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.

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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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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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LEV teams up with Seattle Center to showcase the classroom of the future

Budding Washington artists and visionaries have the opportunity to showcase their talents at an exhibit to celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

Seattle Center and the League of Education Voters are asking Washington’s K-12 students to think about what the classroom of the future will look like. In 50 years, what technology will be used? What are students learning? What will the classroom/learning environment be like?

Selected artists will be showcased at an exhibition during the month of August at the Seattle Center. Students interested in participating are encouraged to submit a letter of intent by April 30th. The deadline to turn in the projects is June 1. Submissions can be in a variety of forms from essays to poetry to videos to slideshows to 3-D models. Students can submit their work individually or as part of a team.

Professionals in the fields of education, technology, architecture, art and design will curate the submissions to present common themes apparent in the participants’ visions of future learning environments. While there will not be prizes, all participants will receive official Next Fifty certificates. Selected individual youth and/or groups may be invited to present their ideas as part of Seattle Center’s Next Fifty Learning events .

For more information regarding the letter of intent and exhibition rules, please visit our website at

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Governor signs bill establishing new Student Achievement Council

Governor Gregoire signed HB 2483 today which will create a new cabinet level agency, the Student Achievement Council.

Passed by a bi-partisan effort, responsibilities for the Council will include developing policy and strategies to raise the percentage of Washingtonians with post-secondary education as well as administering state financial aid programs.

According to the Higher Education Coordinating Board’s blog, the new law (which becomes effective July 1st will have several goals:

a) To propose to the governor and the Legislature goals for increasing educational attainment in Washington, recommend the resources necessary to achieve the goals, and monitor progress toward meeting the goals;

b) To propose to the governor, the Legislature, and the state’s educational institutions, improvements and innovations needed to continually adapt the state’s educational institutions to evolving educational attainment needs; and

c) To advocate for higher education through various means, with the goal of educating the general public on the economic, social and civic benefits of post- secondary education, and the consequent need for increased financial support and civic commitment in the state.

More information about the new law can be found here.

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Map compares cost of living across the U.S.

As a part of their Out of Reach 2012 campaign, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has compiled wage and rent data from all over the country and created a map to compare the hourly wage needed to afford a two bedroom home at 30 percent of income. This is referred to as the housing wage.

(Click map to enlarge)

According to NLIHC, the map”demonstrates that a mismatch exists between the cost of living, the availability of rental assistance and the wages people earn day to day across the country. The Housing Wage consistently exceeds the actual wages earned by renters, in both urban and rural communities nationwide.”

NLIHC also created a map to see how many hours a person earning minimum wage would need to work in order to afford a two bedroom house at fair market rent.

(Click map to enlarge)

In Washington, a person earning minimum wage would need to work 80 hours a week in order to afford a two bedroom home paying 30 percent of their income. The highest disparity was found in Hawaii with minimum wage earners needing to work 175 hours and Washington D.C. came in second with 140 hours.

The full report can be read here.






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Declare I-1053 unconstitutional, LEV argues before court

Challenging I-1053, League of Education Voters vs. Washington StateToday the King County Superior Court heard arguments on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053. The initiative imposes a supermajority vote in the state Legislature to raise revenues or close tax loopholes. The League of Education Voters, along with the Washington Education Association, parents, taxpayers and lawmakers are asking the court to rule that the supermajority requirement is unconstitutional.

Judge Bruce Heller heard arguments on the standing of the lawsuit, then heard arguments on the merits of the case from both sides. LEV argued for summary judgment because the Court’s voice is necessary in determining the constitutionality of the Initiative. Judge Heller did not offer a ruling at the hearing, instead taking the arguments under advisement. A ruling may be announced within the next few weeks.

LEV has a long history of supporting measures that help us fully fund education, including our efforts to pass the Simple Majority legislation for levies that allowed $1.2 billion to be raised for schools just this year. This lawsuit is another important piece in making sure our kids have all the resources they need to get an excellent education. It’s also key to ensuring that legislators have all of their constitutionally protected powers at their disposal for making budget decisions.

Even to close the outdated tax loopholes, I-1053 requires a two-thirds vote. But the constitution sets the rules for the Legislature, and it requires a simple majority to raise taxes or close loopholes. As long as I-1053 goes unchallenged, a minority of legislators can block the will of the majority.

Part of the initiative requires a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the Legislature to raise revenue or modify tax preferences. LEV believes that the state constitution is clear that such measures require only a majority vote of the Legislature. The state’s constitution cannot be amended by statute, regardless of how that statute came into existence.

The State has said that it will not oppose having the appeal heard by the Washington Supreme Court. Further, the governor has requested to be separately represented by a special assistant attorney general, indicating that she agrees with the plaintiffs that the decision on I-1053 should be made in the courts.

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South Shore counselor Rachel Powers Carrasco wins Swain Excellence in Education Award

classroom with students raising handsRachel Powers Carrasco, a counselor at the South Shore School in South Seattle, has been awarded The Philip B. Swain Excellence in Education Award. Presented by the Alliance for Education and funded by family and friends through an endowment, the award was established to honor Phillip Swain, who was a passionate advocate for public education throughout his life.

In her nomination, Rachel’s administrators wrote “Rachel Carrasco is a remarkable member of our South Shore family – her exceptional leadership, her long standing relationships with students, families and staff members, and her relentless advocacy for student success reminds her Administrators of the holistic, comprehensive and thoughtful wrap-around services that each child deserves from our schools.”

The yearly award is given to teachers and counselors in Seattle Public Schools who are nominated by colleagues, principals and/or administrators in Seattle Public Schools. All winners have taught for at least three years at a school where, for at least two of the past three years, there is a rate of free and reduced-lunch eligibility of 40 percent or higher. Most importantly, the winners inspire a love of learning in students while helping them reach their highest academic potential, and play a leadership role with their peers in fostering a professional learning community, in which teachers are encouraged to learn from one another through coaching, study groups, peer critique and collaborative problem-solving.

The award also includes a stipend of $1,000 to be used for continuing professional development, for travel associated with such development, for classroom projects or for personal purposes. Rachel, along with the other five award recipients, has also been invited to attend the Alliance for Education Community Breakfast.

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Washington voters pass $2.6 billion in taxes for education

You did not see that headline last week, but you should have.

You may have read reports about levies in a particular district or county, but there was precious little attention paid to what happened all across the state. What happened was that voters overwhelmingly supported their local schools and voted for $2.6 billion in taxes to support education.

Let’s say it again: Voters overwhelmingly supported their local schools and voted for $2.6 billion in taxes to support education.

Out of 295 school districts, 157 went to their local communities seeking support to the tune of over $2.7 billion dollars in property taxes. Out of the 157 school districts that put levies on the ballot, 152 of them passed. In a time where we hear that voters will not support revenue, the local election results stand in stark contrast to that narrative.

In most cases, local dollars make up around 25% of the total operating costs of a school district. We are a far cry from local levies being about the “extras” they were originally designed to provide. As the economic crises drags on, the importance of local levies has increased. Local communities have responded to that crisis with overwhelming support for their schools.

Simple Majority, the gift that keeps on giving
It seems odd, but Washington state has a fondness for requiring super majorities when it comes to revenue. It used to be that local schools had to receive more than 60% of the vote to secure a local operating levy. Thanks to Simple Majority (also known as I-4204, passed in 2007) we returned to the most basic of democratic principles, majority rules. That means that 51 levies representing $1.2 billion have passed because of Simple Majority. That is $1.2 billion to support the students in those districts that they otherwise would not have received.

Our support for majority rule extends to the state Legislature, where the law currently requires two-thirds majority to raise revenue. The I-1053 lawsuit, which we filed along with the Washington Education Association and other plaintiffs in October, will have its first hearing in March. We hope that the combination of the McCleary ruling and the eventual ruling on I-1053 will clear the way to fund our schools at the level they need, and local voters seem prepared to support.

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Totem Middle School has the solution for math success

Earlier this week, LEV staff members visited Totem Middle School, and it’s safe to say we were blown away. With half of the students receiving free or reduced lunch, Totem has been able to do something remarkable – turn around their math scores dramatically in just three years.

Just take a look at these statistics:

– 2009-2010: 12% of their students took Algebra I in 8th grade

– 2010-2011: 45% of their students took Algebra I in 8th grade

– 2011-2012: 83% of their students are taking Algebra I in 8th grade.

Algebra I by 8th grade is an educational gatekeeper that directly (and positively) correlates with college and career preparedness, which makes the above data all the better. Not only are more students taking algebra, they are also passing at higher rates. The increase in the number of Totem 8th graders taking Algebra 1 has also led to a a higher pass rate in math when they went on to high school. When the 12% of 8th graders taking algebra went on to 9th grade, the math pass rate was 40%. The following year, when the 45% of 8th graders taking algebra went on to 9th grade, the pass rate went up to 90%. That’s an incredible 50% increase!

With the funding they were awarded through a federal School Improvement Grant (SIG), Totem was able to enact some key changes:

– Extended school day by half an hour.

– Extra support for students through an increase in staff and academic intervention during and after school.

– Extra support and flexibility for teachers through professional development

– Using data in all decisions.

We were able to speak to the Superintendent, Principal, teachers and students and the one thing (among many) that stuck with us was this: Both the teachers AND the principal thought was the most important thing done was changing the belief system of the teachers. The kids COULD do it…and they have.

When it comes to the big changes at Totem, these were three biggest lessons learned:

1) If something is not working, change it now.

2) Weekly progress monitoring is an important aspect of encouraging students to try harder

3) All students can learn at high levels.

We love this message, and yes, we are fans. Keep up the great work Totem Middle School. We look forward to the amazing things in your future!


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