Every Job a Path to Opportunity

Washington state has gained jobs at a faster rate than most other states since the Great Recession, but the majority of working families are not benefitting from the economic boom. While high tech companies are attracting thousands of newcomers with promises of high compensation, pay for the typical worker is not keeping up with rising costs. Many of the job openings across the state over the next five years will be in occupations that now pay less than $14.00 an hour – too little for even a single adult working full time to cover the basics in much of the state. Meanwhile, costs for childcare, college tuition, healthcare, and housing continue to escalate.

Growing economic inequality compounds racial and gender inequities, constricts pathways of opportunity, and deepens divisions in our society and democracy. We all lose, with less innovation, economic vibrancy, and cultural richness because so many are denied the chance to reach their full potential and pursue their dreams.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Our elected leaders make the rules for our economy. At the state level, we can also change laws directly through initiatives. That means our votes – for President, Congress, Governor, state Legislature, and on initiatives – ultimately decide who wins and who loses economically. Together, we can change economic policies so that every job provides a pathway to opportunity and supports a thriving economy.

Growing Inequality and the Squeeze on Working Families

From the 1930s until 1980, income inequality shrank in the United States, thanks to the New Deal and later policies that instituted a minimum wage, supported labor unions, reduced many forms of overt discrimination, opened college access, invested in infrastructure and scientific research, and created programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Through this period, standards of living and access to opportunity improved for nearly everyone up and down the economic ladder. Shifts in policy since the 1980s, in contrast, have allowed the rich to grow fabulously wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

These trends have played out in Washington state, too. Since 1981, the bottom 90% have lost a significant share of income, while the top 1% have more than doubled their share and the rest of the top 10% has gained a little. Since the official recovery from the Great Recession began in 2009, average incomes of the top 1% in Washington have increased by 21.6%, but average incomes for everyone else continued to fall through 2011 and remain a little below the 2009 level.[i]

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Prior to 1973, wages for the typical U.S. worker increased at the same pace as gains in productivity. Between 1973 and 2014, in contrast, wages rose only 9% despite a 72% increase in worker productivity.[ii] CEOs and other top executives took the lion’s share of that increase. By 2015, CEOs at S&P 500 companies were paid 335 times more than the typical production or nonsupervisory employee. That ratio was just 34 to 1 in 1980.[iii] CEOs of public companies in the Northwest enjoyed a 34% pay boost in 2015 alone, to a median annual compensation of $2.1 million.[iv]

Wealth – that is assets such as home equity, other property, and savings, minus debts – is even more highly skewed than annual income. The top 10% of households own three quarters of all wealth in the U.S., while the bottom half own just 1%.[v] White households have far more wealth than households of color.[vi]

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Between 2010 and 2014, median income for Washington households rose only about $1,000, from $60,306 to $61,366, once adjusted for inflation. During that same period, real earnings for the typical worker actually declined, by $1,700 annually for men working full-time and more than $1,200 for women.[vii]

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The gender and racial gap in earnings also remains large, undermining family economic security and community prosperity.[viii] While many factors are involved in these wage gaps, multiple studies have documented persistent biases among managers that result in women of all races and men of color being less likely to be hired or promoted, and offered lower starting wages when they do get a job than their white male counterparts.[ix]

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Along with cash salary and wages, workplace benefits make a big difference in financial security and the ability of working people to keep themselves healthy and care for their families. For the most part, access to benefits, including retirement plans, high quality health insurance, and paid leave, remains highly correlated with wages. In the U.S., the highest paid workers usually also get both paid sick leave and vacation, while only 22% of the lowest paid workers are provided paid sick leave by employers.[x] That means the workers who can least afford time off without pay are forced to choose between loosing income needed to cover the basics or going to work when they are sick or have an ill child.

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A separate family leave benefit is rare – except for the most privileged workers – outside of the four states with statewide disability and family leave insurance programs.[xi] While about half of first-time mothers who work during pregnancy get some paid leave, most are forced to cobble together too-short maternity leaves from saved up sick leave and vacation and as much unpaid time off as the family can afford.[xii] A recent study found that one in four U.S. women go back to work within two weeks of childbirth.[xiii]

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The combination of women’s lower pay and lack of paid leave seriously undermines family economic security. Women who have had a baby in the past twelve months are considerably more likely to be poor or low income than those who have not had a baby. In Washington, more than one in three married women and two-thirds of unmarried women who gave birth in the past year have incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level. Altogether 19.3% of Washington children under the age of 5 live in poverty, with profound lasting negative effects on young children’s social, emotional, and physical health, including interfering with brain growth and development.[xiv]

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While wages for most workers stagnate, basic family costs continue to rise. The cost of purchasing a home has increased faster in Washington in the past year than in any other state.[xv] Rents are also rising – the average listing price for a two bedroom apartment in June 2016 was $1,574 in Washington and $2,442 in Seattle.[xvi] Washington now ranks 6th in the nation for least-affordable infant care costs.[xvii] Average cost for infant care in Washington consumed 29% to 38% of median state earnings in 2014. In King County, with both higher median earnings and higher costs, the percentages are similar.[xviii] Center-based infant care in Washington now costs more than annual tuition and fees at the University of Washington, despite that fact that childcare teachers are paid extremely low wages.[xix]

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Washington’s current minimum wage of $9.47 is not enough for a single adult working full-time to meet basic expenses of housing, food, transportation, health care, and other necessities in any part of the state. Median earnings for women who work full-time year-round in the state are not enough for a single mother to support one child – and 21% of Washington children live with a single mother.[xx]

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Making Every Job a Pathway to Opportunity

Our modern economy is enormously complex and requires the skills and contributions of millions of people to function. The occupations projected to have the most job openings in Washington over the next five years include computer-related and business jobs that usually come with high pay and full benefit packages, and family-wage jobs in construction and healthcare. However, the top 25 list also includes tens of thousands of positions in fast food, restaurants, retail sales, personal care, and office administration, where current wages are barely enough to support a single person, let alone a family.[xxi]

Public policy choices over the past four decades have allowed a wealthy few to acquire most of the fruits of economic growth. We can change policy choices to ensure that every job provides a living wage and every worker receives a fair share of the wealth they help create. Fortunately, we have proven models that we know succeed not only in boosting wages and family economic security, but also in diminishing the gender and racial inequities that now constrain opportunity.

1. Raise the floor with a higher minimum wage and paid sick leave as a basic workplace standard.

In 1998, Washington voters approved an initiative making Washington the first state to institute an automatic cost of living increase on the minimum wage. Sixteen other states have followed suit. Currently 30 states have minimum wages above the federal level and seven have a minimum wage higher than Washington’s. Seattle, Tacoma, and Sea-Tac are among the 25 local jurisdiction across the country that have higher minimum wages than their states.[xxii]

More recently, close to 30 cities (including Seattle, Tacoma, Sea-Tac, and Spokane) and 5 states (California, Oregon, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont) have enacted paid sick leave standards, ensuring workers have the opportunity to earn paid leave so they can stay home when sick, rather than spread their germs, deal with the health needs of their families, or seek safety from domestic violence or sexual assault.[xxiii]

Because so many states and localities have raised their minimum wages at different times, we have a significant body of data on the impacts. The bulk of research shows that raising the minimum wage increases income for low wage workers – who are disproportionately women and people of color of all ages – and their families. It also reduces turnover, which increases productivity and reduces costs for employers, a significant factor in explaining how employers are able to pay higher wages with no discernible change in employment numbers and minimal impact on prices and profits.[xxiv] The results from enacting paid sick leave laws have been similar.[xxv]

Initiate 1433, if approved by voters in November 2016, will  ensure that all workers everywhere in the state are able to earn at least one hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 40 hours they work and raise Washington’s minimum wage in four steps to $13.50 in 2020.[xxvi]

2. Establish a statewide paid family and medical leave program.

A few times in their careers, people need to take longer leaves from work – when they have a new child, are diagnosed with cancer, or a parent has a stroke. Five U.S. states (California, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Hawaii) have long-established temporary disability insurance systems that provide all workers with wage replacement when illness, injury, or recent childbirth prevent them from working. All but Hawaii have added a family leave component that allows all new parents time to bond with a new child and workers to care for critically ill family members. The programs are funded through payroll contributions from employees and employers, varying by state.

Public health researchers have concluded that establishing paid parental leave for all new parents is key to reducing infant mortality – currently higher in the U.S. than in any other economically developed country – and to overcoming health disparities by income and race in the U.S. A significant portion of the determinants of a child’s lifelong health is established by the age of two.[xxvii]

In the states that have paid family and disability leave programs for all workers, new mothers and babies are healthier, women are more likely to be back at work and making higher pay a year following childbirth, and new parents are less likely to go onto public assistance than in the states without programs. Fathers also take longer leaves, which boosts both the child’s long term social and intellectual development and the mother’s long-term earning potential.[xxviii] With both the workforce and general population aging, providing temporary disability leave and leave for family care is also vital to maintain the health and improve the quality of life for older adults.

Washington’s came close to establishing a paid family and medical leave program in 2007, but the legislature balked at approving a payroll premium, and the Great Recession and attendant state budget crisis diverted attention. In 2015, Washington was one of several states to win a research grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, which includes a public opinion poll, cost modeling of policy options, and analysis of the likely impact of a Washington paid family leave program on public assistance usage by new parents. The Work and Family Coalition and policy makers are using the results to develop a new proposal for a state family and medical leave insurance program. Passage should be a top legislative priority in 2017.

3. Update tools for achieving equal pay and job opportunities

Discrimination in pay and employment on the basis of gender or race has been illegal for decades, yet the gender and racial wage gaps are shrinking only slowly. Workers must now prove that their employer intended to discriminate, and wage secrecy practices that prevail in the private sector prevent people from knowing what others doing similar work are paid.

Many states have already passed laws that protect workers’ rights to discuss compensation with their coworkers and changing the burden of proof to require employers to show legitimate job-related reasons for differentials in pay.  Massachusetts’ new equal pay law also prohibits the practice of employers asking for previous salary history.[xxix] Washington can adopt similar laws and go farther to protect all workers by requiring that employers justify access to more highly paid job categories and promotions, along with differences in pay, with job-related reasons.

Providing for strong enforcement of existing anti-discrimination and wage theft laws, removing barriers to employment following incarceration, fair scheduling, and adopting immigration reform that regularizes the status of undocumented workers would also reduce the wage gap and help raise wages for all workers.[xxx]

Conclusion

Growing income inequality is not natural or inevitable. It is the result of past public policy choices. The voters in Washington state have the ability to begin reshaping the rules of our economy so that every job provides a pathway to opportunity and helps build prosperous and thriving communities for us all.

Notes

[i]     Estelle SommeillerMark Price, and Ellis Wazeter, “Income inequality in the U.S. by state, metropolitan area, and county,” Economic Policy Institute, June 16, 2016, http://www.epi.org/publication/income-inequality-in-the-us/.

[ii]     Economic Policy Institute, The Productivity-Pay Gap, Sept 2015, http://www.epi.org/productivity-pay-gap/.

[iii]    AFL-CIO, Executive paywatch, viewed Jun 20, 2016, http://www.aflcio.org/Corporate-Watch/Paywatch-2016.

[iv]    Seattle Times, “NW CEOs enjoyed hefty increase in 2015 pay, outpacing national peers,” updated June 20, 2016, http://www.seattletimes.com/business/nw-ceos-enjoyed-hefty-increase-in-2015-pay-outpacing-national-peers/.

[v]     Linda Levine, “An Analysis of the Distribution of Wealth Across Households, 1989-2010”, 2012, Congressional Research Service, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33433.pdf.

[vi]    U.S. Census Bureau, Detailed tables on wealth and asset ownership, 2011.

[vii]   U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2014, Comparative Economic Characteristics.

[viii]   For discussion of the gender wage gap, see Marilyn Watkins and Sam Hatzenbeler, “Equal Pay and Opportunity: A step toward fair wages for women and better workplaces for all,” Economic Opportunity Institute, April 2016, http://www.eoionline.org/state-economy/women-in-the-workforce/equal-pay-and-opportunity/.

[ix]    S. Correll, S. Benard, I. Paik, “Getting a Job: Is there a Motherhood Penalty?” American Journal of Sociology, 2007, 112(5):1297–339, http://gender.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/motherhoodpenalty.pdf; Hoobler, et al, “Bosses’ Perceptions of Family-Work Conflict and Women’s Promotability: Glass Ceiling Effects,” The Academy of Management Journal, vol. 52, no. 5, October 2009, cited in Strategy-Business, “Gender Inequality: How False Perceptions Affect Promotions,” http://www.strategy-business.com/article/re00069?gko=b8a0d; Pager, D. and Western, B. (2012), Identifying Discrimination at Work: The Use of Field Experiments. Journal of Social Issues, 68: 221–237, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-4560.2012.01746.x/abstract.

[x]     U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employee Benefits Survey 2015, Table 32, http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2015/ownership/private/table32a.pdf.

[xi]    See Watkins, “Paid Family and Medical Leave: A Cornerstone of Equity and Opportunity for Workers and Families,” May 2016, Economic Opportunity Institute, http://www.eoionline.org/work-family/paid-family-and-medical-leave/.

[xii]   U.S. Census Bureau, “Detailed Leave Arrangements Used by Women Who Worked During Pregnancy Preceding First Birth: 2006–2008,” 2011, https://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p70-128.pdf.

[xiii]   In These Times, “The Real War on Families, Aug 18, 2015, http://inthesetimes.com/article/18151/the-real-war-on-families.

[xiv]   EOI analysis of U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey data, 2014; Elizabeth Sowell, et al, “Family income, parental education and brain structure in children and adolescents,” Nature Neuroscience 18, 773–778 (2015) published online Mrch 30, 2015, http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v18/n5/full/nn.3983.html.

[xv]   Seattle Times, “Home prices rising faster in Washington than in any other state,” June 22, 2016, http://www.seattletimes.com/business/home-prices-rising-faster-in-washington-than-in-any-other-state/.

[xvi]   Myapartmentmap.com, website viewed Jun 20, 2016, http://www.myapartmentmap.com/apartments/wa/#data.

[xvii] Child Care Aware of Washington, “WASHINGTON’S CHILD CARE COSTS ARE AMONG THE HIGHEST IN THE NATION, ACCORDING TO CHILD CARE AWARE OF AMERICA’S ANNUAL HIGH COST OF CHILD CARE REPORT,” press release December 2015, http://wa.childcareaware.org/news/2015-high-cost-of-child-care-press-release.

[xviii] Economic Opportunity Institute analysis of Child Care Aware of Washington and U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey 2014 data.

[xix]   University of Washington, Total Cost of Attendance, webpage visited June 20, 2016, https://admit.washington.edu/Paying/Cost#freshmen-transfer.

[xx]   Basic expenses from Economic Policy Institute, Family Budget Calculator 2015; median earnings and percentage of children living with single mother from U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey 2014.

[xxi]   Washington Employment Security Department, Employment Projections, https://fortress.wa.gov/esd/employmentdata/reports-publications/industry-reports/employment-projections; and “Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates,” https://fortress.wa.gov/esd/employmentdata/reports-publications/occupational-reports/occupational-employment-and-wage-estimates.

[xxii] Economic Policy Institute, Minimum Wage Tracker, viewed Jun 20, 2016, http://www.epi.org/minimum-wage-tracker/#/min_wage/.

[xxiii] Family Values @ Work, Timeline of Wins, http://familyvaluesatwork.org/media-center/paid-sick-days-wins.

[xxiv] Michael Reich, Ken Jacobs, and Annette Bernhardt, “Local Minimum Wage Laws: Impacts on Workers, Families and Businesses,” Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, March 2014, http://irle.berkeley.edu/workingpapers/104-14.pdfMichael Reich, Sylvia A. Allegretto, Ken Jacobs and Claire Montialoux, “The Effects of a $15 Minimum Wage in New York State,” March 10, 2016, Center for Labor Research and Education, University of California, Berkeley, http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/the-effects-of-a-15-minimum-wage-in-new-york-state/; John Schmitt, “Why does the minimum wage have no discernible effect on employment?” Feb 2013, Center for Economic and Policy Research, http://cepr.net/documents/publications/min-wage-2013-02.pdf.

[xxv] Marilyn Watkins, “Local Results of Paid Sick Days Laws,” Jan. 2016, Economic Opportunity Institute, http://www.eoionline.org/work-family/paid-sick-days/local-results-of-paid-sick-days-laws/.

[xxvi] Raise Up Washington, http://www.raiseupwa.com/.

[xxvii]           Adam Burle and Stephen Bezruchka, “Population Health and Paid Parental Leave: What the United States Can Learn from Two Decades of Research,” Healthcare 2016, 4(2), http://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/4/2/30.

[xxviii]          Linda Houser and Thomas P. Vartanian, “Pay Matters: The Positive Economic Impacts of Paid Family Leave for Families, Businesses and the Public,” Center for Women and Work at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, 2012, http://cww.rutgers.edu/sites/cww.rutgers.edu/files/documents/working_families/CWW_Paid_Leave_Brief_Jan_2012_0.pdf.; Maya Rossin-Slater, Christopher J. Ruhm, Jane Waldfogel, “The Effects of California’s Paid Family Leave Program on Mothers’ Leave-Taking and Subsequent Labor Market Outcomes,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 17715, December 2011, http://www.nber.org/papers/w17715.

[xxix]    The Atlantic, “A Step Toward Equal Pay for Men and Women,” August 2, 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/gender-wage-gap-massachusetts/494045/.

[xxx] Lawrence Mishel, “Raise America’s Pay,” testimony before the Democratic National Convention Platform Drafting Hearing on June 9, 2016, http://www.epi.org/publication/testimony-raise-americas-pay/.
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Originally published at EOI Online

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.

02

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;

03

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).

04

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.

05

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.

06

#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.

07

#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!

08

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.

09

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.

Letter to the editor in Bellevue Reporter, on attack ads and Litzow

On the day the primary election ballots arrived in my mailbox, I also received an attack ad, from a group opposed to 41st LD state Senate candidate Lisa Wellman. Wow, they’re starting early this year! In 2010 her opponent, Steve Litzow, won by about 200 votes because of last-minute attack ads sent out by an organization funded by the Koch Brothers; at least they waited til right before the general election. Unfortunately, attack ads tend to work, regardless of the accuracy of their content.

Here’s hoping that Washington State voters wise up and realize that the Republican policies serve the few, by burdening us with regressive taxes. For example, did you know that Republicans actually raised your taxes? The regressive gas tax just went up a nickel and will rise again next year [Oops. I got that wrong. It rose last year. My apologies.] Republicans are OK with regressive taxes, such as the gas tax and the sales tax. But they vehemently oppose closing tax loopholes that favor the rich, and they oppose taxing capital gains.

I-1464 would put campaign cash in voters’ hands

State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Sumner, made it into the political news recently. The FBI has been looking into her campaign fundraising.

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Image courtesy of Integrity Washington

What is strange is that Sen. Roach has said out loud what everyone walking the halls of the state Capitol knows: There is an intimate connection between campaign contributions, lobbying and legislators’ decisions on bills to support and to oppose. But our elected legislators are not supposed to publicly acknowledge these connections.

In 2014, Sen. Roach was campaigning for re-election. She was opposed by a fellow Republican, then-state Rep. Cathy Dahlquist of Enumclaw. Roach was trying to raise money for her campaign. By email, she reminded the Spokane private utility company, Avista, that she’d just been appointed to a legislative energy-policy advisory committee. Sleazy? Absolutely! Stupid? Yes. But, when these sentiments remain unspoken, absolutely commonplace.

What are we to expect when campaigns cost more than $200,000? If candidates don’t succeed raising money, they aren’t considered legitimate. So they spend a lot of time on the phone, organizing fundraisers, meeting lobbyists and the heads of political action committees, all in pursuit of campaign dollars. Who wouldn’t be surprised by legislative votes; just follow the money.

In the 44th District there is a real race between John Lovick, Democrat, who is the former Snohomish County executive and Janice Huxford, a Republican from Lake Stevens. Lovick has raised $47,000 and Huxford has raised $57,000. Whose on Huxford’s side? Premera, Regence, Ace Hardware, the Washington Food Industry Association, and the Trucking Action Committee. How about Lovick? The grocery store workers union, the Snohomish FireFighters, the teachers’ union, the state troopers and service employees. Who as a legislator will consider the public good?

How about unopposed candidates? Take for example Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe. He doesn’t have an opponent. Why would he need any campaign funds? But they have piled in, with Altria (Phillip Morris tobacco), 7-Eleven, Anhaueser-Busch, Chevron, the American Chemistry Council, PHRMA, Boeing, and Washington Banking PAC all contributing at least $900. Will Senator Pearson consider the public good of, for example, reining in drug prices, or will he be careful not to disturb the current status quo of the drug corporations and their high prices and profits?

Sen. Roach has merely pulled back the curtain on candidate-campaign contributors-legislative interactions. We don’t like what we see, but it happens all the time.

Is there a solution to this not-so-subtle corruption of public decision making? Yes! An unusual gathering of citizens, including tea party leaders, the League of Women Voters, and Connie Balmer,wife of ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer, are supporting Initiative 1464, the Washington Government Accountability Act.

This initiative will limit donations from lobbyists to candidates to $100. I-1464 also sets up a voucher system, sending three $50 vouchers, called Democracy Credit contributions, to every voter in the state of Washington. As a voter, you decide if you want to contribute these vouchers to a legislative candidate. So instead of begging for $1,000 contributions from affluent residents, candidates would be motivated to request $50, $100 or $150 contributions from regular citizens, and actually give them a reason to make these donations. To be a qualified candidate to receive democracy vouchers, the candidate must receive at least 75 cash contributions of between $10 and $50. If they choose to participate, they cannot accept other contributions to their campaigns, be those from Boeing or Comcast or Jeff Bezos. They cannot contribute more than $5,000 of their own money for their campaigns. Their campaigns are limited to $150,000 to raise and spend. So they can’t buy their elections, and neither can the corporations and their lobbyists in Olympia.

Where does the money come from for Democracy vouchers? Right now, if you don’t live in Washington but you buy things in Washington, you don’t have to pay our sales tax. When my sister-in-law from Oregon comes up for Thanksgiving, or all those cruise boat passengers spend time in Seattle, they buy stuff and it’s all exempt from the sales tax. We pay it. They don’t.

Closing this sales tax loophole will provide the financing for Democracy vouchers. That would put an end to voiced and unvoiced quid pro quo between lobbyists, candidates, elected legislators, and corporations in the halls of Olympia.

Our democracy would actually reflect the will of the people!

Originally published in the Everett Herald »

Lead with Vision, Governor Inslee – Transform Rail from Problem to Solution

PETITION: Governor Inslee – Champion a Just Transition to Safer, Sustainable Railroads via Solutionary Rail

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, MosierBombTrainGIFMedSpeed.gif

The June 3, 2016 explosive oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon reminded us that the railroads that run through our communities are being utilized in ways that are endangering public health and safety, polluting our water and air, and ultimately harming our oceans and climate. Current railroad uses also negatively impact agriculture shipments, strand rural communities, delay passenger trains, and displace other higher-value potential for rail. As we have told you before, this does not have to be the case.  We need your leadership to change it.  And we need it now.

Bomb Trains have no place in the railroad industry’s business model nor in the future of safe and sustainable rail transport.  We therefore echo our allies in the call for a moratorium on the shipping of explosive Bakken oil through our communities.  But it is not enough to say “No.” That is why we have worked for three years to craft a vision to which all can proclaim a  resounding  “YES!” 

Solutionary Rail is a proposal that places railroads at the center of a sustainable transport infrastructure redefining the future of US rail.  It charts a path that overcomes the impediments to infrastructure improvement on our privately owned railroads through public-private partnership to finance, build and run a publicly owned electrification and transmission system.  It mandates that this system be fed by distributed renewable energy generation along the route and raises the bar on protecting railroad workers and communities along the tracks.

Solutionary Rail is a catalyst project that creates synergies for positive movement and a broader just transition away from fossil fuel use and transport.
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Shipping freight by electrified rail is efficient, requiring approximately 10-25 percent of the energy required to ship by diesel truck.  Rail electrification results in dramatic capacity improvements and track speeds up to 80 and 120 MPH for high-value freight and passengers respectively.  Electrifying corridors unlocks the potential for distributed renewable energy generation and prosperity for rural communities, tribes, and power co-operatives along the route.

Running rail on renewable energy results in near-zero carbon emissions. This addresses trains’ contribution to rural and urban public health problems caused by burning diesel. Rail electrification will nearly eliminate the need for long-haul trucking and therefore reduce that source of emissions as well.  This will make freeways more safe, less burdened by the trucks that cause the most traffic fatalities and exact a disproportionate physical toll on the infrastructure itself.

Solutionary Rail is a key component of a just transition away from the fossil fuel economy. Improvements in speed, service and capacity will draw passengers and freight off deteriorating, overcrowded freeways and clogged airports and back onto the trains and tracks. This increase in capacity combined with establishing regular freight and passenger schedules will improve service and undue a systemic cause of worker fatigue.  No longer living without a schedule, on call 24/7/365 rail workers and communities they travel through will be safer and happier.

Farmers and businesses will be able to confidently rely on rail to ship their crops and products to market in a timely manner. This increase in higher value use will displace railroads’ current business model dependent upon the transport of dirty and dangerous fossil fuel commodities.  It will be replaced by a business model that serves rail companies, their workers, and the communities and regional economies they connect.

Solutionary Rail’s phase I is the route from Salish Sea to the Great Lakes, principally on BNSF’s Northern Transcon.  Successful rail electrification and modernization in the United States must start with a successful demonstration on a major rail line.  The Northern Transcon is a nationally important transport route, crossing diverse weather patterns and regional economies. It offers the perfect opportunity to successfully demonstrate rail electrification’s potential to deliver of renewed vitality for US railroads and economy.

Electrified, higher-speed rail provides the foundation for sustainable jobs and prosperity through improved transportation access and stable long-term costs. By spurring the creation of a Steel Interstate Development Authority to finance electrification with low interest public bonds and building a rail electrification partnership with BNSF and others across the Northern Transcon, you Governor Inslee will be making Washington State a launch pad for the clean energy revolution you have long sought. We implore you Governor Inslee to lead with vision and champion the Solutionary Rail proposal.

SR-Map-Cab-BuildoutGIF.gifHere are the action steps we need you to take Governor Inslee: 

  • Personally Champion the Solutionary Rail vision for a future railroad industry and infrastructure that is no longer dependent upon shipping dirty and dangerous fossil fuel commodities.
  • Create an executive level task force of cabinet and agency leads to work with the Solutionary Rail technical team to study and enhance the proposal and guarantee that its key public benefit components cannot be negotiated away.
  • Convene a leadership summit, drawing in relevant governors, agency and elected officials to adopt an implementations plan for this inter-jurisdictional proposal and a pathway for creating a multi-state Steel Interstate Development Authority able to implement Solutionary Rail’s phase I pilot from the Salish Sea to the Great Lakes.
  • Negotiate a win/win partnership with Northern Transcon railroad owners including BNSF and its owner, Berkshire Hathaway led by Warren Buffett to access all necessary right of ways to build out and maintain the electrification and transmission infrastructure across the Solutionary Rail phase I corridor.
  • Begin the electrification build-out and development of stranded renewable energy assets across Solutionary Rail route, and transition to a duel powered and pure electric locomotive fleet for higher-speed freight and passenger rail to creates new customers and draw old ones off of the roads and back onto the tracks.

So once again Governor Inslee:

We the undersigned call upon you to be the champion we and future generations need you to be. Re-spark your passion for clean renewable solutions articulated in your book Apollo’s Fire.  Protect our land and people from bomb trains and the fossil fuel driven economy. Lead boldly and use your power to get railroads on a track to a future we can all be proud of. 

Champion Backbone Campaign’s Solutionary Rail proposal.

With Respect and Urgency,

Solutionary Rail Team
The Backbone Campaign
& Undersigning Allies

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

Raising wages statewide is a job for We The People

Over the next couple weeks, young people across the region will be graduating with new degrees and high hopes for the future. They are competing for jobs in an economy where the contrast between the the haves and have nots is stark.

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The occupations projected to have the most job openings in King County and statewide over the next five years include computer-related and business jobs that usually come with high pay and full benefit packages. But the top ten list also includes positions in fast food, restaurants, retail sales, and office administration, where current wages are barely enough to support a single person, let alone a family, even outside the greater Seattle area.

Not everyone can or should end up a software engineer. We need people working in restaurants, groceries, childcare, health care, and social work, too. And those jobs should not trap tens of thousands of workers and their children in poverty and constant struggle.

By enacting paid sick days and a higher minimum wage, Seattle has started on the right path toward ensuring every job provides a pathway to opportunity and supports a thriving economy. But not every job is in Seattle. Statewide progress on these same policies hasstalled year after year in our divided State Legislature.

The Raise Up Washington campaign is now collecting signatures to qualify Initiative 1433 for the November ballot. I-1433 will raise Washington’s minimum wage from the current $9.47 to $11.00 starting in January 2017, then raise it in three further steps to $13.50 in 2020, with cost of living increases after that. Importantly, it also sets a minimum standard for paid sick leave, assuring that all workers across the state are able to earn at least an hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

For people now working at or near minimum wage in Renton, Southcenter Mall, or Yakima, that means an immediate pay increase of $250 a month, and an increase of $650 in monthly income by 2020. That money will get spent right in local communities. The initiative also means that a million people who don’t have sick leave now – many of them working in restaurants, retail, and other direct service occupations – will have the ability to stay home when sick or with a sick child without losing their paycheck.

We know from studying dozens of minimum wage increases and sick leave laws across the country that these policies succeed in boosting incomes for low wage workers, decreasing employee turnover, and allowing businesses of all sizes to continue to prosper.

Over the past few decades across the U.S., wealth has piled up for the top 1%. The top 10% has also done pretty well, but incomes for most working people have stagnated or even fallen. Here in Washington between 2010 and 2014, during the so-called economic recovery, the annual wages for full-time workers in the middle of the earnings spectrum actually fell by 3% after inflation, according to the Census Bureau. Meanwhile, costs for childcare, college tuition, healthcare, and housing continue to escalate.

Growing economic inequality compounds racial and gender inequities and deepens divisions in our society and democracy. We all lose – with less innovation, economic vibrancy, and cultural richness – when so many are denied the opportunity to reach their full potential and pursue their dreams.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We the people make the rules for our economy. Usually it’s through our votes for President, Congress, Governor, and state Legislature. With the contrasts in ideology and policy positions up and down the ticket so stark, those votes will matter more than ever this fall.

The initiative process also lets us act directly. I-1433 won’t reverse decades of economic policies that have driven growing income inequality, but it’s a step toward making our state economy work better for everyone.

We don’t have to wait until November to act. The Raise Up Washington campaign needs to collect 246,000 valid signatures from registered Washington voters by the beginning of July to qualify for the November ballot.

You can help right now by signing yourself, registering to vote if you haven’t already, and volunteering for the campaign.

Originally published in the South Seattle Emerald.

Quickie: How Long Can Big Money Keep Democrats In The Charter School Camp?

From http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/how-long-can-big-money-keep-democrats-in-the-charter-school-camp/:

For decades, the petroleum industry has stuffed the coffers of candidates in both parties to ensure legislation continues to favor oil consumption, stall alternative energy sources, and ensure lax environmental regulations.

The other source of corporate cash in Democratic politics is much newer: charter schools. …

…the combo of big oil and education reform mustered at least $24 million in donations to back candidates who opposed “Gov. Jerry Brown’s effort to halve motorists’ use of fossil fuels by 2030” and who supported “expanding charter schools.”

Meyerson spotlights a number of races around the state where candidates who benefitted from the big oil-education reform combo defeated more progressive Democrats.

Across the Golden State, reports LA School Report, “Education reformers spent big ahead of California’s primary … The millions paid off with all of the candidates they supported advancing to November’s general election.”

A similar influx of corporate cash is infecting Democratic Party politics in Washington State, with the money coming from astroturf groups such as League of Education Voters, funded by Microsoft, Boeing and other rich people enjoying tax breaks.

The Divided Left revisited

The Divided Left in America is a major problem, and it’s come to fore in the discussions on social media about whether Bernie should run as an independent and about whether Bernie supporters should work within the Democratic Party.

Progressive Democrats are desperately trying to reform the Democratic Party but lack numbers. As a result the corporate Dems win. Greens,Socialists and others further to the left flee the Democratic Party and support candidates like Ralph Nader, Jill Stein, and Rocky Anderson. Nationally, these third party candidates win maybe a few percent of the votes and fail to organize effective political organizations. For example, they don’t typically have statewide candidates.

In short, angry Dems flee the Democratic Party, allowing the corporatists and hawks to win. In contrast, angry conservatives take over the GOP and push it further to the right.

In local races, candidates like Kshama Sawant can win a city like Seattle. But statewide (e.g., in the suburbs) they are perceived as too radical by most people. (Bernie Sanders is more of a social democrat than a democratic socialist; he harmed his chances by calling himself a socialist. Noam Chomsky and others agree with this view.)

I understand that working within the Democratic Party is difficult, dirty, unpleasant work. Whoever said the Revolution would be pleasant?

Still, I’m not condemning those people who flee the Democratic Party. I understand why they do it. The leadership is corrupted. This is clear nationally. Statewide, Inslee voted to give $8.7 billion to Boeing, and he allowed the charter schools bill to become law. In my LD (41st) there are many good Dems but the LD allows our legislators to betray us: Tana Senn and Judy Clibborn both voted for Steve Litzow’s (R, 41 LD) charter schools bill, despite the fact that the state Supreme Court ruled charter schools are unconstitutional; despite the fact that McCleary isn’t yet funded; and despite the fact the the state party platform says “We oppose charter schools.” Many (most?) of the 41st LD Dem PCOs are pissed, but the LD leadership treats me like a dangerous outsider. They also disliked my criticisms of Hillary’s hawkishness.

The PDA pursues an inside-outside strategy that allows people to work but within and outside of the Democratic Party. That’s perhaps necessary but it’s not ideal.

Anyway, any ideas for uniting the left? For years I have been promoting the idea of a shared media platform where people post articles and discuss things. Progressives and socialists are supposed to believe in cooperation for the common good. Fact is: people don’t work together too well.

What Washington got for Boeing’s $305 million tax break

Last week Boeing reported that it had skipped out on $305 million in taxes in 2015. Back in 2013, the Legislature enacted a special Boeing exemption from business taxes.

The legislative intent was to keep jobs in Washington. But that was not written into the tax exemption bill. So in spite of, or maybe because of, the tax exemption, Boeing has shed over 10 percent of its workforce since 2012, shifting more than 10,000 jobs out of Washington state.

State Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, has proposed a solution. She introduced legislation to make this tax exemption dependent on actual jobs. Any loss of jobs since December 2013 would decrease the allowable exemption. So Boeing’s tax exemption would have been cut in half now, because in the past three years, more than 5,000 Boeing jobs have been disappeared. It is a small commonsense step forward. But the Legislature refused to take it up.

Perhaps that is because some legislators believe that the tax incentives have proved justified. One legislative leader stated, “We all feel frustration with short-term layoffs,” he said. But taking a “long view,” landing the 777X and the carbon-fiber industry here “is the future of aviation” and “makes that package worthwhile.”

But these are permanent, not short-term, layoffs with Boeing investing in “centers of excellence” around the world. Was it this $305 million tax avoidance that made Boeing decide to build the 777X here? That $305 million was three-tenths of a percent of Boeing’s revenue in 2015, which exceeded $96.1 billion. Boeing spent $6.8 billion just buying back Boeing shares. The tax exemption amounted to 4 percent of this buyback program, which had nothing to do with positioning Boeing in Washington state.

Boeing’s business decision to place the 777X here was based on the factors of production, mainly that the Puget Sound area is host to the world’s best and most concentrated grouping of mechanical, technical and engineering human capital for aerospace production. In other words, we have the educated, trained and skilled workforce and the state is funding a pipeline of trained workers for future aerospace work. That is what interests Boeing.

If they can position work outside of Washington, they will. They have no commitment to our state. That ended when McDonnell Douglas took over Boeing twenty years ago. No longer was Boeing a northwest company with social commitments and production facilities dedicated to Washington state. Instead, it could be a rogue multinational company, and use Washington’s workers and intellectual capital to seed other production in other states and countries.

You might note that other states are giving Boeing tax exemptions as well. South Carolina, for example, gave Boeing $120 million in 2013 to offset Boeing’s expansion costs there. The South Carolina deal was dependent on the creation of 2,000 jobs. The $305 million Boeing saved in 2015 in our state was part of a $8.7 billion 16-year tax exemption deal. And in contrast to South Carolina, the Washington state deal appears to be dependent on job destruction!

How does this $305 million compared to the cost overruns of the 787? Those overruns amounted to $25 billion, or 84 times Boeing’s 2015 tax break. They were the result of Boeing shifting 787 production to other states and other countries. But the workers and managers in those places couldn’t meet the exact specifications needed to create and fly the 787. So production and repair was shipped back to Washington state, where highly trained and skilled workers put the pieces back together again. What was Boeing’s next move? Accelerate production in South Carolina, having the Puget Sound workforce train the South Carolina workforce to build the 787 correctly, and on time. This means that Boeing will slowly drain jobs out of our state, while also receiving a multi-billion dollar tax break over the next eight years.

Legislative consideration is usually a slow and deliberative process, for good reason. Legislators want to be able to consider all the intended and unintended consequences of their law-making. But the Boeing package was pushed through in a special two-day session, called for just that reason and paid for by the taxpayers of our state. All just to give Boeing a gift. What could that $305 million have paid for? Compensation for 4,000 teachers. Or community college tuition for 80,000 students. But instead it went to bulk up the stock buyback for Boeing shareholders. That is a disservice to the citizens of this state.

Originally published at at the Everett Herald