HELP US ADVOCATE to lawmakers to amply fund Washington public schools with new, fair, and dependable tax sources—while preserving other very essential state services. As we explain in more detail below, now is the time to mobilize! Please join this fight with your voice and time.
CALL OR SEND AN EMAIL
Right now the most useful thing we can do for our schools is to make a call or send an email to the Democratic Senators on the Ways & Means committee (their emails are provided below), your State Senator and your two State Representatives (first firstname.lastname@example.org). You can use our words or edit it to add your own perspective.
SUBJECT LINE: Education Funding, Capital Gains Tax for Public Schools Now, and Raise the Levy Cap!
BODY OF YOUR EMAIL: I urge you to fully fund counselors, librarians, nurses, social workers, and special education. Please pass the capital gains tax as new progressive revenue for public schools. I advocate for raising the levy cap and simple majority bonds.
SIGNED: Your name, your legislative district, your title and/or affiliation (if applicable), and your address
Emails for WA State Democratic Senators on Ways & Means Committee:
If you don’t know your legislative district or your legislator names and phone numbers, click here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/
Now, please ask ten people you know in Washington state to do this too. We must advocate with thousands of voices!
Here’s why we’re asking you to take this action.
On Wednesday dozens of parents descended on the state legislature in Olympia to advocate for fully and amply funding our public schools. We began the day feeling apprehensive, but by the end of the day we felt that the legislature is at a tipping point. More calls and emails from parents right now can prevent cuts and win billions more for our public schools.
Two-thirds of school districts across the state are facing budget cuts, due to the legislature’s flawed and failed 2017 education funding deal. Districts large and small, urban and rural, east and west face huge cuts and teacher layoffs unless the legislature acts. The good news is that legislators are much more open to fixing this shortfall, but this momentum will be lost without your calls and emails.
I want to share with you some of the insights we learned in Olympia.
New, progressive revenue
We heard that legislators in both the House and the Senate are very close to passing a capital gains tax that would provide as much as $1 billion for public schools. This would help fix our upside-down tax code as well as provide a big shot in the arm to classrooms across the state.
Only the richest households in our state would pay a capital gains tax. That includes Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and other wealthy individuals. Most working people would never even notice this tax existed. It would go a long way toward adding important funding for our schools as well as toward fixing our regressive tax code.
One important note on the capital gains tax is that it needs to be big and it needs to fund our schools. Some legislators seem to worry that the courts might rule it unconstitutional and thus they want to pass a small capital gains tax that wouldn’t fund education as a test to see if the courts uphold it.
That plan would be foolish. Courts and voters are much more likely to uphold a capital gains tax if it provides billions for public education, especially since it is the state’s paramount duty. Advocates should demand a capital gains tax that generates billions for public schools and does so immediately.
Stopping cuts in our public schools
A growing number of legislators accept the need to restore some flexibility in local levies in order for districts to avert the cuts that would happen in nearly 200 school districts across the state. But we need to turn up the pressure, especially on members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. They need to be pushed very hard by parents and teachers in the next few days and into next week on this.
As we’ve pointed out before there was no good reason or need for the legislature to reduce the ability of school districts to raise money from local levies. The state Supreme Court explicitly said that they did not order levy reform, as the McCleary decision was all about the state’s failure to adequately fund our schools. We agree, and that’s the main reason why we want new, progressive revenue. But because legislators unnecessarily cut local levies, most districts in the state now face cuts and teacher layoffs.
The most inequitable thing to do would be to force districts to fire teachers, raise class sizes, and remove counselors and nurses from our schools. But that is what will happen unless this levy flexibility is restored. We don’t want schools to rely on levies for basic education, but we also don’t see any good reason for the levy cap to be set this low.
Sen. Lisa Wellman’s bill SB 5313 is a reasonable approach to the issue, but it needs to pass out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee ASAP, and your calls can make a big difference.
Funding special education
There’s good news to report here as well. As you may have seen on KING 5, Sen. Christine Rolfes has pledged to add $400 million in new funding for special education across the state. This will go a long way toward meeting the needs of children in special education programs and with IEPs and 504s.
But it’s not a done deal yet, and there’s no guarantee the funding will show up. That’s why it’s important that you mention special education in your call or email to your legislator.
The overall mood in Olympia
Many legislators we talked to, especially those who have been there for more than a few years, were frustrated that they still have to deal with public school funding issues.
We get it. Nobody is more annoyed than us that we still have to worry about this. We tried to warn legislators in 2017 that their education funding deal was a bad one, that it wouldn’t solve the problem, and that they needed to put in more money and give districts more flexibility. They didn’t listen to us then. They’re listening to us now.
We are very grateful to every representative and senator who took time out of their busy day to meet with us. Legislators have a lot of people trying to get their time and attention, and they respond to those who make the most noise. This means that parents and public school advocates need to make more noise. Legislators need to hear from more parents and community members so they know they can’t come home without fully funding our public schools.
Please call or email the Democratic senators on the Senate Ways and Means Committee and your state legislators today and urge them to fully fund our schools. Click here to find their contact information if you need it and to report the results of your call.
Thank you for stepping up in this urgent moment for our schools.