On Wednesday, the Washington State Supreme Court heard arguments about whether the Court should find state legislators in contempt for its criminal underfunding of Washington schools. Activists traveled to Olympia to deliver a letter (included below), calling on the Supreme Court, Governor Inslee, and the Legislature to fully fund our public schools by taxing corporations and the super-wealthy. I signed the letter, and I stand in solidarity with the hundreds of teachers and community activists demanding immediate action on public education.
The 2012 McCleary decision mandated that legislators urgently begin funding education. Instead, they brazenly called a special session in November of 2013 to give away $8.7 billion in corporate handouts to Boeing – the largest in U.S. history – effectively taking $1,350 per year from each Washington student.
Now, legislators have the audacity to say that students will have to wait until at least 2015 before they will even consider adequately funding schools.
While I would of course welcome a finding of contempt from the Court, we should remember that regardless of the Court’s ruling, the State Legislature is clearly in contempt of our students and the working families of Washington.
The Democratic and Republican party establishments have proven that they are beholden to big business, and will not act to improve the lives of working people. As the struggle for a $15 minimum wage shows, we need to organize a powerful mass movement, and fight back so that our schools, rather than massive corporations, receive billions of dollars in additional funding. We need a movement to run more candidates who are independent, who are working class, who are people of color and who are immigrants. That is why I have signed this letter, as a solid first step towards building this movement:
|Justices of Washington State Supreme Court
Governor Jay Inslee
Washington State House
Washington State Senate,
Washington State Supreme Court Demands Answers from State Legislature on Failed Education Policy
In light of the McCleary Decision, which cited the State of Washington for historically underfunding education, and the Show Cause hearing on September 3, 2014, we, the undersigned present this opinion:
We welcome and support the Court finding the state government in contempt of court. For far too long, Washington has underfunded education, ignoring mandates from voters about reducing student to teacher ratios, while lining up to be the first to hand money to Boeing.
Contrary to the arguments made by five former governors, the Washington State Legislature has had more than enough time to fully fund education – over 4 years! Even before the McCleary decision, voters made it clear – funding education is a top priority. Yet this has been disregarded time and time again. There must be consequences to ignoring a court order.
Politicians appear to believe that there are two standards of accountability in government: one for teachers, who are threatened with discipline when students don’t perform well on standardized tests, and one for corporations and elected officials for whom breaking promises, disregarding the law and the courts, and ignoring referendums is de rigueur.
State lawmakers suggest that their recent 60-day session did not provide adequate time to come to an agreement on how to fund education. Rather than hold a special session to fulfill the court order and deliver a plan for fully funding education by 2018, legislators held a special session to award Boeing 8.7 billion dollars. This shows a blatant disregard for the Supreme Court, the state constitution, and the collective will of the people. Lawmakers must be held accountable!
We insist the State of Washington fully fund public education by cutting from the 6 billion dollars in yearly corporate tax breaks in Washington state. We demand smaller class sizes, as well as training, support, and resources to support teachers. We insist that all children in Washington attend schools that are safe, clean, and well maintained. The funding for these priorities should not be siphoned from other social services, which provide housing, health care, and vital services for the most needy in our state. Instead, funding should come from the corporations who pay, in some cases, negative tax rates.