By Whitney Kahn, Parapro substitute
“The legislature funds basic education, not perfect education,” Senator Mullet’s legislative assistant said to us as we sat in his office. I was stunned that the word ‘basic’, designed to mean ‘K-12’ was being used to mean ‘substandard’. This is how the legislature views our schools. I was left thinking, ‘With Democrats like these, who needs Republicans?’
We had come from all over the state to Olympia in an emergency response to two amendments to a school funding bill, made in the dead of night, which would undermine educator salaries & union rights. More of the same. Pitting the idea of education funding against living wages for educators.
It felt similar to the way the legislature ‘funded McCleary’ last year by transferring local property taxes to statewide funds. This cynical move means insufficient gains for rural districts at the cost of cuts for urban districts. In Seattle that means hundreds of educators, counselors, and school librarians get cut.
Who wins from this bad deal? Not homeowners who are further squeezed, surely not our students, but the Seattle-area millionaires and billionaires who continue to go untaxed. Washington has a tax system where the poorer you are, the higher tax rate you pay, and where if you buy school supplies you pay a sales tax, but if you buy a private jet you’re exempt. You pay taxes on your home, but none on millions made from the sale of stocks, bonds, and investment property. Changing this starts with demanding a capital gains tax to fund schools.
You don’t need to feel bad for Seattle cuts in order to demand this capital gains tax. You just need to ask if your district has a full-time nurse in every school, if your salary covers all your expenses, if you have counselors, and if your class size allows your students to flourish. But you know what? When I heard this slimy legislative assistant talk about “basic education” vs “perfect education”, I was mad, but I wasn’t hopeless. That’s because over the past year, educators around this country have shown their power. In districts across the country, including many in Washington, educators who went on strike won big gains. Beyond that, in states like West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona, educators have shown that statewide action can even get Republican-controlled legislatures to increase public education funding. That’s like getting a worm to do a backflip! Surely, if it can work there, it can work anywhere.
We have a big opportunity. On May 8th, at least 22 Oregon Education Association locals across Oregon will be walking out with very similar issues to what we’re facing. There will be hundreds of educator cuts because the legislature isn’t funding education (their legislature is Democrat-controlled, same as ours). SEA member and Garfield High School Teacher Rosa Powers will put forward an NBI to the WEA convention coming up in Spokane April 25-27 that I hope you’ll support. It says that we should join Oregon on May 8th with our own day of action. Locals would determine their own involvement, but we would be united in our demands:
- Lift the local levy lid for funding now
- Tax capital gains to fund education across the state
- Call a special session to make this happen now, like was done in 2013 to give Boeing
their record-breaking $8.7B handout
Our students deserve perfect education, and we can help make that happen.
Educators, parents, and students have launched the “Against Cuts & Displacement of Communities” (ACDC) campaign to organize across the state to tax the super-wealthy to fund schools.
Sign up to get involved and stay informed at: www.TinyUrl.com/ACDCwa
New Business Item 25: State-Wide Day of Action for Full Funding
(Editor’s Note: Below is a NBI SEA member and Garfield High School Teacher Rosa Powers submitted to the WEA Representative Assembly held in Spokane April 25-27.)
Washington has dragged its feet for almost two decades in fully funding schools, and districts still face deep cuts after a false fix. Meanwhile, underfunding has Oregon urging members to take action and stage walk-outs in protest on May 8th.
Demand respect for the dignity of WEA members and the families we serve by calling for and providing support to all WEA locals to participate in a state-wide day of action on Wednesday May 8th. Specific actions will be determined by locals, such as; walk-outs, walk-ins, community rallies, red for ed visual solidarity and legislative action sessions. The purpose of this state wide realization of our power is to force the legislature hold a special session expanding education funding statewide with no attacks on union rights, or concession cuts to local funding. This means immediately lifting levy lids and passing a strong capital gains tax on wealthy Washingtonians to fully fund our schools.