Welcome to the Coalition to Protect our Public Schools. We are a group of parents, teachers and education supporters in Washington State who believe that every child deserves a real school and a real teacher. Our purpose is to alert you to the many attacks on our public schools and the harm these attacks are inflicting on more than one million school children here in our State. Our mission is to arm you with useful ideas on what you can do to fight back against these attacks. Our goal is to restore school funding here in Washington State and to restore dignity and respect for our kids, our teachers and our schools. We hope you will join with us to protect our public schools – and together we can restore school funding and lower class sizes so struggling kids can finally get the help they need to succeed in school and succeed in life.
For more than a century, our public schools have been the foundation of our economy and the bedrock of our Democracy. The 75 people who drafted the Washington State Constitution believed that school funding was so important that they made it the Paramount Duty of our State. Article IX Section 1 in our State's Constitution states: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make AMPLE provision for the education of all children residing within its borders without distinction or preference on account of race, culture, caste or sex”.
Sadly, for the past 20 years, there has been a war waged against our kids and our schools. It has been a propaganda war waged in the media - that have falsely claimed that school funding in our state is going up when in fact it has been going down.
In the 1980’s our State was 11th in the nation in school funding. By 1997, after years of cuts, our school funding had fallen to 25th in the nation. Today, 20 years later, our state is 45th in the nation in school funding as a percent of income. As a consequence, our kids and teachers are forced to endure the highest class sizes in the nation. Class sizes are so high in Washington State that struggling students are not getting the help they need.
To make matters worse, Washington State also has the lowest average teacher salary of any West Coast state. Our teachers are so overworked and under paid that many have quit in disgust. This has led to a “teacher shortage” here in Washington State with three out of four schools in our state now facing a crisis of not having enough qualified teachers to fill every classroom – resulting in many classes being led by inexperienced and unqualified baby sitters.
With the future of our children at stake, we need to go beyond merely attending PTA meetings and writing our legislators. If we care about our kids, our economy and our future, we all need to open our eyes and recognize that there is a well-financed war being waged against our public schools – and our children are being used as pawns in this battle.
It is time to look behind the curtain and expose those who are waging this war. It is time to examine the real reasons for this attack on our public schools. It is time to admit that despite our Supreme Court holding our legislature in Contempt for failing to fund our public schools, that the legislature still has no intention of funding our schools.
The legislature claims that their lastest plan, the Levy Swipe, will provide an extra $2 billion per year in school funding. In fact, what it really does is REDUCE school funding by robbing local school districts of more than $1.3 billion per year.
The simple reason the legislature passed a Levy Swipe bill that gutted school funding, instead of passing a bill to increase school funding, was and is to protect hundreds of tax breaks for the rich. Every time the legislature wants to pass another tax break for the rich, they need to reduce funding somewhere else. For the past 20 years, that some place else has been to cut school funding. This is why we now have gone from having among the highest school funding in the nation to among the lowest school funding and highest class sizes in the nation. We will never be able to fully restore school funding until we get rid of these dishonest and illegal tax breaks.
Washington state now leads the nation in tax breaks for the rich. But it is simple math. We cannot give away billions in tax breaks for the rich and still have enough left to fund our schools.
With the passage of the Levy Swipe bill that is certain to reduce school funding rather than increase it, our current legislature has made it crystal clear that they have no intention of honoring their Paramount Duty to amply fund our public schools. The only question left is what can we do as citizens, parents and teachers to restore school funding here in Washington state.
Two Options: Hope and Pray versus Taking Direct Action
Up until now, parents and teachers have been hoping and praying that the NEWS Coalition and our Supreme Court would be able to cajole the legislature into fully funding our schools. So far, this plan has not worked. We are now 10 years into this lawsuit and despite all kinds of claims and promises, there has been no actual increase in school funding and no real reduction in class sizes. Every year, the legislature chooses to fund more tax breaks for the rich and ignore the plight of our kids and schools. What can we do with a legislature that so blatantly refuses to honor our State Constitution and is even refuses to honor a direct order from our Supreme Court?
The time has come to stop wringing our hands and instead to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We need to inform every parent and every teacher in our State about the drawbacks of the Levy Swipe Scam. We need to warn them that, while school funding will go up for one year in 2018, it will start to fall back down again in 2019 and go lower and lower every year after that.
So the first step would be to share this website with other parents and teachers. Post it on your Facebook page. Email it to other friends and teachers. Print off our fliers and pass it around at your local PTA meeting. Hold a discussion on school funding at your local library. Join our Coalition and organize a branch in your school district.
But we need to do more than that. Parents and teachers need to start thinking about running against incumbents in the coming elections. We need to let legislators know that if they keep voting against our kids and schools, we will simply replace them with someone else. Even if you do not win, it will give you an excuse to go door to door talking with other parents about the importance of fully funding our public schools.
It is time to stop hoping and praying that someone else will solve this problem. The future of our kids and our schools is up to everyone of us to take direct action and to start taking that action now. Together, we can and will restore school funding here in Washington state.
David Spring M. Ed. and Elizabeth Hanson M. Ed.