Washington’s Paramount Duty is a non-partisan, grassroots group of parents and allies working to compel the state to amply fund basic education and swiftly fulfill its paramount duty. We envision a future where every child has equitable access to an amply funded basic education.
WHY WE CARE
Because Washington hasn’t met its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education, school districts and parents have worked to fill the financial shortfall through local levies and PTA fundraisers. Poorer areas are not able to fill the state’s shortfall, leading to further educational inequities. An amply funded, high-quality education can help each child build a better life and contribute to society.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
Washington needs new 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:
- An amply funded, basic, K-12 education that is equitable, culturally sensitive and non-biased.
- A healthy and safe school, with qualified teachers, smaller class sizes and nutritious meals.
- A supportive environment that breaks down barriers for every student, regardless of situation or ability, including children of color, low-income families, immigrant families and LGBTQ students.
- A well-rounded curriculum, including art, music, drama, languages, technology and sports.
- The knowledge, skills and technology necessary for each child to thrive in the 21st Century.
WHAT WE WANT
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:
- Ample – Sufficient to fund education and sustainable in economic upswings and downturns.
- Enough to safeguard important state priorities – We cannot fund K-12 education through cuts to other essential state services such as early learning, higher education, mental health care, etc.
- Equitable – While all schools need more funding, some need more than others. We need to invest in and expand upon existing legislation to close the opportunity gap for every child.
- Fair and reasonable – New revenue must be progressive—meaning the revenue must come primarily from the wealthiest individuals and largest corporations, who have not been paying their fair share.
- Transparent and accountable – Voters must be able to see that the funds designated for education go to schools and classrooms and are spent as promised.
HOW WE GOT STARTED
From an informal meeting to launching a statewide organizing campaign
Late last fall, one rainy weekend morning, 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 signed up. Within 3 months, that number more than doubled, to over 4,200 members – a clear signal that we are not the only ones ready to take action. Since our start, 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.
HOW WE ARE ORGANIZED
Washington’s Paramount Duty is guided by a Board of Directors. Current members are: Dawn Bennett, Robert Cruickshank, John Freeman, Kathy Gillespie, Rita Green, Linda Hanson, Tali Rausch, Summer Stinson, and Rebecca Vaux. All are either parents with children enrolled in the Washington State public school system or long-time K-12 education advocates.
- As a first step, the Steering Committee organized a Facebook group as a way for people to share information, get involved and take action. In just four months, over 4200 members joined, signaling significant interest in closing the basic education funding gap.
- There is a Statewide Organizing Committee, with representatives from local schools districts and community leaders. Members of this committee support our central goal of “closing the gap — compelling Washington State to fully fund basic education now.” They are committed to carrying our message to their community. Above all, members of the Statewide Organizing Committee are willing to do their part in raising awareness of the problem our schools face and mobilizing grassroots support for a meaningful and fair funding solution.
- We are bringing supporting organizations together in a Statewide Coalition. Any organization represented on our Coalition will play a vital role in helping Washington’s Paramount Duty build a broad and diverse base of support in school districts and local communities across the state.
- Our most critical base of support is in local communities. We are uniting supporters in school districts and communities across the state to build a grassroots organization that has the capacity to raise visibility around the impact of the basic education funding gap on our children and engage people in shaping a solution. Our goal is to build a base of local support in communities across the state — from Zillah to Anacortes and Port Townsend to Walla Walla — in order to win passage of a fair funding solution during the 2017 legislative session or at the ballot box, with a vote of the people.
You can find more information on how you can get involved here.
Defining the funding gap. By even conservative estimates, the gap between the current budget passed versus the budget we need is $1.5 billion in the 2015-216 school year. That gap is estimated to be another $2.3 billion for the 2016-2017 school year and $4 billion a year for 2017-18.
No question that’s a lot of money — but that’s how much the State is failing our kids.
Finding a meaningful — and fair revenue solution. Because of its size, the funding gap can’t be closed by budget cuts alone — that would devastate vital state services like higher education, long-term and mental health care, and public safety. Second, as the Court ruled, funding basic education is a state government responsibility, so relying on local levies must not be a part of the solution.
We need new revenue — but not just any revenue. To ensure we don’t get into this funding mess again, we need revenues that are:
Sufficient — enough to fund basic education without harming other vital state services.
Sustainable — insulated from the ups and downs of the economy.
Fair — everyone pays her or his fair share, unlike our current system where those with the most pay less than their fair share, while the rest of us pay more.
Accountable — new revenues will be solely dedicated to funding basic education.
Fixing our revenue system to close the education funding gap could make our tax system more fair for everybody.