An amply funded, excellent education can help every child succeed. But Washington still hasn’t met its constitutional duty to fully fund schools. Despite the McCleary ruling, schools still lack ample funding, which school districts and parents still have to plug through levies and fundraisers. The situation is made worse by the legislature’s lack of full funding, which leaves many districts millions of dollars short and facing cuts.
Washington needs new, progressive revenue to ensure our schools are providing students with an excellent education. In a state that is home to world-class companies, we have the wealth to ensure every Washington student receives a world-class education. Every child in Washington has the right to:
Washington has the most unfair tax system in the United States. Our tax system places a disproportionate burden on those with the lowest incomes. Our wealthiest individuals and largest corporations take home huge profits while we critically underfund education. We need dependable and regular revenue sources to fund our schools. Our new school funding needs to be:
One rainy weekend morning in September 2015, a small group of parents met over coffee. The conversation quickly turned to personal testimonials about the latest toll the lack of state funding for our public schools was taking on all our kids. But we knew that as individuals we were helpless to do anything about it. It was evident to all seated at that table that the only way for us to overcome state lawmakers’ indifference to the concerns of parents, students, teachers and our communities was to organize.
Washington’s Paramount Duty was founded, taking our name from Article IX of the Washington State Constitution, which states: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste or sex.”
As a first step, we started a Facebook group and four days later, over 2,000 members had signed up. Within 3 months, that number more than doubled, to over 4,200 members, and has continued to grow ever since. From our beginnings, our story has been picked up in the print and broadcast media. Parents and children in Vancouver, Everett, Renton, Yakima and Wenatchee testified at Listening Tour events sponsored by the Senate Education Committee. During the 2016 legislative session, we had volunteers in Olympia every week, testifying at hearings and meeting with lawmakers, urging elected leaders to put politics aside for the sake of our kids and fund a meaningful and fair solution. Since then, we have continued to advocate for ample funding for Washington's public schools, through new, progressive revenue, with representatives from our organization testifying in Olympia regularly during the 2017, 2018 and now 2019 legislative sessions, and attending town halls, lobby days and other advocacy events.
We are humbled that our advocacy efforts have been recognized. Our founders were named as 2016 Superheroes by ParentMap, and we were awarded the League of Women Voters Seattle-King County 2017 "Voices of Democracy" Award for helping citizens raise their voices in support of equality and civic discourse. And we continue to advocate for every child in Washington to receive an amply funded excellent public school education.
Washington’s Paramount Duty is guided by a Board of Directors. Current members are: Dawn Bennett, Emily Carmichael, Robert Cruickshank, John Freeman, Rita Green, Sarah Reyneveld, and Joy Stanford. All are either parents with children enrolled in the Washington State public school system or long-time K-12 education advocates.
Much of our organization is done through social media - our Facebook group numbers thousands of members from across Washington, who have one thing in common: they know the state is still not investing enough in our public schools, and they want to see that change so that every public school in Washington is able to provide an amply funded basic education to every student.
You can find more information on how you can get involved here.