Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn asks Supreme Court to Bring Legislature Back for Fourth Special Session
On July 27 2015, the legislature filed its required report to the Supreme Court asking the Supreme Court to lift the Contempt citation imposed on September 11 2014 after the legislature had ignored years of demands by the Supreme Court to come up with at least a plan to fully fund our public schools. The 2015 report includes a sentence admitting that the legislature failed to come up with a plan to restore school funding as required by the Supreme Court: “The Committee acknowledges that the 2015 Legislature did not enact or otherwise provide the Court with a document that could be characterized as the “plan” ordered by the Court.” Here is a link to the legislature’s report to the court: http://www.courts.wa.gov/content/publicUpload/Supreme%20Court%20News/2015%20Report.pdf
Shockingly, the brief filed with the report claims that “a plan at this point would serve no useful purpose.” The brief also optimistically claimed that the legislature is on track to fully fund schools by the 2017-2018 school year (two years from now). Here is a link to the legislature’s brief to the court. http://www.courts.wa.gov/content/publicUpload/Supreme%20Court%20News/84362-7_McCleary_v_State_150727.pdf
Also on July 27th, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn, filed an Amicus Brief asking the Supreme Court to call the legislature back into session immediately to come up with a school funding plan. Superintendent Dorn’s brief claims that an additional $3.8 billion in funding would be needed to provide full school operation funding (billions more would be needed for school construction funding). Given the time it takes to build schools and hire teachers needed for lower class sizes, Superintendent Dorn claims that not only will the legislature fail to meet the 2017- 2018 deadline, but that it is no longer even possible to meet the 2017-2018 deadline. He therefore proposes extending the deadline for compliance by three more years to the year 2020-2021.Even this assumes that the legislature is called back into special session and is able to come up with a plan this year.
This new brief is a dramatic reversal of what Dorn asked the court for in his brief on August 14 2014. A year ago, Dorn asked the court to be patient and give the legislature one more year to come up with a plan to fully fund public schools (despite the fact that the court had already granted the legislature chances in 2013 and 2014). 2015 made it “Three Strikes and Your Out.”Apparently Randy Dorn has ran out of patience and now realizes the futility of giving the legislature endless chances to comply with the Supreme Court order which was originally issued way back in 2012. Here is a link to his brief: http://www.k12.wa.us/Communications/PressReleases2015/amicusbrief.pdf
In his press release also issued on July 27th, Dorn explains why the state legislature should be called back to Olympia immediately:
“Every elected official, including me, is required to take an oath of office. Part of that oath is, ‘I do solemnly swear that I will support … the Constitution and laws of the state of Washington.’…Our state constitution explicitly mentions one — and only one— paramount duty: that the state ‘make ample provision for the education of all children’ and that the system of public schools shall be general and uniform. The most recent budget passed by the Legislature doesn’t even come close to that. In fact, it increases the state’s dependence on local levies, which the Court has ruled is unconstitutional… Some districts can pass levies a lot more easily than others. This is leading to a situation of haves versus have nots… That’s why I’m calling for all 147 legislators to come back together to work on their paramount duty and produce a general and uniform system.”
In his Amicus brief, Dorn explains in more detail why the Court should bring the legislature back for a special session now rather than waiting and hoping the legislature comes up with a plan in the 2016 session:
“Why A Special Session Of The Legislature Is Necessary… In McCleary, the Court adopted the Legislature’s self-imposed deadline of 2018… there are only two Legislative sessions remaining: the 60-day regular beginning January 2016, and the 105-day session in 2017… The 2017 long session will produce a new budget for the 2017-19 biennium, beginning July1, 2017. This, however, is just two months before the start of the 2017-18 school year—the year in which ESHB 2261 requires the redefined program of basic education and funding for the program to be fully implemented. That is why it is important to have a special session of the Legislature this year that can focus exclusively on implementing ESHB 2261, addressing inadequate staff, compensation, and local levies.”
The Dorn Amicus Brief also states: “The Superintendent developed a 7-point plan to implement ESSB 2261 and SHB 2776. The Superintendent estimates his plan will cost an additional $7,717,811.175 per biennium starting in fiscal year 2019.” http://k12.wa.us/Communications/FullyFundPlan/PlanCostTable.pdf
Thus Randy Dorn contends that fully funding schools will require an additional $7.7 billion per two year biennium or $3.8 billion per year. Ironically, this greatly under-estimates the actual amount of additional revenue needed for several reasons. First, Dorn’s 7 Point Plan does not lower class sizes down to either national average class sizes or the class sizes required by Initiative 1351. Second, the Dorn plan extends by three more years the time allowed to fully fund public schools (from 2018 to 2021). Third, $3.8 billion per year required to fund schools in the Dorn plan does not consider the cost of school construction needed to lower class sizes and address the school construction backlog created by the past 20 years of the state legislature ignoring the actual cost of building schools. In case you have not read it, here is the link to the full Dorn Plan: http://www.k12.wa.us/Communications/FullyFundPlan/default.aspx
At a press conference on the Dorn 7 Point School Funding Plan on April 14, 2015, I specifically asked Randy Dorn if his School Funding Plan also included a way to pay for our $10 to $20 billion school construction backlog:
David Spring: We have had billions of dollars in school construction bond failures in the past few years and we have a $10 to $20 billion dollar school construction backlog. Does your plan talk about how we are going to build schools to meet the Supreme Court requirement that the State needs to provide funding to build schools and not just operate them?
Randy Dorn: In my plan, we do not specifically mention that. We are working with the House and the Senate on a plan and Treasurer McIntire will talk about that (with his revenue proposal). (Unfortunately, Treasurer McIntire did not talk about this and the House and Senate have also ignored the severity of the school construction problem).
Here is a link to this question and answer at the Dorn School Funding Press Conference: http://www.tvw.org/scripts/iframe_video.php?eventID=2015040113&start=2950&stop=3025
Dorn proposes Delaying Full School Funding for Three More Years
Shockingly, Randy Dorn admits in his brief to the court that even if the legislature complied with the Court order immediately there is no longer enough time to build the needed classrooms that would be required by the 2017-2018 school year – and in fact that even if funding to build schools was provided immediately, facilities for lower class sizes would not be fully available until the 2020-2021 school year.
Here is the quote from his Brief: “The (Dorn 7 Point School Funding) plan recognizes the challenges in hiring qualified staff and building adequate facilities, and accordingly extends the time for complete compliance to the 2020-21 school year.”
For parents, teachers and children who have waited 18long and painful years for school funding to be restored to the national average and class sizes to be lowered to the national average, as it was in 1997, the admission by Randy Dorn that it now cannot possibly occur for five more years – until September 2020 – even if the Supreme Court called the legislature back into special session immediately – is extremely disappointing, and all the more reason to call the legislature back immediately rather than kicking the school funding can down the road for yet another year.
A Personal Story Explaining Why I Oppose Any Further Delays to School Funding
I would like to share a personal story as to how devastating this admission is – the first admission by any state official that full funding is not likely to occur even in the 2017-2018 school year.
My daughter attends one of the lowest funded most over-crowded school districts in Washington state – the Snoqualmie Valley School District. School funding in our school district is about 10% below the state average. Since the state average is about 20% below the national average (47th in the nation), funding in our school district is about 30% below the national average- resulting in class sizes 20 to 30 percent above the national average. As a parent, it has been very painful to watch my daughter forced to spend her school days in classrooms that were so crowded, that there were not even walking paths between the desks. Each room could not possible hold one more desk. One of my daughter’s classes had more than 100 students in it. Classes typically had more than 30 students.
In January 2007, when the McCleary school funding lawsuit was filed, my daughter was in the First Grade. In February 2010, when the Trial Court made it’s decision recognizing that the state legislature had failed to fully fund public schools, my daughter was in the Fourth Grade. In January 2012, when the Supreme Court issued their Order agreeing with the trial court that the state failed to fully fund schools, my daughter was in the Sixth Grade. It is now July 2015 and my daughter just completed the Ninth Grade. She is scheduled to graduate from high school at the end of the 2017- 2018 school year. Therefore, even if the legislature did comply with the State Constitution and fully fund schools by the 2017 -2018 school year, my daughter would only get the benefit of one actual year of normal class sizes during her entire 13 years of schooling.
This is why I was sharply critical of the Supreme Court decision in 2012 to allow the state legislature to kick the school funding can down the road for six more years. It is because every year the court allows the legislature to delay proper adequate school funding, another 80,000 students graduate without every having seen the benefit of normal national average class sizes. And one million students are forced to endure extremely over-crowded classes for yet another year.
So when Randy Dorn admits that there will not be full funding in 2018 – that it is not even possible until at least 2020, I say enough is enough. It is time to call the legislature back in session NOW and tell them they are not leaving until they have come up with a specific plan to fully fund public schools in the 2017 – 2018 school year. This includes immediately giving school districts at least $4 billion to start building more than 100 new schools THIS YEAR so they will be ready to go when the teachers are hired in the 2017 – 2018 school year. If the legislature can come up with $9 billion for the Boeing tax break in just two days, then they can come up with at least $4 billion for our one million students also in two days!
Moreover, justice delayed is justice denied. If a person is caught speeding on the freeway, what kind of court would let the law breaker off on the promise that they will stop speeding six years from now? What kind of court would allow the law breaker to keep speeding for an additional six years? Especially if the law breaker was harming one million students by failing to comply with the law! We need to see the legislature for who they really are – a group of people who have failed to comply with their oath of office and failed to uphold the state constitution.
If the court does not order the legislature back to Olympia to come up with a complete and specific plan during the month of August, then as a parent, I will advocate that the teachers go out on strike in September. A strike would be harmful to our students. However, it is not as harmful as spending 13 years in over-crowded classrooms, the highest class sizes in the nation, just because legislators are more interested in giving tax breaks to billionaires than they are in funding our public schools.
Dorn offers no solution to the funding problem
Sadly, while Superintendent Dorn‘s 7 Point Plan estimates the cost of fully funding schools requires an additional $3.8 billion per year (not including construction costs), it does not include a way to pay for that plan.
In fact, the only plan submitted in the 2015 legislative session that provides more than $4 billion per year in additional school funding was Senate Bill 6093 – which would fully funding public schools by repealing a 1997 tax break used by billionaires to avoid paying their fair share of state taxes.
McCleary Plaintiffs also File a 68 Page Brief
The plaintiff’s brief reminds the court that in their 2012 order they stated:
“Year 2018 remains a firm deadline for full constitutional compliance.”
The plaintiffs then reminded the court of the legislature’s pathetic treatment of teachers which has caused teachers to lose 30% of their purchasing power in the past 20 years:
“The State suspended those COLAs every year after the 2008-2009 school year. Restoring them to at least bring salary funding levels back up to their unconstitutionally low 2008-2009 levels would require this biennium’s budget to fund a 15.4% catch-up COLA. The State instead decided to fund 1.8% in the biennium’s first year, and then add another 1.2% (for a 3.0% total) in the biennium’s second year.”
The plaintiffs also criticized state proposals to swipe more than one billion dollars from local school districts and call it state money:
“Taking away local money that local voters approved for local enhancements above basic education, then handing it back and calling it “State” money, does not fill Washington school districts’ underfunding hole.”
On page 34, the plaintiffs expose the grossly underfunded school construction problem:
“With respect to capital costs, the State knows that its “full” funding of the additional classrooms needed to expand kindergarten from half-day to full-day is at best only partial funding. The State knows that full-day kindergarten and reduced K-3 class sizes require about 5,698 more classrooms at a cost of $2 billion. But to “fully fund” that $2 billion cost, the 2015-2017 budget provides $200 million for an “assistance” program that allows a school district to apply to potentially receive a portion of the needed classrooms’ construction costs if that district can certify it has local funds for the rest.”
On page 49, plaintiffs ask the court to take one or more of the following actions:
(a) Enjoin the State from acting on any other legislation until it has fully complied with the court orders in this case;
(b) Invalidate all tax exemptions authorized or re-authorized after this Court’s January 2012 decision, with that invalidation lasting until the State convinces this Court that the State has fully complied with the court orders in this case.
(NOTE: There goes the Boeing $9 billion tax break!)
The Plaintiffs then provide some interesting graphs showing how far away the state is from compliance and what would be needed in the 2017-2018 school year to actually comply with the 2012 Supreme Court order to fully fund public schools:
First is the additional revenue needed in the next couple of years:
Here is the revenue needed just to restore teacher pay:
Here is a link to the Plaintiffs brief:
Randy Dorn’s Amicus brief and the Plaintiff’s brief both present extremely strong arguments for requiring the legislature to come back for a fourth special session. If the Supreme Court agrees with Superintendent Dorn, and accepts his opinion as an “expert witness,” it is very likely that they will require the legislature to come back and come up with a plan to fully fund schools in the coming weeks. The question then becomes how much additional revenue is actually needed to fully fund school construction and operation without relying on unfair local levies? And where will these $4 to $8 billion per year in additional revenue come from?
In the next article, we will explain why the Dorn Plan dramatically underestimates the actual cost of building and operating schools. Then, in a third article, we will explain why the billion dollar “levy swap” proposal would harm schools. In our fourth and final article in this series, we will compare seven school funding options the legislature should consider if the court orders them back to Olympia. As always, feel free to email me (Springforschools (at) aol (dot) com) with your questions and comments.
Originally published at Coalition to Protect our Public Schools
The Yuck Factor — What Planned Parenthood Smears, Homophobia, and Middle School Jokes Have in Common
If religious conservatives have their way, reproductive healthcare will be dictated by the same psychology that drives middle school jokes about genitals, dead babies and poop—our instinctive squeamish reaction to things that are disgusting and shocking, especially if they relate to sex. Good thing public health advocates and medical providers have a higher set of priorities.
Each year in America, 650 women die from pregnancy, many leaving behind motherless children. Thousands more survive and thrive only because of “yucky” medical procedures like cesarean sections, hysterectomies, transfusions, and abortions. Given the latest deceptive smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, it appears that religious conservatives would rather some of those women died.
Blood, Guts, and the ‘Yuck Factor’
Most of us have little stomach for tasks, however important, that require cutting people open, removing body parts, or dealing with squishy tissue and bodily fluids. That’s why blood and guts are the stuff of horror movies. That is also why the Religious Right wants our national conversation about family planning to stay focused on “the yuck factor” of abortion surgeries rather than on the chosen lives and flourishing families empowered by well-timed, intentional childbearing.
Disgust evolved as a way to protect us against eating and touching things that might make us sick. Swamp water, decaying flesh, putrid food, feces . . . all of these carry pathogens that our ancestors needed to avoid long before people understood germs. Nature’s way of protecting our species was to make certain sights and smells disgusting. We have a similar instinctive revulsion for human forms that are damaged, disfigured, dying or dead. Our instinctive horror makes a mutilated body riveting.
An image or idea that triggers the yuck factor is “sticky” and viral, meaning it sticks in our brains and we are likely to describe or show it to others. The more disgusting something is, the more it rattles us out of the mindless routine of everyday living and creates a strong memory imprint. That is because paying attention to disgust had—and sometimes still has—survival value. As with every other sensation or emotion that grabs our attention, people have learned to take advantage of that.
Turning Instinct into Financial, Religious or Political Gain
Storytellers long ago figured out how to cash in on the yuck factor, turning disgust into gold at the bookseller or box office. From Homer’s Medusa, to Shakespeare’s witches and their brew, to Stoker’s Dracula, to modern zombie movies, the horror artist compels our attention by playing with gruesome details. Halloween merchants sell slime and goo for haunted houses or fake severed limbs and gashed faces because the instinctive disgust reaction is malleable and doesn’t differentiate between substances and situations that are truly dangerous and those that merely look so.
Religions capitalize on disgust by blurring the difference between cleanliness and godliness—in other words by giving disgust moral and spiritual significance. In the Bible, for example, a woman is spiritually unclean while she is menstruating or after delivering a baby, and people with handicaps including crushed testicles are banned from the holiest part of the temple. In Islam, dogs are spiritually, not just physically dirty. In the Hindu tradition, holy men wear white, and spotless clothes represent spiritual purity. In Western Christianity, white wedding dresses have similar significance.
When disgust gets triggered, people may build a cognitive rationale to explain to themselves or others why the disgusting something is bad for other reasons, layering a veneer of rationalizations on top of what is really a gut feeling.
The boundary between disgust and morality is particularly blurry for self-identified conservatives. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies cognitive differences between liberals and conservatives. He found that liberals tend to base moral judgments on questions of harm and equity. Is it fair? Does it hurt anybody? Conservatives value fairness and non-harm too, but they also give moral weight to three other factors: loyalty, purity, and authority. What does my tribe want? Is it disgusting? What do authority figures say? In other words, conservatives are more likely to think something that triggers the yuck feeling is morally wrong, independent of other factors.
Practical and Moral Limitations of Yuck
Disgust works as a reasonably good shortcut to protect us from the dangers it evolved to avert, meaning pathogens and toxins. But even there, it has some real limitations. For example, in Ebola-stricken Africa, culturally-prescribed burial rituals trumped the instinctive aversion to touching dead bodies, which caused the virus to spread. On the other side of the equation, people with non-contagious physical deformities, like the Elephant Man, may face horrible cruelties and rejection.
Likewise, moral disgust can arise from religious taboo violations, like eating cheese and meat from the same plate, that have little rational relation to humanity’s shared moral core or threats against wellbeing.
Homophobia and the Yuck Factor
For decades, people seeking queer equality found themselves up against the power of the yuck reaction. Any kind of sex that we ourselves don’t find titillating tends to arouse disgust; and so as long as the thought of queer people evoked images of anal sex between two men, the yuck factor created an almost insurmountable barrier to equality. But as a critical mass of queer people came out of the closet and advocates made the fight about families and love, other moral emotions like empathy and a sense of Golden-Rule fairness moved to front and center, and culture shifted.
Some years back I got schooled on disgusting sex by my middle school daughters. I had broached a conversation about their gay uncle and evangelical relatives who would soon be visiting us. I explained the yuck factor and said, “I might think about gay sex and say it’s not my thing, but they might think that its gross and so morally wrong.” One of the girls responded, “First off, Mom, the word isn’t ‘gay’ it’s ‘queer,’ and secondly, you know what kind of sex we think is really disgusting? Parent sex. That’s why we’re so glad you and Dad haven’t had any in 13 years.”
I chose not to enlighten them.
Today when most Americans think about queer people they think about loving couples, two moms or two dads raising kids, extended families, “sweet” members of the church choir, brave young soldiers, elderly partners making medical care decisions, and more—or they think about their own beloved relatives and friends who are queer. Although some members of the Religious Right may alternate between disgust and arousal (and disgust at their own arousal), conservative sects like the Southern Baptists are struggling and failing to keep disgust front and center even for their own members.
Reproductive Empowerment and the Yuck Factor
The culture shift toward equality for queer people, stands in contrast to the stalled progress around reproductive rights and chosen childbearing.
When it comes to reproductive empowerment for women, the Religious Right has been able to make disgust the dominant emotion by keeping the focus on sexual shaming and on abortion procedures, which are medical and messy. Those of us who see well-timed childbearing as fundamental to gender equality and flourishing families have gotten suckered into fighting on their terms.
Consequently, we are not creating the culture shift needed to make intentional childbearing the new normal, with all of the individual and family and community benefits that would bring. Half of U.S. pregnancies are unsought—either mistimed or unwanted—which makes American rates of teen pregnancy and abortion the highest in the developed world. Chosen pregnancy has been stalled around fifty percent for almost fifty years.
Recently, women have been exhorting each other to come out of hiding and talk about their reproductive decisions including abortions. Like queer people, women and allies understand that a culture of secrecy reinforces shame and stigma. We understand that if mothers and grandmothers stay silent, religious conservatives will control the conversation and hence the options available to our daughters, nieces and granddaughters. Several storytelling projects have sprung up to help women or couplesdefy taboos and break the silence, and brave celebrities, including men, are leading the way as they did prior to Roe vs. Wade. High-integrity electeds like Lucy Flores in New Mexico and Wendy Davis in Texas have risked their political careers and told their abortion stories so that other women may one day do the same.
I honor their courage and think their candor is a step forward. And yet, the drama around abortion has so captured center stage that even brave personal stories may inadvertently reinforce the Religious Right’s framing. We talk about the circumstances of an unsought pregnancy and the medical procedure the rather than the life made possible by access to contraception and care. In doing so, we keep the focus right where the power of yuck is the greatest.
Surgery – What’s the moral story?
Through much of this year, I have been consulting with people who want to communicate more effectively about abortion care, and I sometimes use my experience with knee surgery to illustrate how we can move beyond the yuck factor:
Two years ago, I was using a brush mower to clear an overgrown trail. The mower got stuck on a root and, unthinking, I walked around in front of it and yanked without disengaging the three foot blade. As the wheels hit the root and the front of the mower tipped up, my leg slipped under it.
I will be forever grateful to the surgeons who reassembled my kneecap and sewed up the horror movie gashes.
So, what’s the story of my surgery? Well, certainly one could wax eloquent about the gruesome details of the accident or repair. But for me the real story is this: I can walk again, and even run. I can bicycle downtown. I can sit for long periods writing, and afterwards my knees don’t hurt any more than most do at my age. This winter I even got back on cross country skis with my two daughters and husband in Yellowstone and skied to a frozen waterfall.
Smart, kind doctors and allied health professionals gave me an unspeakable gift. Their day-to-day work may get their hands dirty. It may involve goo and guts and it may even produce human remains that get donated for further medical research. But that is the climax of the story only for juvenile thrill seekers. For me as the patient, my children, my husband, and even my community, the real story is the precious gift of a second chance. It is a story about grace and compassion, love and laughter, beauty, and dreams fulfilled.
The same can be said about my abortion and many others.
Far too often, the fight to protect abortion access focuses on the procedure itself or surrounding circumstances, rather than what comes after. As abortion counselor Charlotte Taft has put it, “I wish that we talked about ‘choices’ instead of ‘choice.’ Because when a woman has an abortion, she isn’t choosing the abortion itself, she is choosing an education, or military service, or her loyalty to the family she already has.” Or to the family she will have, when she’s ready.
Rising Above the Juvenile Fascination with Eew and Goo
In the coming months, with Hillary Clinton as the most viable female presidential candidate in American history, Democrats are queuing up a vigorous conversation about family friendly policies, policies that help children to flourish and that allow women to fully participate in our economy and our democracy. Their aspirations include paid maternity and family leave, more flexible work hours that accommodate parenting, affordable childcare, and better wages for working people at the bottom of the income spectrum (mostly women). But this policy agenda has a glaring omission: to fully participate in our economy and democracy, a woman must be able to manage her fertility.
I have said publicly that I am pro-abortion, not just pro-choice, but I also believe that when advocates think about reproductive empowerment, our minds too often jump to abortion. If we want a future in which children get created when couples feel ready, one in which empowered young women and men can invest in their dreams and stack the odds in favor of their kids, abortion care is just one small (and hopefully shrinking) part of the mix.
Abortion may be minor compared to many routine surgeries, but it is still an expensive, invasive medical procedure that can be emotionally and morally complex. Why mitigate harm if we can prevent it? For the price of one abortion, a woman can get a state-of-the-art IUD or implant that drops her annual pregnancy risk below 1 in 500 for up to 12 years. Access to top tier long acting contraceptives like these dramatically dropped the teen pregnancy and abortion rates in Colorado recently. But better birth control is also just one part of reproductive empowerment.
As I view it, people are trying to get from Point A to Point B in their lives; and abortion is like the guardrail that keeps them from going off the cliff when all else fails. Guardrails save lives. We definitely want them there when people need them. But we also want well-designed roads with lines down the middle, and cars with excellent brakes and steering, and well-trained drivers who have a clear idea of where they want to go and how to get there.
On the road of life, we all get by with a little help from our friends, and strangers, and sometimes even professionals. Most of us don’t need to be reminded how icky life can get when thing go wrong. What we do need is people who will be there regardless, who live by Planned Parenthood’s motto: Care. No matter what.
Originally posted at ValerieTarico.com