A high school student speaks up about school funding and Washington State’s Paramount Duty


Although recent Washington state level budget changes have created a plan to fully fund education up to the point of no longer being under court sanctioned fines, the work is still unfinished. Washington can, and must, do better than just basic education. As young people we have so much potential and we need that to be fostered through schools that are able to provide the tools we need. The goal of these images is to provide a set of faces instead of just numbers and words for this issue that is often full of words and numbers.

Washington State education funding has long been stuck on the back burner. Despite the McCleary case, this year will be the first to officially be fully funded up to the definition of basic education. Sadly this definition and funding does not go far enough.

Currently education funding in Washington comes from three separate places: federal money, local levies, and state funding. These sources of funding should in theory be able to fund education not just up to standard but above it. But with the way the system is being used these sources have failed to even fund basic education.

Approximately 59% of Washington education funding comes from the state (Logue). This money is intended to fund “basic education” which is doled out to districts based on the number of teachers, teacher experience level and number of students. Although the definition of what is basic education is somewhat vague there are some things that are outlined specifically, such as: 180 school days, a district average of 1,027 instructional hours, 24 high school credits, Learning Assistance Programs, Transitional Bilingual Instructional Programs, Special Education programs, Highly Capable Programs, and Transportation (Korman). Some of the more vague requirements include: “The Arts”, Science, and Social Studies (Korman). Vague requirements leave the state room to underfund schools without it being clear if or how they are breaking the law.

Covering the difference between a “basic education” and a good education, are levies, also known as “enhancements”. These are things that can make a student’s education fun and engaging, decreasing dropout rates. Some enhancements such as music programs are know to improve reading and math scores. These enhancements because they improve performance and attendance are arguably just as important as the core curriculum. So why are they not included in the definition of basic education?

Up until recently the state of Washington was in violation of its own constitution. The state constitution reads “it is the Paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders” (WA.) and I would argue that the current system is nowhere close to “ample”. The state of Washington is 35th in per student funding (Navas). And until recently the state was under contempt of court in the McCleary case for not meeting this requirement.

An important question to consider in discussing solutions is if more money will in fact actually help the problem. Although some believe otherwise Ulrich Boser writes that many studies agree with the opinion that increased funding leads to higher academic results. “The economists [Julien Lafortune, Jesse Rothstein and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach] also showed that, as a result of the increases in spending, student learning in reading and math increased, with gains driven largely by low-income students.”. According to a different study higher education funding led to a higher level of education and a higher income for the students. Not only is an increase in money necessary to improve our schools but it is an effective manner towards the end goal of better education for students.

Students in Washington are not receiving the education they rightfully deserve and therefore we should all be up in arms. When schools are continually left underfunded it gives the impression to students that the state doesn’t care about their education and in essence their future. The future of students determines the future of our state, our country, and our world. Today’s young people are the future and if we do not provide them with the tools they need to succeed and thrive, I’m afraid we are dooming them to a world not unlike our current one. But on the hopeful side, if we do provide them with a good education then they will possess the tools to make our world a much better place.

Putting pressure on politicians is practically an American tradition, and while it may not always be 100% effective, it always has an effect. Pressure on legislators will hopefully force them to to recognize and act on what their constituents want. It’s a messy inefficient process but it’s the one we have and we have to find the best ways to use it.

The way I intend to do this is through showing the experiences of students in underfunded schools and programs. When I asked a classroom full of my friends and peers if anyone had experienced underfunding in school practically every hand went up. Just meeting the definition of basic education is not enough; we can do better.

Christine Cornell

The Center School, Seattle


Seattle teachers considering a strike over school funding


by Jesse Hagopian 

Originally posted in the South Seattle Emerald.

Turning the Streets Into Our Classroom

By Wednesday this week every school in Seattle will have held a union vote to decided if our Seattle Education Association (SEA) should go out on strike on May Day—International Worker’s Day—to demand full funding for education, to support our immigrant students, and to defend union rights.

I am voting yes!—and I hope that the rest of the educators join me in authorizing this walkout for the schools our students deserve.

Here in Washington State, our state Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary decision that our state legislature was in violation of the state Constitution’s “Paramount Duty” to amply provide for education.  The court has fined the legislature and found them in contempt of court for failing to support public education.  And yet we have seen our legislature continue to funnel money to the wealthiest corporations in our state, giving away billions in tax breaks to Boeing and maintaining tax loopholes for the rich.  Washington State is one of only a few states without an income tax and ranks dead last with most regressive tax structure in the nation.  The year 2017 was the final year that the state Supreme Court gave the legislature to fix the funding problem and it is clear that the legislature has no plans to start following the law anytime soon.

We have tried emailing, calling and asking nicely for the legislature to follow the law and fund education. That hasn’t worked.

Now it’s time to show the collective power of labor.  We held a one-day walkout two years ago as part of a rolling strike wave across the state to pressure the state legislature. That was an important action that raised awareness, brought families into the streets with teachers in a common struggle, and gave teachers a glimpse of their power.  But this one-day strike has the potential to have a much bigger impact than the last because the Martin Luther King County Labor Council passed a resolution calling on all the locally affiliated unions to go out on May Day. As the Seattle Weekly reported,

SEA isn’t the only union flirting with a May Day strike. UAW Local 4121 is also voting on strike action, according to the op-ed. (We’ve got a line out to the union.) And the Martin Luther King County Labor Council voted last week in favor of a resolution supporting strikes and other direct actions (for instance, teach-ins) on May Day in cooperation with organizers of the labor and immigrant marches.

Many unions are looking to the SEA to see if we strike. If we do, others could follow and it could become a mass outpouring of labor solidarity that truly has the power to shake up the one percent and their political representatives in the legislature and make them heed our demands for education and union rights.

In addition to the urgency around education funding in our state, the May 1st Coalition in Seattle has called on workers to strike for immigrant rights on May Day, and there will be a massive outpouring of humanity at a rally that day to stand against Trump’s anti-immigrant policies. All the anti-immigrant rhetoric and deportations are demoralizing our students, splitting them apart from their families, and leading to hate crimes. Moreover, there is a push by the Trump administration and within the federal government to ratify anti-union, so-called “right to work” legislation, that would gut union protections.

I am voting to strike because I believe we as educators should join the struggle for immigrant rights and I see that as a vital component to a better education system.

I’m not content to teach students about the mass strikes and boycotts of the past that won social programs and the right to unionize–I know we actually need to bring back that history and make it real for our students by demonstrating what it looks like in practice. I’m ready to make the streets my classroom on the first of May and teach a lesson about union power and collective struggle that the rich and powerful won’t soon forget.

Jesse Hagopian is a teacher at Garfield High School, an editor for Rethinking Schools magazine, and was a leader in the historic boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test of 2013.


Related articles:

Seattle Councilmembers Sawant and O’Brien: “If teachers go on Strike on May 1, We’ll Have Your Back!”

Seattle Weekly: Seattle Teachers to Vote On Possible May Day Strike

Submitted by Dora Taylor

McCleary Crime Scene Special Session Coloring Sheet



art courtesy of Susan DuFresne

As parents with kids in public school, it takes a tremendous amount of restraint when describing the just completed session of the Washington State Legislature.

A profanity laced tirade feels justified, maybe even appropriate. How else to explain the lunacy of the extreme arrogance and cowardice on display in Olympia?

Contempt of the McCleary Ruling

Much has been made of the Supreme Court fining the Legislature $100,000 a day for contempt of the McCleary ruling.

What’s not talked about is the Legislature’s refusal to even create a fund to collect the fines.


The Governor was politely asked by the Supreme Court (see pages 8-10) to make sure the account and fines were collected. Inslee, showcasing his wishy-washy leadership style, decided not to rock the boat and let the Legislature wiggle out of this symbolic slap on the wrist.

Nothing stings more than a token fine, collected in imaginary dollars, deposited into a non-existent bank account.

Public School Funding

The next jaw-dropping absurdity was lawmakers’ approach to the public school funding crisis.

Members of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee held much hyped public forums – which not only managed to insult parents who have been patiently waiting and advocating for much needed funding for their resource starved schools – but seemed specifically designed to push the Senate’s preferred solution, a state property tax dependent levy swap.

The State Budget Director tried to excuse the continued foot dragging by stating:

State Budget Director David Schumacher even said early in the session that nobody expected lawmakers to meet the requirements of the McCleary decision until 2017 because the court set a 2018 deadline.

Surprising no one, the Legislature passed and Governor Inslee signed the infamous Kick-the-Can Plan. A perfect example of bipartisanship of the most craven sort.

Sorry public school students, no funding for you. Better luck next year.

Charter Schools

Confirming the Bizzaro World bubble which has sealed off the Capital from reality, charter schools received lavish attention from lawmakers.

Never mind that these schools have been:

  • ruled unconstitutional
  • serve less than a 1000 students and have been open for less than 8 months
  • operate under a legally dubious ALE scheme engineered by Randy Dorn and the Gates Foundation.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nina Rees perfectly sums up the inverted logic in Olympia.

Worth noting: Rees was the education advisor to Vice President Richard Cheney, afterwards moving on to work for Michael Milken in his education business. (Take a moment to let that sink in.)

“We celebrate the parents who led this charge, and the school and movement leaders who refused to take no for an answer,” said National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nina Rees. “Their amazing efforts on behalf of Washington’s students has led to one of the most remarkable victories in the history of this movement.”

Translation outside of Bizzaro World: The money we poured into PACs, lobbyists, and TV ads during Seahawks games finally paid off.

Lessons from the 2016 Regular Session

Public school parents, the system has failed us and our children. Nice isn’t working. Outrage is a fitting response. Time to say goodbye to get a long, to get a little strategy.

We must hold lawmakers and the Governor accountable for their criminal neglect of our kids and public schools. Every day, 1 million public schools students’ Constitutional rights are being violated.

Angry? We sure are.

Here at TRAP Headquarters, we demand lawmakers immediately begin to treat the Constitution as THE LAW as opposed to a suggestion which must be followed only when it’s convenient to do so.

If this isn’t possible, time to #ArrestTheLegislature.

Happy coloring.

-Carolyn Leith and Shawna Murphy, cofounders of TRAP (Teacher Retention Advocate Parents)










A new coloring page: Sorry, Governor Inslee, there’s no disguising your lack of leadership on school funding


A message from TRAP:

Governor Inslee, you’ve put us in a tight spot.

TRAP wants to believe the Governor of the State of Washington would do right by the million students who are having their constitutional rights violated, on a daily basis, in underfunded public schools.

BUT your continued foot dragging – when there’s any movement at all – requires TRAP to apply the heat.

TRAP also remembers when you called a special session to give Boeing a $8.7 billion dollar tax break, but refused to call a special session to solve the school funding crisis.

Here at TRAP Headquarters, we’ve developed a theory. We think you’ve been wearing a disguise down in Olympia, hoping no one will notice your lack of leadership.

Well, Governor Inslee, TRAP is blowing your cover. Time to take off the glasses and funny mustache and get to work. The students of Washington State deserve nothing less.

-Carolyn Leith co-founder of TRAP

-Shawna Murphy co-founder of TRAP

Get your coloring sheet, by clicking on the: Inslee_coloring_sheet


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Economist Richard Wolff on last week in Washington State: The teachers’ strike, the Supreme Court decision on charter schools and the McCleary decision

Global Capitalism: September 2015 Monthly Update


17 minutes into the video Dr. Wolff talks about what has been happening in our state.

Global Capitalism: Monthly Economic Update

Richard D. Wolff

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 at 7:30pm

Market Chaos and Capitalism’s Instability

Judson Memorial Church
Assembly Hall
239 Thompson Street at Washington Square, Manhattan

Co-sponsored by Democracy at Work, Left Forum, and Judson Memorial Church

These programs begin with 30 minutes of short updates on important economic events of the last month. Then Wolff analyzes several major economic issues. For this September 9, these will include:

1. China’s Economy and its Global Impacts
2. US Stock Market Instability: causes and consequences
3. Why workers’ pensions are under attack now in the US and how best to respond

Professor Wolff’s Website: http://www.rdwolff.com