On January 27 2017, Washington State Republicans released their Education Funding Plan which they claim will comply with the Washington Supreme Court McCleary Decision requiring the legislature to comply with our State Constitution by fully fund our public schools. While Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal has commended the plan, in this article, we will provide ten reasons all parents and teachers, regardless of their political party, should oppose the Republican Education Plan.
Note: Washington Democrats have not released their Education Funding plan yet. They claim it will be released in a few days. We have reason to believe the Democrats Plan will not be much better than the Republican Plan. We will write a critique of the Democrats Plan when it is released. But for now, we will simply focus on the problems with the Republican Plan. The Republican Plan, which they call the Education Equality Act, is not yet in bill form. Here is a link to a 10 page summary of the Republicans Plan in case you want to read it yourself:
Here is a link to their slideshow about their plan:
Here is a quote from their plan claiming that it will help our schools, when in fact, if it passes, it will severely harm our schools: “Our proposal provides ample, dependable and equitable funding for all Washington students.”
Here is a link and quote from Superintendent Reykdal commending the Republican Plan.
“The proposal shows that Republicans are serious about solving the funding problem and that it understands additional resources will be needed. The proposal itself is very comprehensive. It would create a guaranteed funding level for each and every student. .. That funding level would be paid for, in part, by a state property tax capped at $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed value. I appreciate the emphasis on accountability and on providing additional support for underachieving students… I also appreciate the emphasis on teacher recruitment and retention… In the coming weeks and months we will work with the House and Senate to create a bipartisan solution that improves student achievement, empowers educators and maximizes local control.”
The Washington Education Association a more critical view of the plan.
Here is what the WEA had to say about the Republican Plan
“Though it purports to add funding, take a look at what it really does:
Cuts pay for many teachers...
Slashes special ed funding by prohibiting use of local funds for special ed.
Freezes funding for small rural districts.
Increases class size... by eliminating I-1351.
Lowers teaching requirements, allowing anyone to teach as long as they pass a basic background test. No teaching certificates would be required.
Expands the number of charter schools.
Privatizes public education.
Severely limits collective bargaining, the right to strike and due process.
It goes without saying that WEA adamantly opposes this proposal.”
A Review of Crimes Already Committed by the leaders of Both Major Political Parties Against Our Kids
Before we get into the serious flaws of the Republican Plan, which are way more serious than any of the above comments by the WEA would indicate, let’s first review the crimes already committed against our kids by the Washington State Legislature. Note that a “crime” is a serious voilation of the law. A lot of people do not understand this, but our State Constitution is not just a series of suggestions, it is the highest law in Washington State. So violating our state constitution is actually committing a crime. The Washington State Constitution has the strongest school funding language of any constitution in the nation. Here is just a couple of quotes for those who may not have read it.
Article 9.1: Unlike other states, which made it the duty of the legislature to adequately fund our schools, the drafters of our State Constitution created a shared Paramount Duty - a duty applied to the entire State Government including the Supreme Court - when they wrote Article 9, Section 1: "It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders."
Paramount means the highest and most important duty.
Article 9.2: The first sentence in Article 9, Section 2 of our state constitution states:
"The legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools."
This sentence means that the legislature must provide the funds for a uniform system of public schools. Our state constitution specifically prohibits a system of rich schools that can pass local levies and poor schools that cannot pass a local levy. It also prohibits a two-tier system of public schools in which some kids get a qualified teacher while other schools get a babysitter or no teacher at all. Uniform means that all kids are treated about the same and have the same right to a real education. These are the two laws that led to the McCleary lawsuit and the two laws that our Supreme Court have been trying – without much success – to get the State legislature to comply with.
Here are ten reasons parents & teachers should oppose the Republican Plan:
#1: The Republican Plan fails to even mention the real problem which is skyrocketing tax breaks for the rich.
The real problem - which neither party in Olympia is willing to discuss much less address – is that tax breaks for the rich get higher every year. Our currupt legislature currently gives away four dollars in tax breaks for the rich for every dollar we invest in our public schools.
Spending $40 billion per year on tax breaks for the rich leaves nothing left to fund our schools:
This is despite the fact that tax breaks for wealthy corporations are specifically prohibited by our state constitution.
Because of these illegal tax breaks for the rich, robbing billions of dollars from our schools every year, our schools are in a state of crisis. Our students are currently forced to deal with among the highest class siizes in the nation as a result of the fact that our state has among the lowest school funding in the nation as a percent of income (which is the most accurate way to measure school funding).
#2 The Republican Plan is based on lies such as the claim that the legislature has already added “billions of dollars in funding for schools.”
Legislators falsely claim that they have provided “billions of dollars” in additional school funding in the past 4 years. This is a lie. In fact, they simply moved money around from one account to another. If the legislature actually had increased funding for our schools, we would have more teachers. In fact, while the number of students has risen by nearly 100,000 in the past six years, the number of teachers has declined by over one thousand – meaning that class sizes are rising rapidly. How can Washington have billions of dollars in additional education funding – as claimed by our legislature - and not hire a single new teacher?
#3 The Republican Plan would repeal Initiative 1351 (the Class Size Initiative) thus increasing rather than reducing class sizes.
Our schools have among the highest class sizes in the nation. Here is a distribution of class sizes showing which states have low, average, above average or extremely high class sizes:
For Grades 1 through 6, the national average class size is 21 students while the average class size in Washington state is 24 students. For Grades 7 through 12, the national average class size is 27 students and the average class size in Washington state is 30 students. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_209.30.asp
High class sizes mean that struggling students do not get the help they need while our teachers are faced with the impossible task of training to instruct too many students.
Initiative 1351 would lower class sizes in Washington state down to about the national average. This would require hiring more than 10,000 teachers and building hundreds of urgently needed schools. Because legislators would rather keep giving away billions of dollars in tax breaks to the rich every year, they want to repeal Initiative 1351.
#4 The Republican Plan fails to even mention our school construction crisis
Half of our schools do not meet the health code standards or the earthquake standards. Half of our schools have water damage (which leads to mold and other toxins). Half have poor air quality. Thirty percent of our schools are estimated to have excessive lead in the water (which causes brain damage in children). Think Flint Michigan on a massive scale. Most of these problems are related to older schools. Half of our schools are more than 50 years old.
The legislature only provides about $300 per student for school construction – when what is actually needed is 10 times this amount – or $3,000 per student. As a consequence of the legislature’s gross negligence in failing to pay for school construction and repair, the school construction backlog in our state has risen to more than $24 billion.
It is likely that the Democrats plan will also fail to address our school construction backlog (because the Democrats also want to protect billions in tax breaks for the rich). Thus, the school construction crisis will continue to get worse every year as our kids are forced to spend their school days in unsafe, unhealthy classrooms that make them and their teachers sick.
#5 The Republican Plan claims to increase school funding while reducing property taxes. In fact, it reduces school funding while increasing local property taxes.
The Washington Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled over the past 40 years that local levies are unconstitutional because they result in a two-tier system of rich schools that can pass a local levy versus poor schools that cannot. Local Levies are also not a “reliable” source of revenue. Thus, local levies violate Sections 9.1 and 9.2 of the Washington State Constitution. Yet, despite this fact, by starving schools of the funds they need to operate, the State legislature has forced school districts to raise more than $2 billion per year in local levy funds – double what it was 20 years ago – just to keep their doors open.
The Republican Plan correctly repeals all local levies for funding basic education. This eliminates $2 billion per year in local funding. But the Republican Plan then only increases State Funding through the new “Local Levy” by $1.4 billion – guting over half a billion dollars from school funding!
The Devil is in the Details: According to the Republican Plan, the local levy would change to “$1.80 per thousand dollars of assessed value.” They admit that the average local levy is currently $2.54 per thousand. They then claim that this reduction in property taxes would result in an increase in school funding. Some Democrats have called this a “shell game.” but it is worse than a shell game. It is a con game because instead of merely transferring money around this plan actually reduces TOTAL school funding.
Here is the language from their proposal: “The local effort levy is a permanent property tax levy levied on behalf of school districts by the state. It is not an excess levy. The local effort levy tax rate cannot exceed $1.80 per thousand dollars of assessed value. The tax rate may be phased down to a rate not lesser than $1.25 per thousand dollars of assessed value.”
If the rate were phased down to $1.25 per thousand, then the amount gutted from school funding would exceed one billion dollars per year – meaning the firing of more than 10,000 teachers!
How can they claim they are increasing school funding when they are actually decreasing school funding by up to one billion dollars per year?
Here is the next sentence in their proposal (read it slowly. It may take several readings to understand what it is really saying):
“The state backfills the amount necessary to reach the basic per pupil guaranteed funding level after applying the local effort levy but also establishes a minimum amount to be provided by the state.”
Put in plain English, the legislature would be required to “make up” the net loss of one billion dollars in local levy funds by gutting funding for other programs. Where will this additional billion dollars per year come from? There is only one “descretionary” item left in the State budget that is this large – it is the one billion per year our state invests in higher education. So the Republican plan not only fails to restore public school funding – it would also require eliminating nearly all state funding for higher education (which is currently about one billion dollars per year).
How the Republican Plan increases Property taxes on Local Homeowners:
While property taxes would decrease in some rural school districts, the total property tax rate would increase in urban and some suburban school districts. For example, the current local levy rate in the Seatte School district is $1.31 per thousand. Under the Republican plan, this new Local Levy rate would increase to $1.80 per thousand. For a $500,000 home in Seattle, homeowners would see their local taxes go up by $250 per year – while school funding in Seattle would decline by millions of dollars per year and funding for “descretionary” items like higher education would decline by more than one billion dollars per year.
In summary, the Levy Swap is really a Levy Swipe of more than one billion dollars per year from urban and suburban school districts mainly in King County with these funds being transferred to rural school districts in other counties around the state. I agree that rural school districts around our state are grossly under-funded. But the solution is not to rob urban and sub-urban school districts because they are also grossly under-funded. Nor is the solution to gut funding for higher education – which is also grossly underfunded. Nor is the solution to rob tax payers in King County – because their property taxes have already increased more than 100% in the past 20 years. The solution is to repeal the illegal tax breaks for the rich.
#6 The Republican Plan Reduces Rather than Increases Teacher Pay
The Republican Plan claims to increase the minimum teacher pay from $35,700 to $45,000 per year. In fact, what the Republican plan really does is completely eliminate real teachers by eliminating state regulations which currently require teachers to be fully trained and fully certified. Here is the quote from the Republican Plan: “School districts that meet performance standards are exempt from most state regulations… Districts gain flexibility to hire non-traditional teachers.” So real teachers could be replaced not only by non-qualified or poorly trained substitutes, they could be eliminated altogether and replaced by computer programs.
In addition, the Republican plan would eliminate the teachers union by eliminating the right of teachers to strike over either low pay or high class sizes.
#7 The Republican Plan Severely Harms Students by Falsely Labeling Most of them as Failures
Here is a quote from the Republican Plan: “By 2020 all districts have the goal of 86% (of all third grade students) meeting state standard in 3rd grade literacy. Only 54% (of all third grade students) met state standards in 2015-16 school year.”
The problem is that the standards refered to in the plan are not reasonable grade level standards written by child development specialists. Instead, they are the grotesque Common Core standards written by Wall Street consultants who have no idea of what a Third Grader is actually capable of achieving. These fake Common Core standards severely harm children by falsely labeling them as failures. For example, Common Core math standards require children to engage in Abstract Reasoning when most Third Graders are not capable of engaging in Abstract Reasoning.
The Common Core standards are measured on an extremely harmful test called the SBAC test – which is a test deliberately designed to fail most of the students who take it. Here is the results of the SBAC test compared to previous Washington state tests:
Note that 86% of Washington State students passed the NAEP test (the National Assessment of Educational Progress). This places Washington state students as among the highest scoring students in the United States and in the world. Meanwhile only 39% of these same students passed the 2015 SBAC test.
Instead of shaming our kids and our teachers by falsely labeling them as failures, we should be honoring them for how well they do despite the lack of state funding!
#8 The Republican Plan would decrease rather than increase the Graduation Rate in Washington State
The Republican Plan demands an increase in the Graduation Rate from 78% to 89% in the next 3 years. Yet we know that the only proven way to increase the graduation rate is to lower class sizes so that struggling students can get the help they need to succeed in school and succeed in life.
While there are many causes of school dropouts, one of the primary causes is extremely high class sizes. High class sizes prevent struggling students from getting the help they need to succeed in school. We have known for many years that smaller class sizes make a huge difference for struggling students. In 2005, a summary was published of the largest class size experiment ever conducted. Here is the link:
Finn & Gerber, 2005 Small Class Sizes and Graduating from High School, Journal of Educational Psychology, 97 (2), 214-223. (Data from Tennessee STAR Study) https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/edu-972214.pdf
This study confirmed that even just four years in small classes increased the Graduation Rate from 70% to 88% The STAR experiment was conducted in Tennessee from 1985 to 1990. About 12,000 students in 80 schools were randomly assigned with 6000 students assigned to a small class size of 15 to 18 students while the other 6000 students were assigned to a regular class size of 22 to 25 students in grades K through 3. In the 4th grade, all students were returned to regular size classes. Students in smaller classes had fewer attendance problems, fewer discipline problems, and much higher test scores.
The helpful effect of small class sizes was most noticeable among lower income and minority students. For example, the drop out rate 12 years later among low income students was cut from 30% to only 12%. Put another way, the graduation rate among low income and minority students skyrocketed from 70% to 88%. Small class sizes were able to greatly reduce and in many cases completely eliminate the so-called "Achievement Gap" or difference between higher income and lower income students. In addition, lower class sizes reduces the teacher attrition rate.
But lowering class sizes requires hiring more teachers and building more schools which in turn requires ending or at least reducing tax breaks for the rich. This is why lowering class sizes is not even being discussed ny either political party in Olympia.
#9 The Rebublican Plan Privatizes Nearly Every School in Washington State
No school district in the nation has ever had 86% of Third Graders passing the SBAC test – nor can this ever happen because the test is specifically designed to fail 50% or more of all kids. Thus, the Republican Plan is designed to falsely label every school district in Washington state as a failure. After being labeled as a failure, these school districts will all be open to being privatized and handed over to For Profit Wall Street Raiders.
Here is the language in the Republican Plan: “Up to 5% of schools not meeting standards can apply to be an innovation district.”
“Innovative School District” means a school district that is handed over to Wall Street raiders who then turn around and fire all of the real teachers replacing them typically with computer programs that do not actually help children.
While the language sounds like it would be limited to 5% of all schools, in fact because every school district in the state would be labeled a failure by the Republican Plan, every school district would be at risk for being privatized. The public goal of these racketeers is not just to privatize a few public schools – it is to privatize all of them.
Four Steps to Converting All Public Schools to For Profit Online Schools
Online charter schools have a graduation rate of only 20 to 30% - meaning that they fail nearly all students. In fact, many students score more poorly at the end of a year in an online charter school math test than they did at the beginning of the year. So the goal is not to help students, it is to make billions of dollars by destroying students.
#10 The Republican Plan is not about Funding our Public Schools, it is about Destroying them.
The Republican Plan is really the Billionaires Plan. Billionaires do not like public schools because they do not like Democracy. Thomas Jefferson noted that our public schools are the foundation not only of economic prosperity but also of our democracy. When students are brainwashed by online charter schools, it will be easier for billionaires to control them.
To learn more about the billionaires plan to destroy and take over our public schools, go to the following website:
Conclusion… It is time for Teachers and Parents to Wake Up and starting doing some serious research!
The WEA is currently supporting the Governors plan for school funding. This plan would impose about one billion dollars in carbon taxes every year and another one billion in capital gains taxes every year. Some of this new money might go towards schools. But given what usually happens in Olympia, this new revenue is just as likely to go into more tax breaks for the rich. I will write a detailed summary of the Democrats Plan after it is released. In the meantime, there are real solutions to the school funding crisis. I describe these solutions in detail at the following website:
Put simply, we do not need any new laws and we do not need any new taxes. All we need to do is enforce the Washington State Constitution by demanding that all 700 tax breaks for wealthy corporations be declared null and void. In addition, we need to start a Public Bank in Washington state like the Bank of North Dakota. This would save more than $4 billion per year we are currently sending to Wall Street Banks. To learn more about this, please read the following website:
As always, I look forward to your comments and questions.
David Spring M. Ed.
Coalition to Protect our Public Schools