1. What do you believe is currently underfunded/unfunded in Washington's K-12 basic education?
Washington State is currently underfunding basic education services, programs, and formulas – class size obligations, special education, educator compensation, professional development (for ALL school employees), and even capital facilities. We are losing art, music, CTE, and other vital classes and programs in part because we are not adequately funding basic education. Beyond the core programs and services, HOW we are funding our schools is also causing inequities and chronic underfunding. At the crux of the McCleary case is the over-reliance of local levies to pay for basic education. The court didn’t say we couldn’t have local levies, they have said that those core basic educational programs and services should not be subject to a local levy that may or may not pass and even when they do pass, they create huge differences in how much is raised per child. We are failing on both adequacy of resources and equity of resources.
So many things are un/derfunded. The Washington state constitution requires that education be "amply" funded, not "barely" funded. First priority - the state MUST pick up the full cost of teacher compensation, so districts do not have to rely on levies. Basic Education includes Special Education and Highly-capable services, which are also underfunded in most districts. Often school districts are "robbing Peter to pay Paul" - taking money from their Transportation budget or other buckets of money to fund the necessities. The state has passed initiatives that require smaller class sizes and full-day kindergarten, but these things were not fully funded. The state must add money to the capital budget to allow districts to build new physical structures in order to accommodate the increased number of classrooms required. I do not believe we are magically going to solve this in '17. See more at http://www.erinjones2016.org/funding.
Civics. As a substitute teacher, I have taught thousands of students. They typically don't know what the words "pledge," "allegiance," and "republic" mean, although they recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day; nor do they know the principles of our foundational documents (US Constitution and Declaration of Independence), so they don't know the purpose of government; the source of our rights; what our rights are; where our rights are listed; what makes laws valid; the liberty inherent in a free market, which does not limit us to one style of shoes or one model of car; that freedom is competitive and voluntary, while socialism is monopolistic and coercive, and thus tyrannical; and that to maintain freedom, we individually and collectively must avoid debt while providing for ourselves, our families, and the needy. Thus, students are often ill prepared to function in our Constitutional Republic and free enterprise economy.
2. What would you recommend the Legislature do to meet the McCleary Decision in fully funding education – would you advocate for new revenue source(s) and what would you recommend? Or would you advocate scaling back how to define basic education, and how?
It is neither morally acceptable or even legal at this point to try and redefine basic education as a tactic for reducing the financial obligation. The court has made it clear that only a substantial educational purpose can be used to scale back basic education, not the expediency of saving money.
We will need new revenue to fully fund basic education! Though we are a successful state economically, we now dedicate less than 5% of our aggregate income back into our vital public services. We were at 7% just thirty years ago. Every loss of 1% has cost us about $3 billion per year in state resources. If we had simply frozen the ratio of public sector spending to total aggregate income thirty years ago, we would have $6 billion more per year for vital services. K-12 education is nearly 50% of the State General Fund, so we are effectively starving our schools of $3 billion per year.
With $6 billion per biennium, we could fully fund basic education; substantially increase compensation for teachers and support staff; make enormous new investments in early childhood education; and finally invest substantially in school construction at the state level.
At a minimum, we need a capital gains tax to capture passive income. Less than 2% of Washingtonians would pay it and 41 other states utilize this revenue source. Levy reform will likely be part of the solution also, but not an overly simplistic revenue-neutral swap or swipe. The state has property tax capacity and we simply cannot have our low-income communities paying 3x and 4x the property tax rates of our wealthier communities. The State needs to use much of its existing capacity while still leaving local communities the ability to raise money for local programs, services, and benefits BEYOND basic education.
We cannot expect Finland results without Finland investment. Although we talk about the funding that goes directly into Basic Education, the reality is that European countries are also making greater investments in health and human services, which have implications for how children are able to experience/benefit from school. With that being said, we cannot afford to take money from social services or transportation or fire/police to pay for education. Our citizens need to be protected on every front. Washington state will need to find new revenue sources. Many are reluctant to add taxes, but I would suggest that we can' they "something for nothing." I believe there are 3 options that must be considered at this time - a capital gains tax, a progressive income tax, and a creative approach to utilizing our natural resources. Funding of education is the Paramount Duty of the State - this means the VERY FIRST duty, but the requirement is also that education be AMPLY funded, which means more than just the bare minimum. Legally, Basic Education includes the following: General Apportionment, Special education, Vocational education, the Learning Assistance Program, Pupil Transportation, and Juvenile Detention Center and State Institution Education programs. However, there are additional elements that must be addressed to "amply" fund our system - capital dollars and compensation to fulfill the smaller class size initiative, resources to ensure all districts are able to fund all-day kindergarten, and paid staff training days to ensure both certificated and classified staff have access to quality instruction and support. We must commit to ensuring equitable, not equal funding. We must take into consideration the different needs of different communities - the ability of certain districts to pass levies and bonds in contrast to other districts that are completely unable. This absolutely must be addressed.
It is important that our state live within its budget. I would never ask for a state income or capital gains tax in order to provide additional funds. If education has to be scaled back to just basic education in order to stay within budget, then officials and educators must make the tough choices. Basic education consists of English communication skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening), computation (arithmetic, basic algebra and geometry, and logic), and civics (history, geography, economics, science, art, music, and the principles of the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution). These are the basic skills that men and women need to function in our Constitutional Republic and free enterprise economy, and provide students the skills that they need to learn on their own. Courses beyond these are desirable, but not essential. Schools cannot anticipate all of the skills that students will need, but they can provide the skills necessary for students to continue learning on their own. Schooling ends, but learning never should.
Some question the Constitutionality of the McCleary decision, since the Legislature is subordinate to the voters, not to the Courts; the Legislature and the Courts are separate and co-equal branches of government. Education remains “the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders,” and the court can identify when, in the opinion of the court, the state is not fulfilling its duty, and can recommend remedies, but the voters are the ones to ensure that the Legislature provides the necessary resources, since the Legislators are subservient to the voters, not to the courts.
Better management of state lands would provide additional revenue for schools from timber sales, at the same time preventing forest fires and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
3. What inequities do you believe there are in k-12 education? Give 2 solutions you would implement under the authority of OSPI, if elected.
There are numerous inequities in K-12 not the least of which is funding per district, and the lack of resources to address the achievement gap. Money is following formulas where it should be following needs – whether it is special education, communities facing disparate impacts, or districts struggling to recruit and retain educators. There are several solutions:
Data, research, and best practices dissemination: OSPI should be a leader in providing districts with the data, research, best practices, and assistance necessary to improve student achievement.
Allocations and apportionment: OSPI has some discretion in allocations. The allocation process should be reviewed through an equity lens to determine where we can provide more resources based on need - while still maintaining local flexibility to determine how best to provide services.
We can truly address inequities if we re-examine the organization’s data, support, and allocation practices through an equity lens. This requires an experienced executive.
Greatest inequity: FUNDING - how we fund schools in this country using property taxes. In WA our dependence on levies to fully fund schools. There will always be "haves" and "have-nots" with this model. There are many other inequities - allocation of staff to buildings, opportunities for training and technical assistance, which students have access to the arts and special programs (electives, advanced programs, CTE courses), technology, buildings, materials, expectations, post-secondary pathways. Inequity abounds in education. I am aware that I can't "fix" all of the inequities in public education, but I do have a plan to begin to address inequity. #1: I will be a champion for addressing the brokenness of our funding model both at the federal and state levels. #2: I will be an advocate for greater intentionality about staffing - building allocations not based on student numbers but on building/community needs.
Inequities: learning environment and treatment of boys (do the internet search: War on Boys).
Having taught in both public and charter schools in inner city Los Angeles, inner city public schools were more chaotic and did not hold students accountable for disruptive behavior. Hold disruptive students accountable; separate them from diligent students. Set high academic and behavior standards, help and encourage students to adhere to these standards, and hold them accountable.
Boys are generally more active than girls and have a harder time sitting still in the sedentary environment of a school; this is especially evident in middle school. Since boy’s active nature can be annoying, boys often are given medication to make them docile; the long-term adverse effects of this drugging of our youth is unknown. Avoid drug use; accept that boys are more active and adjust lessons accordingly. Don’t mischaracterize active as disruptive.
4. How will you work with the Governor and the Legislature to achieve a budget and pass necessary polices for education as the State Superintendent for Public Instruction?
Just as a local superintendent plays a critical role in building budget recommendations to local boards, the SPI should help the Governor and the Legislature initiate their budget processes with a fully funded basic education plan. The SPI should be an education finance leader who helps decision makers to truly understand what school districts and educators need to be successful. This requires transitioning OSPI from an agency heavily focused on compliance and regulation to one that is focused on building policy and budget recommendations informed by local districts, citizens, and genuine education policy research.
It is time to elect an education finance, policy, and executive leader who can manage $9 billion and more than 400 employees. We wouldn’t elect an attorney general who isn’t an attorney, so let’s not elect an SPI who doesn’t have a graduate degree and 20 years in public sector management, budget, finance, and education policy.
We didn't get to this place in just a decade. Those currently in office did not create this problem. Just as I cannot "fix" the issues in schools alone as the state education executive, the Governor and the Legislature cannot achieve a budget alone. My goal is to leverage my relationships with school leaders and families across the state to tell the stories from the ground about the implications of lack of funding. I also hope to galvanize community leaders from both parties to work with constituents to earn support for new sources of revenue. The people of Washington state are going to need to speak up and encourage state leaders to take action, let state leaders know they are standing alongside them, ready for change, ready to do the right thing for children.
I have substitute taught in 7 school districts in Washington, in large and small schools, urban and rural settings, in high poverty/high minority/migrant areas, and in public and charter schools in the inner city of Los Angeles, nearly every subject, including bi-lingual and special education, from pre-K through 12th grade, including alternative schools, vocational schools, the juvenile justice center, and have worked as a school bus driver. Use my experience in education to inform the governor and legislature of the challenges faced by educators and the need to give them adequate resources to prepare our posterity to become productive men and women in our Constitutional Republic and free enterprise economy. Encourage the governor and legislature to stay within budget, not institute an income or capital gains tax, and remember what Thomas Jefferson said: a people can’t be both ignorant and free.