As a parent of a child in Seattle Public Schools, I am bitterly disappointed in the results of the 2012 elections. Not the charter school vote – I oppose it, but I don’t see it as the most important issue this election season. The votes on taxation.
Our state and our schools have seen cut after cut and we are having trouble with basic health and safety, with school supplies, and with finding seats for all our kids. The Washington State Supreme Court reaffirmed – once again – that our state is failing in its constitutional mandate to fully fund education. We’re short by about 3-4 billion dollars per year. Social services have been hit hard too, with 40% of children living in families that struggle to meet basic needs for food, housing, and healthcare.
We need money, but where is it going to come from? It is easy and popular to blame the legislature. But guess what? Washington voters just tied their hands. In every single county, voters said that the legislature would need a 2/3 majority to pass any new taxes. That includes the closing of corporate tax loopholes.
Not only that, but in an “advisory vote,” Washington voters also told the legislature that the two tax increases it managed to pass last year, which closed some corporate tax loopholes, would be repealed. All but two or three counties went for this.
We can blame the legislature if we like, we can blame Tim Eyeman (the guy who keeps putting this 2/3 requirement on the ballot), and we can blame the big money that heavily promoted these ballot measures. That’s all fine and dandy if it makes us feel better.
But the people who voted for these measures are our friends, neighbors, and family. In my opinion, they let our kids down.
If we really want our schools to be fully funded, as mandated by our state constitution, if we really want our kids to have a great education and a secure future, that’s who we need to convince.
In the meantime, parents and teachers, brace for a storm. We’re not getting relief any time soon.
By which I mean:
- Buildings like Rainier Beach High School and Arbor Heights Elementary that are in deteriorating condition.
- Layoffs for teachers, counselors, school bus drivers, and more.
- High school students who can’t get a full schedule and can’t take important math and science courses.
- School closures and subsequent overcrowding.
- Shortages in supplies like paper and staples.
- Special programs like Montessori, language immersion, STEM, and advanced learning opportunities, that come with no additional funding for teacher training or supplies.
Shall I go on? Are those cuts enough? How many more cuts is it going to take before we turn around as a state and say we value our kids?