court saw through the smokescreen and, in August 2015, began imposing a $100,000 daily contempt-of-court fine upon the Legislature for not progressing toward its self-imposed goal.

This year’s never-ending legislative process produced what Gov. Jay Inslee proclaimed “a historic budget that fully funds our schools for the first time in more than 30 years.” Other Democrats echoed his exultations, labeling “Democratic” a budget borne out of a Republican Senate, a claim that ignores nine Senate Democratic no votes, and frothing in a press release that it “adds $7.3 billion to Washington schools.”

Not so fast: Education isn’t fully-funded.

The $7.3 billion figure reportedly fails to subtract billions lost from local property tax revenues. The Legislature has added by subtraction before, as it did in 2013 by shamelessly counting $295.5 million in denied K-12 cost-of-living increases toward a “$1 billion funding increase.” It’s doubtful the high court will be fooled.

 The budget also spreads new funding over four years, when truly meeting McCleary might require $5 billion more just by next year. It relies upon fickle property tax revenue and various gimmicks, like diverting $5.5 million from the litter account. It may also fail to fix a broken mental health system — where federal contempt-of-court fines have exceeded $21.5 million so far this year.

Political triumphalism is inevitable. But Carter McCleary was 7 years old when the McCleary litigation was filed. He graduated from high school last month. My son starts high school this fall. Am I wrong to feel impatient about the state meeting its constitutional “paramount duty”?

I also worry about the budget’s unsustainability. As a House member, I voted against budgets on that basis.

The 2007 budget, for example, was “balanced” by breaking a 1998 pension promise — largely for teachers. The state reacted to the Great Recession by decimating programs and denying state workers’ wage increases for eight years. It was heart-wrenching.

Washington continues to use baling wire and volatile revenue sources for budgets, and we are only ever a volatile president’s actions (perhaps tweets) away from another recession. The Washington state Supreme Court has, rightly, insisted on “dependable revenue sources” for K-12.

You can’t separate a budget from its shaky revenue foundation. So why should the public demand progressive tax reform if even Democrats claim progressive aims were “fully” achieved by regressive means? Settling for less is learned helplessness.

It happened in 2009, when I opposed cuts initially characterized as “cuts that will kill” — in a half-hearted case for new revenue — that rhetorically transformed into “cuts with a conscience.” The next year, Democratic super-majorities mustered courage and finally raised taxes upon … candy. Budget secrecy — culminating this year in voting on a budget no one had read — hardly helps make the tax reform case, either.

The public can handle honesty. While it might not serve the aims of political rhetoric, it would be honest to admit trying hard, as I know many legislators did, but falling short in key respects. The public must, again, hope for that honesty from the state Supreme Court.

Originally published at HeraldNet

Senator Reuven Carlyle explains why he voted against the McCleary deal: the entire burden is placed on the middle class

Video: Sen. Carlyle’s McCleary Floor Speech


Reuven Carlyle explaining his opposition to the McCleary deal

(Excerpts)

70% of low income people in King County are going to see a tax increase.
There is a perception that this is about taxing rich folk in the big cities [but it’s not so].

There is not one business in this state that does not win in terms of lower taxes in this deal. And the middle class is going to feel it deeply and seriously.

The entire weight, the entire obligation, the entire bill is being sent to the middle class, seniors, working folk, renters, and so many others. We have lots of people who are, effectively, house rich and cash poor because we’ve had an explosion in the past 10, 15 years of value in homes.

To put all of that burden, in a state with the most regressive tax system in the nation, all of the burden, exclusively on the middle class . We’re better than this. We could have made it fair, we could have made it equitable, and we could have made it widespread.

We haven’t closed any tax breaks of meaningful size. We haven’t done anything. We haven’t asked anyone else [other than the middle class] to contribute. Hundreds of millions of dollars in business taxes will be reduced. Hundreds of millions in this deal. And yet a retired grandma in Ballard will see 100s of dollars of increase for a home she’s lived in for 20 years.

To put that entire bill on that grandma in the middle class is just not right.

This middle class property tax increase is just too much, too high, too unfair, and too narrowly applied.

Refusal to re-balance taxes hinders schoolkids

It’s day 23 of a second special session in Olympia, since legislators couldn’t agree to a state budget before the end of the regular session. Now they have only 16 days left until the new two-year fiscal term. It will be hard to start that without a budget!

classroom

The cause for delay is a disagreement over how to increase funding for the state’s paramount duty: public education. Republicans have proposed increasing property taxes in cities; Democrats have talked about a carbon tax or a capital gains tax. Gov. Jay Inslee suggests a sales tax on goods purchased online. But none of those measure has enough support to pass.

That leaves us with the status quo — which is convenient for avoiding tough political decisions, but atrocious for our kids and schools. The state Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the state was guilty of underfunding education. Two years later, the court found the Legislature in contempt for failing to remedy this constitutional violation. And in 2015 the Court imposed a $100,000 per day fine on the Legislature for their failure to act, which now totals $67.1 million.

The Legislature has already put a plan for fully funding education into law, but they haven’t given themselves the tools to fund it. Unable — or rather, unwilling — to remedy that fundamental problem, some are now trying to pretend it no longer exists. Both parties have touted the improvements to education funding in the last few years. But it’s like having a house with a leaky roof, then patting yourself in the back for putting on a new coat of paint: the reality contrasts with the rhetoric.

In terms of quality, Washington’s K-12 schools lag behind 19 states, according to the Education Week Research Center: Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maryland, Connecticut, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine, Virginia, Illinois, North Dakota, Iowa, Delaware, and Nebraska. Part of those states’ success is their ability to maintain smaller student-teacher ratios: an average of 13 to 14 students per teacher. Washington has the seventh-worst ratio in the nation, at 19 students per teacher.

The only way to fix that is to hire more teachers. And that requires money. What would it take for our state to have class sizes like the states ahead of us? About $1.35 billion a year — but only if we could attract more teachers at current salaries!

Washington teachers are paid about 10 percent less than the national average, so we’re not attracting new talent. A beginning educator now earns only $35,700, even though the Legislature’s own technical working group recommended a starting salary of $54,000 next year. Raising teachers’ salaries to competitive levels would mean $2 billion a year in new public investments.

The Legislature is not even close to reaching those levels of funding. The core problem is that Washington state relies too much on regressive sales and property taxes, which mean poor and middle-class households pay four to seven times more of their income than those at the top. We can’t generate the revenue we need for public education with an upside-down tax system.

There are some options on the table. State law currently allows the very wealthy to accrue profit through stocks and bonds with no contribution to public good. A person pays no state tax when selling high-end financial assets. A capital gains tax — 92 percent of which would be paid by those with incomes over $600,000 a year — would generate about $700 million per year.

It’s nowhere near enough to cover the more than $3 billion we need to truly build a strong K-12 education system. But it’s a step in the right direction.

In the long run, the only realistic way we’re going to ensure educational opportunity is really a right for all children in Washington — and not a privilege for the lucky few — is with broad-based progressive tax reform that reduces taxes on low- and middle-income families, and increases them on the rich.

So far, our legislators have been loath to tax the wealthy. So we are left with this inconvenient truth: The wealthy are protected while the education of our children is undermined. The kids are not all right!

Original: Everett Herald »

Ten Reasons Parents & Teachers Should Oppose the Republican School Plan

On January 27 2017, Washington State Republicans released their Education Funding Plan which they claim will comply with the Washington Supreme Court McCleary Decision requiring the legislature to comply with our State Constitution by fully fund our public schools. While Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal has commended the plan, in this article, we will provide ten reasons all parents and teachers, regardless of their political party, should oppose the Republican Education Plan.

Note: Washington Democrats have not released their Education Funding plan yet. They claim it will be released in a few days. We have reason to believe the Democrats Plan will not be much better than the Republican Plan. We will write a critique of the Democrats Plan when it is released. But for now, we will simply focus on the problems with the Republican Plan. The Republican Plan, which they call the Education Equality Act, is not yet in bill form. Here is a link to a 10 page summary of the Republicans Plan in case you want to read it yourself:
https://johnbraun.src.wastateleg.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2017/01/Education-Equality-Act-Staff-Summary.pdf

Here is a link to their slideshow about their plan:
https://src.wastateleg.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Improving-Student-Outcome.pdf

Here is a quote from their plan claiming that it will help our schools, when in fact, if it passes, it will severely harm our schools: “Our proposal provides ample, dependable and equitable funding for all Washington students.”

Here is a link and quote from Superintendent Reykdal commending the Republican Plan.
https://www.k12.wa.us/Communications/pressreleases2017/Reykdal-EducationFunding.aspx

“The proposal shows that Republicans are serious about solving the funding problem and that it understands additional resources will be needed. The proposal itself is very comprehensive. It would create a guaranteed funding level for each and every student. .. That funding level would be paid for, in part, by a state property tax capped at $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed value. I appreciate the emphasis on accountability and on providing additional support for underachieving students… I also appreciate the emphasis on teacher recruitment and retention… In the coming weeks and months we will work with the House and Senate to create a bipartisan solution that improves student achievement, empowers educators and maximizes local control.”

The Washington Education Association a more critical view of the plan.
https://action.washingtonea.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12646

Here is what the WEA had to say about the Republican Plan

“Though it purports to add funding, take a look at what it really does:
Cuts pay for many teachers…
Slashes special ed funding by prohibiting use of local funds for special ed.
Freezes funding for small rural districts.
Increases class size… by eliminating I-1351.
Lowers teaching requirements, allowing anyone to teach as long as they pass a basic background test. No teaching certificates would be required.
Expands the number of charter schools.
Privatizes public education.
Severely limits collective bargaining, the right to strike and due process.
It goes without saying that WEA adamantly opposes this proposal.”

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A Review of Crimes Already Committed by the leaders of Both Major Political Parties Against Our Kids
Before we get into the serious flaws of the Republican Plan, which are way more serious than any of the above comments by the WEA would indicate, let’s first review the crimes already committed against our kids by the Washington State Legislature. Note that a “crime” is a serious voilation of the law. A lot of people do not understand this, but our State Constitution is not just a series of suggestions, it is the highest law in Washington State. So violating our state constitution is actually committing a crime. The Washington State Constitution has the strongest school funding language of any constitution in the nation. Here is just a couple of quotes for those who may not have read it.

Article 9.1: Unlike other states, which made it the duty of the legislature to adequately fund our schools, the drafters of our State Constitution created a shared Paramount Duty – a duty applied to the entire State Government including the Supreme Court – when they wrote Article 9, Section 1: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.”

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Paramount means the highest and most important duty.

Article 9.2: The first sentence in Article 9, Section 2 of our state constitution states:
“The legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools.”

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This sentence means that the legislature must provide the funds for a uniform system of public schools. Our state constitution specifically prohibits a system of rich schools that can pass local levies and poor schools that cannot pass a local levy. It also prohibits a two-tier system of public schools in which some kids get a qualified teacher while other schools get a babysitter or no teacher at all. Uniform means that all kids are treated about the same and have the same right to a real education. These are the two laws that led to the McCleary lawsuit and the two laws that our Supreme Court have been trying – without much success – to get the State legislature to comply with.

Here are ten reasons parents & teachers should oppose the Republican Plan:

#1: The Republican Plan fails to even mention the real problem which is skyrocketing tax breaks for the rich.
The real problem – which neither party in Olympia is willing to discuss much less address – is that tax breaks for the rich get higher every year. Our currupt legislature currently gives away four dollars in tax breaks for the rich for every dollar we invest in our public schools.

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Spending $40 billion per year on tax breaks for the rich leaves nothing left to fund our schools:

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This is despite the fact that tax breaks for wealthy corporations are specifically prohibited by our state constitution.

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Because of these illegal tax breaks for the rich, robbing billions of dollars from our schools every year, our schools are in a state of crisis. Our students are currently forced to deal with among the highest class siizes in the nation as a result of the fact that our state has among the lowest school funding in the nation as a percent of income (which is the most accurate way to measure school funding).

#2 The Republican Plan is based on lies such as the claim that the legislature has already added “billions of dollars in funding for schools.”
Legislators falsely claim that they have provided “billions of dollars” in additional school funding in the past 4 years. This is a lie. In fact, they simply moved money around from one account to another. If the legislature actually had increased funding for our schools, we would have more teachers. In fact, while the number of students has risen by nearly 100,000 in the past six years, the number of teachers has declined by over one thousand – meaning that class sizes are rising rapidly. How can Washington have billions of dollars in additional education funding – as claimed by our legislature and not hire a single new teacher?

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#3 The Republican Plan would repeal Initiative 1351 (the Class Size Initiative) thus increasing rather than reducing class sizes.
Our schools have among the highest class sizes in the nation. Here is a distribution of class sizes showing which states have low, average, above average or extremely high class sizes:

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For Grades 1 through 6, the national average class size is 21 students while the average class size in Washington state is 24 students. For Grades 7 through 12, the national average class size is 27 students and the average class size in Washington state is 30 students. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_209.30.asp

High class sizes mean that struggling students do not get the help they need while our teachers are faced with the impossible task of training to instruct too many students.

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Initiative 1351 would lower class sizes in Washington state down to about the national average. This would require hiring more than 10,000 teachers and building hundreds of urgently needed schools. Because legislators would rather keep giving away billions of dollars in tax breaks to the rich every year, they want to repeal Initiative 1351.

#4 The Republican Plan fails to even mention our school construction crisis
Half of our schools do not meet the health code standards or the earthquake standards. Half of our schools have water damage (which leads to mold and other toxins). Half have poor air quality. Thirty percent of our schools are estimated to have excessive lead in the water (which causes brain damage in children). Think Flint Michigan on a massive scale. Most of these problems are related to older schools. Half of our schools are more than 50 years old.

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The legislature only provides about $300 per student for school construction – when what is actually needed is 10 times this amount – or $3,000 per student. As a consequence of the legislature’s gross negligence in failing to pay for school construction and repair, the school construction backlog in our state has risen to more than $24 billion.

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It is likely that the Democrats plan will also fail to address our school construction backlog (because the Democrats also want to protect billions in tax breaks for the rich). Thus, the school construction crisis will continue to get worse every year as our kids are forced to spend their school days in unsafe, unhealthy classrooms that make them and their teachers sick.

#5 The Republican Plan claims to increase school funding while reducing property taxes. In fact, it reduces school funding while increasing local property taxes.

The Washington Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled over the past 40 years that local levies are unconstitutional because they result in a two-tier system of rich schools that can pass a local levy versus poor schools that cannot. Local Levies are also not a “reliable” source of revenue. Thus, local levies violate Sections 9.1 and 9.2 of the Washington State Constitution. Yet, despite this fact, by starving schools of the funds they need to operate, the State legislature has forced school districts to raise more than $2 billion per year in local levy funds – double what it was 20 years ago – just to keep their doors open.

The Republican Plan correctly repeals all local levies for funding basic education. This eliminates $2 billion per year in local funding. But the Republican Plan then only increases State Funding through the new “Local Levy” by $1.4 billion – guting over half a billion dollars from school funding!

The Devil is in the Details: According to the Republican Plan, the local levy would change to “$1.80 per thousand dollars of assessed value.” They admit that the average local levy is currently $2.54 per thousand. They then claim that this reduction in property taxes would result in an increase in school funding. Some Democrats have called this a “shell game.” but it is worse than a shell game. It is a con game because instead of merely transferring money around this plan actually reduces TOTAL school funding.

Here is the language from their proposal: “The local effort levy is a permanent property tax levy levied on behalf of school districts by the state. It is not an excess levy. The local effort levy tax rate cannot exceed $1.80 per thousand dollars of assessed value. The tax rate may be phased down to a rate not lesser than $1.25 per thousand dollars of assessed value.”

If the rate were phased down to $1.25 per thousand, then the amount gutted from school funding would exceed one billion dollars per year – meaning the firing of more than 10,000 teachers!

How can they claim they are increasing school funding when they are actually decreasing school funding by up to one billion dollars per year?

Here is the next sentence in their proposal (read it slowly. It may take several readings to understand what it is really saying):

“The state backfills the amount necessary to reach the basic per pupil guaranteed funding level after applying the local effort levy but also establishes a minimum amount to be provided by the state.”

Put in plain English, the legislature would be required to “make up” the net loss of one billion dollars in local levy funds by gutting funding for other programs. Where will this additional billion dollars per year come from? There is only one “descretionary” item left in the State budget that is this large – it is the one billion per year our state invests in higher education. So the Republican plan not only fails to restore public school funding – it would also require eliminating nearly all state funding for higher education (which is currently about one billion dollars per year).

How the Republican Plan increases Property taxes on Local Homeowners:
While property taxes would decrease in some rural school districts, the total property tax rate would increase in urban and some suburban school districts. For example, the current local levy rate in the Seatte School district is $1.31 per thousand. Under the Republican plan, this new Local Levy rate would increase to $1.80 per thousand. For a $500,000 home in Seattle, homeowners would see their local taxes go up by $250 per year – while school funding in Seattle would decline by millions of dollars per year and funding for “descretionary” items like higher education would decline by more than one billion dollars per year.

In summary, the Levy Swap is really a Levy Swipe of more than one billion dollars per year from urban and suburban school districts mainly in King County with these funds being transferred to rural school districts in other counties around the state. I agree that rural school districts around our state are grossly under-funded. But the solution is not to rob urban and sub-urban school districts because they are also grossly under-funded. Nor is the solution to gut funding for higher education – which is also grossly underfunded. Nor is the solution to rob tax payers in King County – because their property taxes have already increased more than 100% in the past 20 years. The solution is to repeal the illegal tax breaks for the rich.

#6 The Republican Plan Reduces Rather than Increases Teacher Pay
The Republican Plan claims to increase the minimum teacher pay from $35,700 to $45,000 per year. In fact, what the Republican plan really does is completely eliminate real teachers by eliminating state regulations which currently require teachers to be fully trained and fully certified. Here is the quote from the Republican Plan: “School districts that meet performance standards are exempt from most state regulations… Districts gain flexibility to hire non-traditional teachers.” So real teachers could be replaced not only by non-qualified or poorly trained substitutes, they could be eliminated altogether and replaced by computer programs.

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In addition, the Republican plan would eliminate the teachers union by eliminating the right of teachers to strike over either low pay or high class sizes.

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#7 The Republican Plan Severely Harms Students by Falsely Labeling Most of them as Failures
Here is a quote from the Republican Plan: “By 2020 all districts have the goal of 86% (of all third grade students) meeting state standard in 3rd grade literacy. Only 54% (of all third grade students) met state standards in 2015-16 school year.”

The problem is that the standards refered to in the plan are not reasonable grade level standards written by child development specialists. Instead, they are the grotesque Common Core standards written by Wall Street consultants who have no idea of what a Third Grader is actually capable of achieving. These fake Common Core standards severely harm children by falsely labeling them as failures. For example, Common Core math standards require children to engage in Abstract Reasoning when most Third Graders are not capable of engaging in Abstract Reasoning.

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The Common Core standards are measured on an extremely harmful test called the SBAC test – which is a test deliberately designed to fail most of the students who take it. Here is the results of the SBAC test compared to previous Washington state tests:

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Note that 86% of Washington State students passed the NAEP test (the National Assessment of Educational Progress). This places Washington state students as among the highest scoring students in the United States and in the world. Meanwhile only 39% of these same students passed the 2015 SBAC test.

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Instead of shaming our kids and our teachers by falsely labeling them as failures, we should be honoring them for how well they do despite the lack of state funding!

#8 The Republican Plan would decrease rather than increase the Graduation Rate in Washington State
The Republican Plan demands an increase in the Graduation Rate from 78% to 89% in the next 3 years. Yet we know that the only proven way to increase the graduation rate is to lower class sizes so that struggling students can get the help they need to succeed in school and succeed in life.

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While there are many causes of school dropouts, one of the primary causes is extremely high class sizes. High class sizes prevent struggling students from getting the help they need to succeed in school. We have known for many years that smaller class sizes make a huge difference for struggling students. In 2005, a summary was published of the largest class size experiment ever conducted. Here is the link:
Finn & Gerber, 2005 Small Class Sizes and Graduating from High School, Journal of Educational Psychology, 97 (2), 214-223. (Data from Tennessee STAR Study) https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/edu-972214.pdf

This study confirmed that even just four years in small classes increased the Graduation Rate from 70% to 88% The STAR experiment was conducted in Tennessee from 1985 to 1990. About 12,000 students in 80 schools were randomly assigned with 6000 students assigned to a small class size of 15 to 18 students while the other 6000 students were assigned to a regular class size of 22 to 25 students in grades K through 3. In the 4th grade, all students were returned to regular size classes. Students in smaller classes had fewer attendance problems, fewer discipline problems, and much higher test scores.

The helpful effect of small class sizes was most noticeable among lower income and minority students. For example, the drop out rate 12 years later among low income students was cut from 30% to only 12%. Put another way, the graduation rate among low income and minority students skyrocketed from 70% to 88%. Small class sizes were able to greatly reduce and in many cases completely eliminate the so-called “Achievement Gap” or difference between higher income and lower income students. In addition, lower class sizes reduces the teacher attrition rate.

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But lowering class sizes requires hiring more teachers and building more schools which in turn requires ending or at least reducing tax breaks for the rich. This is why lowering class sizes is not even being discussed ny either political party in Olympia.

#9 The Rebublican Plan Privatizes Nearly Every School in Washington State
No school district in the nation has ever had 86% of Third Graders passing the SBAC test – nor can this ever happen because the test is specifically designed to fail 50% or more of all kids. Thus, the Republican Plan is designed to falsely label every school district in Washington state as a failure. After being labeled as a failure, these school districts will all be open to being privatized and handed over to For Profit Wall Street Raiders.

Here is the language in the Republican Plan: “Up to 5% of schools not meeting standards can apply to be an innovation district.”

“Innovative School District” means a school district that is handed over to Wall Street raiders who then turn around and fire all of the real teachers replacing them typically with computer programs that do not actually help children.

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While the language sounds like it would be limited to 5% of all schools, in fact because every school district in the state would be labeled a failure by the Republican Plan, every school district would be at risk for being privatized. The public goal of these racketeers is not just to privatize a few public schools – it is to privatize all of them.

Four Steps to Converting All Public Schools to For Profit Online Schools

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Online charter schools have a graduation rate of only 20 to 30% – meaning that they fail nearly all students. In fact, many students score more poorly at the end of a year in an online charter school math test than they did at the beginning of the year. So the goal is not to help students, it is to make billions of dollars by destroying students.

#10 The Republican Plan is not about Funding our Public Schools, it is about Destroying them.
The Republican Plan is really the Billionaires Plan. Billionaires do not like public schools because they do not like Democracy. Thomas Jefferson noted that our public schools are the foundation not only of economic prosperity but also of our democracy. When students are brainwashed by online charter schools, it will be easier for billionaires to control them.

To learn more about the billionaires plan to destroy and take over our public schools, go to the following website:
https://weaponsofmassdeception.org/

Conclusion… It is time for Teachers and Parents to Wake Up and starting doing some serious research!
The WEA is currently supporting the Governors plan for school funding. This plan would impose about one billion dollars in carbon taxes every year and another one billion in capital gains taxes every year. Some of this new money might go towards schools. But given what usually happens in Olympia, this new revenue is just as likely to go into more tax breaks for the rich. I will write a detailed summary of the Democrats Plan after it is released. In the meantime, there are real solutions to the school funding crisis. I describe these solutions in detail at the following website:
https://springforbetterschools.org/

Put simply, we do not need any new laws and we do not need any new taxes. All we need to do is enforce the Washington State Constitution by demanding that all 700 tax breaks for wealthy corporations be declared null and void. In addition, we need to start a Public Bank in Washington state like the Bank of North Dakota. This would save more than $4 billion per year we are currently sending to Wall Street Banks. To learn more about this, please read the following website:
https://washingtonpublicbankcoalition.org/

As always, I look forward to your comments and questions.

Regards,
David Spring M. Ed.
Coalition to Protect our Public Schools
Originally published at CoalitionToProtectOurPublicSchools

Answers to the Supreme Court McCleary Questions

On July 14, 2016, the Washington Supreme Court ordered the State to appear before it on September 7 2016 to provide specific answers to 8 questions the Supreme Court raised in their Order regarding how and when the legislature will comply with our State Constitution Paramount Duty to fully fund our schools. In this article, I provide my answers to these 8 questions. As the voters have a right to know where each candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction stands on these important issues, I encourage the other candidates for State Superintendent to do the same. If you are concerned about school funding, I hope you will share this article with other parents and teachers – and be sure to mail in your ballot by Tuesday, August 2nd.

Here is a link to the Supreme Court 2016 McCleary Order. It is only a couple of pages long. http://www.courts.wa.gov/content/publicUpload/Supreme%20Court%20News/OrderMcClearyv.StateofWashington071416.pdf

Here are a couple of slightly edited quotes from the Order: “Before making a decision on whether the State is in compliance, we will hear from the parties on precisely what the legislature has accomplished, what remains to be accomplished…The 2017 legislative session presents the last opportunity for complying with the State’s paramount duty by 2018. At this juncture, seven years since enactment of ESHB 2261 and six years since enactment of SHB 2776, the State can certainly set out for the court and the people of Washington the detailed steps it must take to accomplish its goals by the end of the next legislative session. Therefore, by unanimous vote, the court directs the parties to appear before the court on September 7, 2016, for oral argument… where the State will be expected to provide specific and detailed answers to the following eight questions:

(a) whether the State views the 2018 deadline as referring to the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, to the end of the 2017-2018 fiscal year, to the end of 2018, or to some other date;

(b) whether E2SSB 6195, when read together with ESHB 2261 and SHB 2776, satisfies this court’s January 9, 2014, order for a plan and, if not, what opportunities, if any, remain for the legislature to provide the plan required by that January 9, 2014, order;

(c) the estimated current cost of full state funding of the program of basic education… including, but not limited to, the costs of materials, supplies, and operating costs; transportation; and reduced class sizes for kindergarten through third grade and all-day kindergarten, with the costs of reduced class sizes and all-day kindergarten to include the estimated capital costs;

(d) the estimated cost of full state funding of competitive education staff salaries, including the costs of recruiting and retaining competent staff;

(e) the components of basic education, if any, the State has fully funded in light of the costs specified above;

(f) the components of basic education, including basic education staff salaries, the State has not yet fully funded in light of the costs specified above, the cost of achieving full state funding and how the State intends to meet its constitutional obligation to implement its plan of basic education through dependable and regular revenue sources by that deadline;

(g) whether this court should dismiss the contempt order or continue sanctions; and

(h) any additional information that will demonstrate to the court how the State will fully comply with article IX, section 1 by 2018.”

Here are my answers to the eight questions raised by our State Supreme Court:

#1 What is the exact 2018 Deadline?
(a) whether the State views the 2018 deadline as referring to the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, to the end of the 2017-2018 fiscal year, to the end of 2018, or to some other date;

There has been a lot of debate about what the deadline is for the State legislature to honor our State Constitution. The plaintiffs have claimed that it is the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. Some in the legislature have claimed that they do not need to fully fund the schools even by the 2018- 2019 school year. My view is that even a one day violation of a student’s right to an education is a severe violation of our state constitution. Imagine a reckless driver going 75 MPH in a 25 MPH school zone – endangering the lives of students. The reckless driver then goes before the court and tells the judge they will start obeying the speeding laws 6 or 7 years from now. The court should not accept any delay in obeying the law. Justice delayed is justice denied. Students are harmed much more by being forced to attend the most over-crowded and under-funded schools in the nation than they are by a reckless driver. Our kids have only one chance at a quality education. For the legislature to claim they can delay funding schools past September 2017 is reckless, irresponsible, immoral and against the clear language of the Washington State Constitution.

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As a practical matter, the legislature must plan and provide for state funding months and years before it is actually needed. For example, the 2017 legislative session, also called the long session, is supposed to create a fiscal plan for the two year period that begins on July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2019. This includes both the September 2017 to June 2018 school year and the September 2018 to June 2019 school year. However, this fiscal spending plan is based on a revenue plan that must precede spending. Any tax changes from the 2017 legislative session, whether they are property tax changes or other tax changes, would not go into effect until January 2018 – to late to provide funds for the September 2017 school year. Schools would need to be built prior to September 2017. Since it takes at least one year to build a new school, the construction would need to have been started in the summer of 2016 and teachers would need to be hire by July 2017. Therefore it is already too late for the State to comply with the McCleary Order by September 2017 regardless of what the 2017 legislature does!

#2 Is the Plan to Create a Plan (aka Senate Bill 6195) is a real plan?
(b) whether E2SSB 6195, when read together with ESHB 2261 and SHB 2776, satisfies this court’s January 9, 2014, order for a plan and, if not, what opportunities, if any, remain for the legislature to provide the plan required by that January 9, 2014, order;

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I testified against Senate Bill 6095, the plan to create a plan, because it is a worthless fake “kick the can down the road” exercise that pretends that the legislature does not know what it costs to fund schools – even though the legislature has had more than six previous planning committees answer the exact same questions that the new committee is asking.

The previous plan completed in 2012 did a detailed analysis of the cost to pay for House Bill 2261 and Senate Bill 2776 and concluded that it would cost about $6 billion in operating costs per year. This included one billion to restore teacher pay and one billion to replace illegal local levies. But it did not include the cost of school construction. Since our state has a $30 billion school construction backlog with half of our schools not meeting either the health code or earthquake standards, providing every student with a safe and healthy school would cost an additional $3 billion per year for the next 10 years. This brings the total known cost up to more than $9 billion per year – essentially doubling school funding – which is exactly what I have proposed doing throughout my campaign. This would also address the Class Size Initiative which is also part of state law and basic education. See page 49 of the following report. http://www.k12.wa.us/Compensation/CompTechWorkGroupReport/CompTechWorkGroup.pdf

My proposal is to ask the Supreme Court to repeal all 700 illegal tax breaks to wealthy corporations (which are contrary to several sections of our state constitution).

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This would provide not only provide an additional $9 billion annually to to fully fund our schools but also provide every student in our state with a free college education and/or vocational training AND also end child homelessness.

Sadly, no other candidates for Superintendent have any plan to provide the $9 billion annually to fully fund our schools. In fact, no one in the legislature has any plan to provide more than a small fraction of the $9 billion in additional revenue needed to fund school operation and construction. So the answer to whether Senate Bill 6095 would meet the McCleary obligation is No.

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The State will claim that the legislature will find a way to fund our schools in the 2017 session. But the fact is that Olympia is completely owned by wealthy corporations so there is no chance that they will repeal the billions in tax breaks for wealthy corporations. Instead, they will likely be completely gridlocked, fake their way through several “do-nothing” special sessions and then present yet another fake plan to the Supreme Court. And our kids will be forced to deal with yet another year of the lowest funded most over-crowded schools in the nation.

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#3 What is the cost of full state funding for public schools?

(c) the estimated cost of full state funding of basic education… including, but not limited to, the costs of materials, supplies, and operating costs; transportation; and reduced class sizes for kindergarten through third grade and all-day kindergarten, with the costs of reduced class sizes and all-day kindergarten to include the capital costs;

As noted above, a 2012 highly detailed study estimated that the cost was an additional $6 billion in operating costs. The study did not include capital school construction costs. Adding $3 billion per year for the next 10 years, the total additional revenue needed is more than $9 billion per year.

#4 What is the additional cost needed to end the teacher shortage?

(d) the estimated cost of full state funding of competitive education staff salaries, including the costs of recruiting and retaining competent staff;

Washington state has the 4th lowest paid and most overworked teachers in the nation. The 2012 study estimated that it would cost at least one billion additional dollars just to restore teacher pay to what it was in the 1990s. Hiring additional teachers and staff to lower class sizes as required by the Class Size Initiative would require several more billion dollars.

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#5 What has the legislature done since the January 2012 McCleary Order?

(e) the components of basic education, if any, the State has fully funded in light of the costs specified above;

Many in the legislature claim that the legislature has put billions of additional dollars into funding our schools in the past four years. But all the legislature really did was move money around from one account to another. The fact is that since the January 2012 Supreme Court order the number of students in our schools has increased by more than 32,000 students while the number of teachers declined by more than 1,000 teachers!

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Every year, our school funding crisis has gotten worse and worse and class sizes have gotten higher and higher. So the honest answer to the Supreme Court’s question is that the legislature has not done anything at all to improve school funding in Washington state.

#6 How the legislature will come up with the additional $9 billion from dependable revenue sources? (f) the components of basic education, including staff salaries, the State has not yet fully funded in light of the costs specified above, the cost of achieving full state funding and how the State intends to meet its constitutional obligation to implement its plan of basic education through dependable and regular revenue sources;

Currently, the legislature is under-funding our schools by at least $9 billion per year. This includes one to two billion dollars in illegal, unfair and unconstitutional local levy funds – which have creates a system of rich school districts that can pass school levies and poor school districts that cannot pass school levies. The $9 billion dollar question is how the legislature will suddenly come up with the needed $9 billion in 2017 when they have done next to nothing during the past four years.

The only solution to this crisis is to understand where the robbery went in the first place. Since 1996 (the last time school funding in Washington state was above the national average), the legislature has passed an additional 300 tax breaks costing our schools $16 billion per year in lost revenue. It is only by repealing these illegal tax breaks to wealthy corporations that we have any hope at all of restoring school funding. But the problem is that the legislature is owned by these very wealthy corporations. So there will be no reductions in corporate tax breaks.

So it will be up to the Superintendent of Public Instruction to use Article 3, Section 22 of the State Constitution to go around the legislature and directly to the Supreme Court asking them to declare these tax breaks to be unconstitutional. If I am elected, I will do this during my first week in office.

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Sadly, none of the other candidates are willing to take on the corporate welfare that is preventing us from fully funding our schools. So if I am not elected, our kids will be forced to endure yet another 4 years of the lowest funded most over-crowded schools in the nation.

#7 Should the Supreme Court continue sanctions?
(g) whether this court should dismiss the contempt order or continue sanctions;

The Supreme Court should not only continue the sanctions, they should state that if the legislature does not fully fund our schools by July 1, 2017, that the Court will declare all 700 corporate tax breaks to be null and void.

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#8 Additional Evidence that the legislature will NOT comply with their Paramount Duty to fully fund or schools? (h) any additional information that will demonstrate to the court how the State will fully comply with article IX, section 1 by 2018.

There are a whole host of reasons to conclude that the legislature will NEVER comply with their Paramount Duty to fully fund our schools. First, despite a direct order to pay a fine of $100,000 per day deposited into a fund dedicated for education, the legislature refused to pay the fine. Second, the legislature responded to the Class Size Initiative by delaying it for several years. Third, even after the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the legislature failed to comply with their Paramount Duty to fund our schools, the legislature passed the second Boeing Tax Break – the largest tax break in the history of the planet. Fourth, since 2012, the legislature has continued to pass many tax breaks while no one in the legislature even submitted a single bill to fully fund our public schools. Fifth, the legislature has failed to fully fund our schools for more than 20 years – 1996 being the last time school funding in Washington state was above the national average.

But perhaps the strongest evidence that our current legislature has no intention of ever funding our schools is a line buried on about Page 200 of every annual appropriations bill passed since 2012 – prohibiting the State Health Department from even testing whether schools are meeting health and safety standards. The leaders of the legislature know that half of our schools are more than 50 years old and do not meet health code standards. Half of our schools do not meet earthquake code standards. Given that we have more than 2000 schools, this means that more than 1000 schools in Washington state are not a safe, healthy place for our kids. At an average replacement cost of $30 million per school, it would take more than $30 billion to rebuild these 1,0000 dangerous schools.

So what is the legislature’s response to this crisis? Every year for the past four years, they have included a line in the annual Appropriations bill prohibiting the State Department of Health from documenting the health and safety problems of our schools. Even worse, our current State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn, is also aware of this Code of Silence and has actively helped to keep parents in the dark about the dangerous state of our public schools.

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What will happen when the legislature fails to fully fund our schools in 2017?
The current Superintendent has submitted two briefs to the Court. The first one asked the Court to shut down our public schools being July 1, 2017. The second asked the Court to declare one billion dollars in local levies to be unconstitutional – thus depriving local school districts of one billion dollars at a time when they are already grossly underfunded. If the Court takes either of these actions, it will severely harm our students when the real culprits are the State legislature and the wealthy corporations who use illegal tax breaks to rob our schools of billions of dollars.

More important, closing schools or depriving them of funds is not likely to solve the school funding crisis. The only action that will solve the school funding crisis is for the Court to declare billions in tax breaks for wealthy corporations to be unconstitutional.

Sadly, parents in Washington state seem to be asleep on the importance of this election for State Superintendent and the role they could play in restoring full funding for our schools. With only three days left for parents to mail in their ballots, only 15% of ballots have been received. At this rate, it is possible that only one in four of Washington’s four million registered voters will turn in their ballots. I therefore urge you to email every parent and teacher you know and encourage them to mail in their ballot by Tuesday August 2nd.

Decoding the Fake Five Billion Increase in School Funding in Washington State

Many in the Washington legislature claim they increased school funding by nearly $5 billion in the past 4 years. If our schools have $5 billion more than they had 4 years ago, then why do our schools have one thousand fewer teachers than we had 4 years ago? In their June 17 2016 court filing, the McCleary plaintiffs claimed that the $5 billion increase in funding was an “illusion” and less than a mere “maintenance level of status quo education funding.” In this report, we will decode the fake $5 billion increase in school funding in Washington state to explain why the McCleary plaintiffs are correct. Don’t be fooled by dishonest legislators. Our schools are facing a funding crisis that is getting worse every year. Our class sizes are among the highest in the nation and getting higher every year. Class sizes are so high that teachers are quitting in droves. Half of our schools do not even have enough qualified math and science teachers. Legislators who claim that they are “making progress on school funding” should be ashamed of themselves. There has been no progress at all in the past 4 years. Please share this important report with parents and teachers.

We will begin with a quote from the State legislature’s latest June 17 2016 filing to the Washington Supreme Court: “The State has made very real and concrete progress since 2012. In attempting to discredit that progress, Plaintiffs wrongly claim that the $4.8 billion increase in education funding between the 2011-13 biennium and the 2015-17 biennium is illusory and is actually less than if the State had merely maintained the “status quo” level of services… The enacted public schools budget for 2015-17 was $18.2 billion. That was an increase from the approximately $15.3 billion for public schools in 2013-15, which had increased from approximately $13.4 billion in the 2011-13 budget.” http://www.courts.wa.gov/content/publicUpload/Supreme%20Court%20News/619aReply_AmResp20160617.pdf

Here is a chart showing biennial (two year) state spending on our public schools since the beginning of the 2007 McCleary Education Funding Case:

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It certainly looks like there was nearly a $5 billion increase in state spending on our public schools in the past 4 years. This would be a 36% increase in school funding!

But if there was really a 36% increase in school funding, then why wasn’t there a 36% increase in the number of teachers? Why did the number of teachers go down by one thousand rather than going up by ten thousand? The McCleary Plaintiffs have called this $4.8 billion ($2.4 billion per year) increase in spending an “illusion” because it is less than what would have been spent by a mere “maintenance of service” budget. To understand this, let’s look at a Maintenance of Service budget. A Maintenance of Service budget includes adjusting for the increased cost of living from year to year plus the increase in the number of students. A Maintenance of Service budget would have involved an increase of about 5% per year or 10% per biennium. To keep the math simple, we will assume that 10% is $1.4 billion per biennium (10% of $14 billion).

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Thus, a Maintenance of Services budget would have resulted in school funding being nearly one billion dollars greater than the $4.8 billion increase the legislature is bragging about. Here is a chart of the increase in the number of students in Washington State since January 2012 from the OSPI Report Card:

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When the actual budget is less than the maintenance budget, school districts are forced to fire teachers and increase class sizes. Here is a chart of the reduction in the number of teachers in Washington state since January 2012 from the OSPI Report Card:

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Note that the actual number of real classroom teachers is about 20,000 less than this because many school districts incorrectly report administrators as classroom teachers. We know this because the median actual class size in Washington state is more than 30 students – and getting higher and higher every year. However, because the reporting method has not changed, we can be certain that the actual number of classroom teachers declined by more than one thousand during the four years since the January 2012 Supreme Court ruling. Even in 2012, class sizes in Washington state were among the highest in the nation.

The most accurate estimate of class sizes comes from a national survey of classroom teachers in which teachers are asked how many students are in their average classroom. This survey indicates that for Grades 1 through 6, the national average class size is 21 students and the average class size in Washington state is 24 students. For Grades 7 through 12, the national average class size is 27 students and the average class size in Washington state is 30 students. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_209.30.asp

Here is a distribution of class sizes showing which states have low, average, above average or extremely high class sizes:

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However, even this survey of teachers under-reports the actual class sizes in the nation and in Washington state because it includes Special Education teachers who often have classes of under 10 students. Excluding Special Education classes, the typical or median class size in the US is likely close to 29 students and in Washington state, it is likely close to 32 students.

How can Washington have $4.8 billion in additional education funding – a 36% increase – and not hire a single new teacher?
There are several factors that contribute to the “illusion” of increased funding. The first factor is fund transfers from one account to another. An example of this is transferring hundreds of millions of dollars from the school capital budget account to the school operating budget account. This results in the illusion of an increase in school funding. But because real school districts have to fund both operating and repairing schools, increasing operating funds while reducing funds in other areas does not actually result in a real increase in funds.

The second factor is unfunded mandates. For example, the legislature recently mandated that all schools in Washington state use the Common Core standards written by Wall Street consultants rather than the Washington state learning standards written by Washington state teachers. This forced school districts to replace hundreds of millions of dollars of text books with new Common Core aligned text books. The switch to the SBAC test, which requires computers to complete, required school districts to buy hundreds of millions of dollars of new computers and computer programs.

The third factor is the hidden cost of inflation also called the Maintenance of Services budget. Real inflation including the cost of health insurance, food and everything else is much higher than 5% per year. As we have previously shown, an increase of 5% a year would have been nearly one billion dollars higher than the current $18.2 billion per biennium. This is why a more accurate estimate of education funding is the Percent of Income method – which more accurately adjusts for the rising cost of living. Below is school funding in Washington state, as a percent of income compared to the national average. You can see that school funding in Washington state, as a percent of income, has been plunging for the past 20 years.

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The Levy Swipe will Rob One Billion dollars from King County Schools… Another Way to Increase State Spending without Hiring Teachers
These are not the end of the legislature’s deceptive tricks. In 2017, the legislature is likely to pass the Levy Swipe – which will rob one billion dollars in local levy funds from King County Schools and transfer it to the State General Fund where it will be used to increase funding for other school districts in the State by one billion dollars per year. This will increase State Spending for schools by $1 billion per year or $2 billion per biennium (to a total of $20 billion per biennium). But it will cause a loss of about 10,000 teachers in King County and an increase of 10,000 teachers in other parts of our state. Note that the total number of teachers statewide will not increase at all. This is the kind of nonsense that passes for “increasing school funding” in Olympia. Meanwhile, the deadline for fully funding our schools is the beginning of the 2017 school year – which is only one year away. McCleary v. State, 173 Wn.2d 477, 483, 269 P.3d 227 (2012)

We Must Change the Debate from Dollars to Class Size Limits
The real issue that students, parents and teachers must focus on is not some fake dollar amount that can be manipulated by our corrupt legislature but actual class sizes.Specifically, are class sizes small enough so that struggling students can get the help they need? Research such as the Tennessee STAR study confirms that actual class sizes must be below 20 students per class. Currently, class sizes in Washington are way too big at over 30 students per class. The problem with extremely high class sizes is that struggling students cannot get the help they need to succeed in school and succeed in life. Teachers burdened with extremely high class sizes also suffer from burnout – leading to the current shortage of experienced teachers. A June 2016 national study concluded that small class sizes were the single most important strategy for improving student outcomes – especially for improving outcomes among low income and minority students.
http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/publications/Mathis%20RBOPM-9%20Class%20Size.pdf

Meanwhile students in Washington state are forced to deal with the highest class sizes in the nation – a disaster that can only be changed by REAL increases in State funding for public schools.

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Instead of focusing in on dollars – which just leads to corrupt legislators playing a shell game with school funding and fake claims of billions of dollar increases, we should change the focus to lowering average and maximum class sizes to below 20 students per class. 37 states now have laws limiting the average and maximum class size. Thanks to Initiative 1351, Washington is now one of those 37 States. Initiative 1351 limits the maximum class size to 17 students in elementary school and 25 students in secondary school. Even this would be considered a high class size in many developed nations. For example, in Finland, the average class size for both elementary and secondary school is 20 students per class. http://www.oecd.org/edu/skills-beyond-school/48631144.pdf

The problem with Initiative 1351 is that it will cost billions of dollars to implement but did not come with a funding source. The lack of a funding source was the excuse used by the legislature to delay implementation of 1351 for the 2023 school year. But the good news is that this Class Size Limiting law is still on the books.

The Total Cost of Fully Funding Schools is More than $10 billion per year
Tom Ahearne, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the McCleary case, estimates that it will cost at least $8 billion more per biennium, plus an additional $2 billion in capital costs for new K-3 classrooms and all-day kindergarten. But he also thinks the minimum should include two other things: First, cost-of-living increases for school staff. Second, other capital expenses, like renovating school buildings that are falling apart. This would cost several more billion per year. Adding $10 billion per year would more than double state school funding here in Washington state (which is currently $9 billion per year). This may seem like a lot – but the legislature is currently giving away four dollars to wealthy corporations for every one dollar they invest in our schools.

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The truth is that the legislature would have plenty of money to fully fund schools and small class sizes, including Initiative 1351, if they did not give away $36 billion per year in tax breaks to wealthy multinational corporations.

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It is basic math. We cannot allow our legislature to give away $36 billion per year in tax breaks for wealthy corporations and still have enough money left to fully fund our schools and lower class sizes. This is why in their latest filing to the Supreme Court on June 17 2016, the plaintiffs for the McCleary case specifically asked the Court to declare tax breaks to be unconstitutional. Here is a quote from their brief:

“Plaintiffs continue to believe the most effective options to compel the significant revenue and funding actions needed to comply in that 2017 regular session are the school statute and tax exemption statute options discussed in plaintiffs’ prior filings… have all tax exemption statutes enacted by the legislature (before amply funding K-12 schools) struck down as unconstitutional, effective the first day of the 2017-2018 school year.
http://www.courts.wa.gov/content/publicUpload/Supreme%20Court%20News/PlaintiffsConsolidatedAnswerToJune7AmicusBriefs.pdf

Sadly, our corrupt legislature is not about to reduce these tax breaks. Instead, they have continued to increase tax breaks every year – despite a direct order from our Supreme Court to comply with their Paramount Duty to fully fund our schools. It is more likely that the legislature would rather see our schools closed in 2017 than to close tax loopholes for their corporate backers.

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Because the legislature will not really reduce tax breaks for the corporations that pay for their elections, the only REAL solution to the school funding crisis is for our Supreme Court to declare these billions in tax breaks to be unconstitutional – which is exactly what the McCleary plaintiffs have done.

But there is a fatal problem with their request to declare all tax exemptions to be unconstitutional. While the Supreme Court has the authority to declare laws (including tax exemptions) to be unconstitutional, the Supreme Court may not have the authority to declare what level of funding is constitutional. This brings up the question of what would happen next if the Supreme Court decided to grant the McCleary plaintiffs to relief they are requesting and declared billions of dollars in tax exemptions to be unconstitutional.

Here is what State claimed in their June 17 2016 response to the Plaintiffs brief:
“The Washington Constitution does not confer on Plaintiffs—or on the Superintendent of Public Instruction, for that matter—the authority to, determine the measure of ample funding under article IX, section 1. It is for the Legislature to determine in the first instance what constitutes “ample provision” for the State’s program of basic education.”
http://www.courts.wa.gov/content/publicUpload/Supreme%20Court%20News/619aReply_AmResp20160617.pdf

It is revolting that our Attorney General would write something so completely wrong. Article 9, Section 1 of our State Constitution does not grant the State legislature the right to determine what constitutes “ample provision” for the education of all children in our state. Instead, Article 9, Section 1 clearly assigns this Paramount Duty to the entire State Government – not merely to the State legislature!

Here is what Article IX, Section 1 of our State Constitution really says:

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While other state constitutions made it the duty of the state legislature to fund schools, the Washington Constitution made it the “paramount duty of the State.” Notice that Article 9 Section 1 does not merely refer to the State legislature. It refers to our entire State government – which includes the Governor and the Superintendent of Public Instruction. In other words, it is the Paramount Duty of every branch of State Government to make ample provision for the education of all children.

Also while other state constitutions use the term “make adequate provision”, the Washington State Constitution uses the term “make ample provision.” Clearly ample means more than the term adequate. So if Washington has the strongest duty for school funding in the nation, why are our schools among the lowest funded and most over-crowded in the nation? The legislature does have a specific duty which is described in Article 9, Section 2 of our State Constitution:

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The words “shall provide” means that it is the duty of the legislature to provide the funding as required by the State to amply fund our schools. But the legislature is not the only branch of state government. This leaves the question of which branch of state government is given the duty of determining what an ample level of funding would be for our public schools?

This question is clearly answered in Article 3, Section 22 of our State Constitution: “The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall have supervision over all matters pertaining to public schools.”

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The term “all matters” means that the Superintendent of Public Instruction, as a separately elected branch of state government shall have supervision over each and every aspect of our public schools – including the matter of what level of funding is required by our schools and whether or not the legislature is complying with their Paramount Duty to provide that level of funding. To make this point abundantly clear, the drafters of our state constitution included the following clause to Article 2, Section 28 prohibiting the legislature from interfering with the management of our public schools:

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The drafters of our state constitution stated that they wanted to limit the power of the legislature regarding our public schools because they feared that a corrupt legislature might drive our schools into the ground. This is why they wanted a separately elected Superintendent of Public Instruction to be in charge of all matters regarding our public schools.

This is also why the drafters of our State Constitution wanted an independent Supreme Court also elected directly by the people – to act as a check against a corrupt legislature passing laws that were contrary to the Paramount Duty of our State Constitution. Our Supreme Court clearly has the power to declare any statute to be invalid if that statute makes it impossible for the State to carry out its Paramount Duty of amply funding our public schools.

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Conclusion
If we are really going to solve the school funding crisis, voters need to become much more knowledgeable about the number of teachers and actual class sizes here in Washington state. When legislators are under-funding our schools by $10 billion per year, or $20 billion per biennium, then making claims about adding $5 billion per biennium, this is simply one more example of corrupt politicians trying to mislead the public.

We also need to be much more knowledgeable about where the money is really going to that has been diverted away from our public schools. Any politician that talks about any solution other than repealing tax breaks for wealthy corporations is misleading the public. The underlying cause of our school funding crisis is $36 billion per year in tax breaks for wealthy corporations.

Finally, voters need to become much more knowledgeable about our State Constitution. In our next article, we will take a closer look at the exact words used in our State Constitution, what they really mean, who put them there and why they were put there. The key to understanding our State Constitution is that it was written by people who deeply feared that a corrupt legislature would refuse to fund our public schools. So they put several clauses in our State Constitution specifically to take power AWAY from the legislature and put it in the hands of independently elected people with the hope that they would force the legislature to fund our schools. This is exactly where we are today.

As always, we look forward to your questions and comments.

Regards,
David Spring M. Ed.
Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Originally published at Spring For Better Schools

Microsoft & Boeing receive billions in tax breaks, fund astro-turf groups

There were big endorsements for Steve Litzow, Jay Inslee and others who support charter schools. The endorsements came from the charter-schools-loving League of Education Voters, which is funded by Microsoft, Boeing, the Seattle Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and others. Follow the money. Boeing and Microsoft enjoy massive tax breaks and use their money to fund astro-turf groups that buy campaign ads.

League of Education Voters backs Inslee, top Republicans.

The LEV also endorsed Democratic legislators who support charter schools, including Tana Senn and Judy Clibborn.

Follow the money.  The scam basically works like this. In exchange for the billions in tax breaks they receive, Gates, Microsoft and Boeing fund campaign ads via innocent-sounding astro-turf groups such as League of Education Voters and Stand for Children.  The ads will show attractive, smiling, obedient children sitting in classrooms and listening to the teacher.

Contrary to the statement in the article, Gates, Boeing, and Microsoft are not independent at all. They’re self-interested tools of the 1%, intent on dismantling public education, attacking unions, and blaming teachers for outcomes that are the result of poverty and willful under-funding of education. Republicans and their neo-liberal Democratic allies under-fund government so it doesn’t work well and so that they can justify tax cuts for rich people and privatization of government services.

This is all at the expense of the middle class  and the poor, who pay the vast majority of state taxes here in Washington State, due to our regressive tax system.

Despite the $8.7 billion in tax breaks, Boeing still shipped jobs out-of-state.  See Tax-subsidized Boeing Co. snubs state again. Boeing profits enormously from government subsidies via its military business.  But it still avoids paying taxes.

Heck, Inlee’s major “accomplishments” as Governor are: handing $8.7 billion to Boeing and letting the charter school bill become law.

The charter schools bill, SB 6194, is in violation of the State Constitution; last year the state Supreme Court ruled that charter schools are unconstitutional. The bill steals money from public education at a time when the legislature is in contempt of court for not adequately funding public schools (McCleary decision).

The charter schools bill is also contrary to the state Democratic Party platform which states “We oppose charter schools.”

The following article about Bill Gates and his meddling in education policy helps explain why so many legislators continue to push for charter schools: Charitable Plutocracy: Bill Gates, Washington State and the Nuisance of Democracy.

Want to understand politics? Follow the money.

Follow the money.

For a related article see These Dems voted to undermine public schools, contravene the Constitution, and aid Republicans.

How conservatives promote prostitution of young women

As reported in Students seeking sugar daddies for tuition, rent, many college students turn to prostitution to pay their education debts.

Conservative opposition to taxation causes young women to turn to prostitution to pay for their education.  Why can’t American join the rest of the industrialized world and subsidize education and health care for everyone so that people don’t have to sell their bodies to survive?

A friend, Chris Tombrello, told me:

I did some consulting at the Jr. High school level in Yokohama– this was 20 years ago, some of the 9th grade girls would show off their cell phone collections– one girl had four of them, all different colors. Each phone was provided by a sugar daddy, men at least the age of their fathers. The only difference here is that the women are mostly of legal age, but really is it a good idea for 18 year olds to be selling themselves to predators? And really: what are the odds the FBI is investigating the phenomena? 100%?