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Archive for May, 2012

Judge rules: I-1053 is unconstitutional

Challenging I-1053, League of Education Voters vs. Washington State

A King County Superior Court judge ruled today that Initiative 1053 is unconstitutional.

“This lawsuit is another important piece in making sure our kids have all the resources they need to get an excellent education,” Chris Korsmo, Chief Executive Officer, said. “LEV was founded on the principle that our kids deserve fully funded schools.”

I-1053 requires a supermajority of the Legislature to raise taxes or close tax loopholes.

LEV is the lead plaintiff in the suit, along with the Washington Education Association, legislators, parents and taxpayers.

“This decision is a victory for the children of Washington state,” said Mary Lindquist, WEA president. “If it is upheld, this ruling will pave the way for the Legislature to fully fund K-12 public schools as mandated by the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision and the state Constitution. We hope it will be settled soon. Our kids can’t wait any longer.”

The Court held that the Washington Constitution establishes the exclusive rules for determining whether passage of a law requires a simple majority or super majority vote.  Those rules cannot be altered by the legislature passing a law or by the people enacting an initiative.  The Court noted that the Washington Constitution established super majority requirements for a number of types of laws, but not for tax increases.

Judge Bruce E. Heller wrote: “Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. Plaintiffs present a justiciable controversy and have standing to bring this action. RCW 43.135.034(1)’s supermajority vote requirement violates the simple majority provision of Article II, 22 of the Washington Constitution, rendering that provision of the statute unconstitutional. Further RCW.43.135.034(2)(a)’s mandatory referendum requirement violates Article II, 1 and Article II, 1(b) of the Washington Constitution, rendering that provision of the statute unconstitutional.”

“This is a victory for the Constitution” said Paul Lawrence of the Pacifica Law Group, lead counsel for the plaintiffs.  Lawrence explained:  “The Constitution establishes the fundamental rules for how our governmental works.  The framers considered what types of laws require a super majority vote for passage.  Taxes were not identified as requiring a super majority vote.  Fundamental changes in how the government operates have to be accomplished by constitutional amendment, not by passage of a law or initiative.”

Legislators who had joined as plaintiffs expressed similar hope that the case will allow the State to meet its constitutional obligation to fund public education.   Jamie Pedersen, State Representative for the 43rd LD, said:  “I am thrilled that the court reached the merits of this question and recognized that Tim Eyman’s initiatives requiring supermajority votes to raise revenue are unconstitutional and are hampering our ability to fund public schools.  I feel hopeful that the Supreme Court – fresh off of its decision that the legislature is failing to fund education adequately – will give us back the tools to do so.“

Chris Reykdal State Representative for the 22nd LD echoed that that sentiment:  “This is an historic decision for our state.  Our treasured initiative process can clearly amend state law or advocate new laws, but it cannot amend the constitution.  We all have to play by the same rules.  We look forward to the State Supreme Court upholding this decision on appeal by the State.  We have a court mandated obligation to fund basic education, and this decision restores the Legislature’s ability to do that with majority rule.  In the end, our citizens, democracy, and our children are the biggest winners.”

Plaintiff State Senator David Frockt noted:  “There are critical policy implications to this ruling.  The elected representatives of the people should have all policy options available to them to change the downward spiral that we have been on in both K-12 and higher education investments in recent years.  In my opinion, there has been an undeniable “chilling” effect on the development of options to address these issues.  The full range of options are not seriously considered, much less debated, when it is perceived to be a futile effort in light of a minority’s ability to overrule the majority on the House or Senate floor.  I have been appointed to serve on the education funding committee that has been established in response to the McCleary decision.  If this ruling is upheld, as I hope it will be, I believe we will have a better shot at fulfilling our paramount duty to fully fund our educational system in the coming years.”  Frockt further observed that the decision does not undermine the ability of the people to reign in government:  “The people retain numerous checks on legislative power, through legislative elections every two and four years, as well as the power of referendum to overturn any policy changes the legislature may make.  Nothing about this constitutional ruling changes those sovereign rights that the voters hold and will continue to hold.”

Lawrence expects the decision to be appealed directly to the Washington Supreme Court.   He plans to ask for expedited review so that a decision can be rendered before the start of the 2013 legislative session.

Posted in: Funding

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LEV’s Second Annual Breakfast: Schools That Work

Thank you to all who came to support LEV at our Second Annual Breakfast: Schools That Work! We had such a fabulous time talking with you about your passion and dedication to making schools great for every student in Washington state. We heard talented students on the steel drums, thanked our excellent elected officials, passed our pop quiz, saw the debut of the A+ Washington video, and heard from teachers, principals and other education professionals about the wonderful work they’re doing to ensure our kids succeed in school and in life. We raised about $136,000 at this year’s breakfast. With these resources we’ll be able to continue to fight to make every school a School That Works. Thank you for your continued support and for all you do for kids!

Here are some photos from the breakfast. Thank you again to all who came!

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Posted in: Events

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Walla Walla school’s new approach to discipline drops suspension 85 percent

Yesterday we wrote about a study that concluded that “safety in schools can be enhanced by increasing both structure and support: adopting rules that are strictly and fairly enforced and having adults at the school who are caring, supportive and willing to help students.”

In Washington, one school is adopting this positive approach with astounding results. Lincoln High School in Walla Walla is an alternative school with students who face some of the most difficult life challenges and had experienced trouble in their previous schools. The principal, Jim Sporleder, was looking for solutions after three challenging years running the school. He found them in a new approach to discipline that encourages communication, keeps kids in school, and shows respect and support for every student, no matter how they act out.

Sporleder came to this new approach when he was introduced to research that shows that students dealing with trauma are physiologically impaired when it comes to learning. The types of trauma include emotional, sexual and physical abuse, and emotional and physical neglect, a parent addicted to alcohol or other drugs, seeing a mother being abused, a family member in prison, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, and a parent who’s disappeared through abandoning the family or divorce. An anonymous survey created and answered by Lincoln High students found that the students had an average of between four and five of these traumatic experiences in their lives.

The staff at the school takes this information seriously. They know that you can’t simply punish a behavior that is a reaction to trauma away, so they take a different approach. When a kid erupts in class, teachers intervene quickly. They step out of the classroom with the student and ask what’s going on, suggest the student take a time out in a special In School Suspension (ISS) room, or ask the student if they would like to speak to someone at the adjoining Health Center.

If it escalates, the student meets with Principal Sporleder, who uses a zone system to help students describe their behavior. Students in the red zone get time to process their emotions and then meet with Sporleder the next morning to discuss solutions. Now that the program has become part of the school’s culture, more often than not the students have already talked the problem over with their teacher, apologized and figured out a solution by the time they meet with Sporleder again. If they refuse to apologize to the teacher and solve the problem, or their infraction is more serious, students instead go to In School Suspension, where they can catch up on work, talk to an adviser and have time to move to the green zone.

Using this method, staff say there are much fewer emotional explosions and students are better able to self-regulate. Plus, their suspensions have dropped 85 percent and expulsions have dropped by 40 percent in just one year.

“This is such a paradigm shift, you have to believe in it to make change happen,” said Sporleder. “The administration has to show support. That’s what I’ve seen. You’ve just gotta believe in it. You’ve gotta know that it’s true.”

Read more about Lincoln High School here.

Posted in: School Discipline

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