Linda Hanson wrote this blog post for our edCored series on education funding. Linda is an independent government relations and community engagement consultant specializing in the public education system. Her experience began in PTA, ultimately as state President from 2005-2007, and includes serving on several National PTA committees. Clients include NEWS, Learning First Alliance, and other small non-profits. If you want to be notified when new content is published in this month-long series, please subscribe to the LEV Blog’s RSS feed or once-a-day email digest.
Parents continually ask me, “How can the state cut public school funding even more? When will it stop?” They are confused, and they are not alone; so am I. Doesn’t the Washington Constitution tell each and every state legislator (and governor) that “it is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children” residing in our state? But they ignore that Constitutional mandate – leaving local communities who can afford it to instead try to make up for the state’s underfunding with a patchwork of local levies, bonds, PTA fundraisers, and more. After all, we are talking about my kids, your kids, and don’t we want only the best for them – all of them?
NEWS, the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools, is a coalition of 382 members asking these same questions. Our members include community organizations, 184 school districts representing 86% of Washington’s public school students, and education associations representing thousands of voters, parents, teachers and other concerned citizens who believe the kids of our state deserve the first class K-12 education that our state constitution promises to every child. Plagued with a long-outdated state funding system that fails to fully fund even the basic elements of the 21st century education needed to effectively compete in today’s world, NEWS filed a lawsuit (also known as the McCleary case) asking the courts to order the State of Washington to live up to the Constitution of Washington.
The seven-week trial in the NEWS court case concluded on Oct. 21, 2009, in King County Superior Court. On Feb. 4, 2010, the court ruled the state in violation of its paramount Constitutional duty to amply provide for the education of all Washington children. The court ordered the state to determine the actual costs of providing all children with the knowledge and skills set forth in our state’s high academic standards and to fully fund that actual cost with stable and dependable state sources. The state appealed – and says it doesn’t have to obey the court’s ruling until that appeal is over. The Washington State Supreme Court heard the state’s appeal on June 28, 2011. A ruling is expected by the end of this calendar year.
Read the trial court’s final judgment.
Read a summary of the trial decision.
What does this all mean and why should you care? The truth is that the state’s continuing to cut education funding is dramatically affecting student learning through shorter (or even less) school days, larger class sizes, less classroom support staff, teacher compensation issues, increased student fees for non-classroom programs, elimination of student programs…this list is endless, devastating, and unfortunately, very real.
Our state’s elected officials repeatedly put off the full funding of our state’s public school to tomorrow. But our Constitution promises each and every child in our public schools an ample education today. “Tomorrow” does them no good – for today’s kids don’t get a second chance at their education “tomorrow”. Every state official takes an oath to uphold our state Constitution. And that Constitution mandates that it is the state’s paramount duty to make ample provision for the education of all Washington children – not just the kids who are politically popular or easy to teach. All kids. I believe our state’s elected officials should obey the oath they took. And my hope is, the Supreme Court agrees.