Tag Archives: K-12

Our K-12 plan will be out soon, then we can get this job done

By Laudan Espinoza | Published on January 18, 2017

This week Republican legislative leaders had their first meeting of the session with statehouse reporters. As expected the press corps asked first about education funding – including, when will they see a plan from Republicans to fully fund our K-12 schools?

A freelance writer wondered whether the plan would come in a week or two, or would we “wait until April,” meaning late in the session. The April reference struck me as something I would expect from certain Democrats, not a reporter who is supposed to be objective and professional – so I barked at him, which was out of character.

What I should have said, being a longtime Green Bay Packers fan, was something like the line famously used by Aaron Rodgers, the Pack’s quarterback, when questioned a couple years ago about his team’s production.

“Relax. We’re going to be OK,” Rodgers said. His team, 1-2 at the time, went on to win 11 of its remaining 13 games.

My answer should have been more like this: Our plan will be ready soon — sooner than later. It’s going to be OK. We will get this job done.

Democrat lawmakers put some big-spending numbers and costly concepts on paper via the recently concluded Joint Education Funding Task Force. Some have used that to take we-did-our-homework-you-didn’t shots at Republicans. But completing the homework is not the same as passing the test. When our Senate majority puts its plan on the table, I want it to be a fully baked plan that is ready to pass the test, meaning win a majority vote.

If I wanted to fire back at Democrats, I would remind them how our situation is largely of their party’s making. Democrats controlled the state budget for the better part of 30 years before our Senate Majority Coalition Caucus began leading the Senate in 2013. Their spending choices, which favored non-education things over schools by a 2-1 ratio, created the conditions that led to the 2012 McCleary decision. The MCC-led Senate has flipped that, devoting new revenue to education at a rate of more than 3-1. We have restored K-12 to its rightful place in the budget.

I would also note how, in 2013 and 2015, the governor blocked the Legislature’s request to collect K-12 compensation data. We needed it to understand, in dollars and cents, what “full funding” of education really means. Only because of the education-funding task force do we finally have that information.

Instead, I’ll simply say that Republicans aren’t about to leave schools in the lurch. But we want a solution that lasts indefinitely, and we recognize that the Legislature really has just one chance to get it right.

As I said to the reporters, our plan will be ready when it’s ready. Let me say here that it will be ready very soon.

It’s going to be OK. We’re going to get this done.

How far will governor go to keep a great teacher in the classroom?

By Laudan Espinoza | Published on December 21, 2016

According to Governor Inslee, state government has an “obligation” to pour many more billions of dollars into Washington’s K-12 schools. That’s on top of the additional billions budgeted by the Legislature for basic education in the past four years.

“In this day and age, we owe our kids and parents more,” the governor declared on Dec. 13, in the course of unveiling his plan to raise taxes by $8.7 billion. He proposes to steer about half of that new revenue into the K-12 system, where it would go toward providing “a great teacher in the classroom and access to the programs and services we know they [students] need.”

Now lay Inslee’s declarations next to a Dec. 16 report from the non-partisan Washington Policy Center, which found (based on federal statistics) that our state leads the nation in strikes by teachers. In 2015 three of the 12 largest labor disruptions in the nation took place here, in the form of school closures.

Inslee speaks of providing great teachers but not of what he would do to keep them in their classrooms. In this day and age, to borrow his words, aren’t Washington’s kids and parents owed more than a school year disrupted by a teacher strike? How far would Inslee go to prevent a walkout so students don’t lose access, even for a day, to those great classroom teachers and school-based programs and services?

Benge Elementary in southeast Adams County, a K-6 school that is the district’s only facility, and Jefferson Elementary in Pullman, part of a much larger district, are among the schools I visited this fall. They illustrate how differences in the tax base and cost of living and quality of life can influence teacher recruiting and educational opportunities for their respective students. Many of us are determined to look out for the needs of rural schools like Benge as we respond to the McCleary education-funding case, and that has made the challenge greater. We will find a way to address the disparity called out by the state Supreme Court – but who will address the inequities that result when one school district is forced to shell out more local money for teacher salaries because it wants to end or prevent a strike? The Legislature can’t make teacher strikes more illegal than they already are.

As the father and father-in-law of public-school teachers, and with my eldest grandchild now in kindergarten, I appreciate the work teachers do and want to see them receive proper compensation. Paying for education with existing tax dollars first, as our Senate majority has worked to do these past four years, is exactly what we should continue doing under the “paramount duty” clause in Washington’s constitution.

Clearly, Inslee thinks Washingtonians should be giving billions more to state government, either through higher taxes on employers or through the increased costs that consumers inevitably pay when taxes go up. But it is disingenuous to use schools as the primary excuse, especially when there is no reason to believe that even a massive tax increase would end the threat of teacher strikes.