An update from the front lines on Washington State education politics. 🙂

In 2012, the State of Washington was sued by NEWS, a coalition of 420+ education associations, community groups, and school districts for failing their constitutional obligation to fully fund K-12 public schools. The case, McCleary v. State, resulted in the State Supreme Court ruling in favor of the plaintiffs on all counts.

Because our state has a history of underfunding education, promising to fix it, and then doing nothing, the Supreme Court retained jurisdiction in the case. This means if the State does not fix the problem, the Court has the right to make them fix it. Since 2012 the Court has issued several warnings about the case, and has not been impressed. That is probably because Washington classrooms remain the 47th most crowded in the nation, we come in 43rd in per pupil spending, and our teachers are the worst paid on the west coast. We don’t have money for things like copy paper or pencils, and have resorted to asking parents to bring in basic supplies. (True story: since 2009, parents at my schools have been donating reams of paper to the school every fall. We still run out before the end of the school year…)

When schools do not have money even for paper, how much money do you think they have to pay for the extra needs of students with disabilities? What is their budget to pay for SLPs, therapy materials, or adaptive equipment? Not much… Our schools do an amazing job of magically staying open every year, continuing to educate our children, but there is only so hard we can pinch each penny. Thankfully, we have the State Supreme Court on our side.

The most recent statement from the Supreme Court came last week. You can read a summary of it on the NEWS website.

Basically, our legislators have done almost nothing [yet] to fix the problem. Current funding levels are only 57% of the State’s own estimate of the cost ($7,200 of $12,700 per student).

As you can see from the chart above, there is lots of work (read: MONEY) left to be done. The green line is the needed funding increases each year to fully fund public education by the court deadline in 2018. The red line is the “progress” made so far.

What can you do? I’d suggest calling/emailing your legislator (daily?) and asking her/him how they plan to fund education. (You can find their information here). The session only lasts for 60 days, so they have a limited amount of time to fix this problem before the Supreme Court will fix it for them.

You can email your legislators using the WEA Take Action website HERE, to email specifically about the voter-approved COLA for educators.