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Supreme Court ruling: Good for kids

The state justices have opened the way for the Legislature to do what is right: Devote more money to the education of children.
Lawmakers continue to huddle behind closed doors at the capitol.

Lawmakers continue to huddle behind closed doors at the capitol. MathTeacherGuy/Flickr

Finally. A group of Washington leaders have put kids first.

In a 6-3 vote, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that Initiative 1053, which requires a supermajority — two-thirds — vote in the state Legislature to raise revenue or close tax loopholes, is unconstitutional.

The Court ruled that the Washington state Constitution sets the rules for the Legislature and only requires a simple majority to raise revenue or modify tax preferences.

This ruling is a huge win for Washington’s kids and schools.

The League of Education Voters joined forces with the Washington Education Association, parents, taxpayers and lawmakers to challenge the constitutionality of Initiative 1053.

Washington citizens have consistently supported initiatives that would make it difficult to raise taxes — most recently this fall when 67 percent of voters approved Initiative 1185, which re-instated Initiative 1053.

Raising revenue should be difficult, but not impossible.

Initiative 1053 made it nearly impossible to implement  any  tax increases. It hamstrung our legislators in their efforts to uphold their paramount duty to invest in the quality public schools our children need to succeed in life. Our kids suffered at the hands of a small minority of legislators who could veto any new revenue options for education.

Washington schools need to be fully funded in order to ensure that all kids reach their potential. This week’s ruling, combined with the recent McCleary Supreme Court order that the Legislature fully fund K-12 education, will help ensure that our kids have all the resources they need to get an excellent education.

The ruling on Initiative 1053 comes at the perfect time. During this legislative session, Washington’s senators and representatives must develop a plan to fully fund K-12 education. By any data you look at, Washington isn’t getting the job done when it comes to funding education. More money in the system  will  make a difference for each Washington student.

But money alone isn’t enough to ensure that we will have the best education system in the world. Improving outcomes for kids is just as important.

In our state, 14,000 students a year drop out. Fewer than 30 out of 100 students are prepared to apply to college, even though two-thirds of future jobs in our state require a college degree or credential.

We all want what is best for our students. But year after year, thanks in part to Initiative 1053, the legislature has not provided the funding to pay for basic resources need to educate our students.

We hope the Washington Supreme Court ruling provides the tools and opportunity for the Legislature to craft a funding plan that ensures that there is ample, equitable, and stable funding for education.

We must do this. The need is urgent. And thanks to the Washington Supreme Court, the time is now.

Chris Korsmo is the CEO of the League of Education Voters (LEV). Frank Ordway is the Director of Government Relations. LEV is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization made up of parents, students, and leaders working to improve public education in Washington state from cradle to career with ample, equitable and stable funding.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Mar 6, 10:30 a.m. Inappropriate

Please explain why increasing spending on education over the last 40 years (however you cut it --- real dollars gross, real dollars per student) has not resulted in better educational results in the state. Please then explain why we should throw more money at a problem where historically more money has not solved the problem

PJS

Posted Wed, Mar 6, 11:08 a.m. Inappropriate

The ends almost never justify the means.  In this case, to more easily extract money for education and other services, six state employees disenfranchised almost two million voters.  The justices are probably good jurists and decent people but their decision feels corrupt, disrespectful, and disempowering.   

Corrupt because the court itself may benefit from the results of the decision.   Members of the court have lobbied for better budgets for the court system.  The court has also demanded higher spending on other state services such as education.  The initiative hindered those desires.  The fact that the decision may lead to more money for those ends is a mixed blessing given the whiff of venality that comes with a decision from which the court itself may benefit.

Disrespectful since it just told the voters to put in a place the sun never shines voter limits on legislative pocket picking.

And disempowering for itself and the slippery slope it may signal.  The voters can't limit taxation in advance, through requiring supermajorities.  Now the rest of the slope.  Unless things have changed, legislation that includes an emergency clause is immune to referendum.   So the legislature could shield new taxes from a referendum by including an emergency clause.   Finally, about a decade ago, Dr. Spitzer, who is or was a highly respected UW law professor, opined that the current supremes would find a state income tax to be constitutional if adopted by the legislature.  Seems like a possible triple whammy in the making in the pocket picking game.

All things considered, the decision may be good for the education establishment but it was a blow to our populist constitution and the people that constitution attempted to protect from rapacious businesses and governments.

Posted Wed, Mar 6, 6:45 p.m. Inappropriate

Absolutely right. Finally the majority who value education will have a chance to decide how much education to pass along to the next generation. This is our chance to ensure our state's global competitiveness, so the legislature better not blow it.

Posted Thu, Mar 7, 8:51 a.m. Inappropriate

Taxpayers are already spending more money than ever on education, yet the returns seem to be diminishing. All this means is that the education industry will be given even more of our dollars, all the while fighting any attempts to institute even the most infinitesimal degree of accountability on their part. Look at the flap over the MAPS test in Seattle.

As long as the status quo remains intact (and the last thing people like Frank Ordway or Chris Korsmo want is meaningful change in how and what kids are taught in classrooms), all the money in the world isn't going to reverse the trend of our students academically falling behind other countries that are spending a fraction per student of what we pour into education.

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