Follow the Money... See where your tax dollars are really going!
Even if the voters supported a Billion Dollar increase in the Sales Tax, it would not be enough to restore National Average Class Sizes to our public schools. Therefore the solution proposed by our Governor does not comply with our State’s Constitutional Requirement to fully fund public schools. The paramount duty of our State legislature is to fund public schools. It is unconstitutional for our legislature to cut a billion dollars in public school funding without putting a revenue package on the ballot to allow voters to “buy back” full funding for our public schools.
For more than 3 years, I have advocated for a fair “national average” tax structure so we can have fair national average school funding and so our kids can have a fair and national average chance at success in life. (see fairschoolfundingcoalition.org).
If the billionaires in our State paid their fair share, we could increase school funding by more than $3 billion per year, hire thousands of teachers and lower our class sizes down to the national average. Best of all, it would not harm our super rich as they could deduct their State taxes from their federal taxes.
As recently as 1998, Washington State was above the national average in school funding. However, after giving away billions in corporate tax breaks during the past 12 years, Washington State is now 20% below the national average - or $2 thousand per child below the national average - in school funding!
In the past 2 years, billions have been cut from school funding, but not one penny was cut in tax breaks for wealthy corporations!
In 1998, we were above the national average in school funding at 4.8% of income.
Since 1997, school funding in Washington State has plunged to 20% below the national average – placing Washington State 47th in the nation in school funding as a percent of income – about $2,000 per pupil below the national average in 2008.
As of 2008, we had fallen to 4.1% of income. Since then, over one billion additional dollars has been cut from school funding – firing thousands of teachers and dropping us below 4% of income invested in our schools. It will take about $3 billion additional dollars per year to restore school funding in our State to the national average.
WA 47th in Nation in school funding as percent of income
US Census Bureau, Public Education Finances, Annual Reports, Table 12
Look at the latest US Census Report on Education Funding, 2009 Census Public Education Finance Report, released May 2011, for the year 2009. (Note the following is a 5 MB file and make take a while to load). http://www2.census.gov/govs/school/09f33pub.pdf
www2.census.gov/govs/school/08f33pub.pdf. See Table 12.Scroll to the bottom of the page.
As a percent of income, we were 47th in the nation in 2008.
But note that from 2007 to 2008, the percent of income spent on schools in our State fell from 4.2% to 4.1%. Since 2008, we have cut billions more from school funding. If you adjust for the cost of living, we are 49th in the nation. If you adjust for class sizes, we are also 49th in the nation.
If you look closely at Table 12, you will see that the national average spending on schools is about 5% of income. In our State it is about 4% of income. The only States with lower school spending that Washington State are South Dakota, Colorado and Tennessee. Of these, the only one with a comparable cost of living is Colorado. Therefore adjusted for the cost of living, Washington State is 49th in the nation in school funding.
If you look at Table 12, you will see our State over a period of years used to spend about 5% of its income on schools. Then beginning in the late 1990's, wealthy corporations took over our State legislature and began robbing our schools of billions of dollars. This is what dropped us down from 5% of income to 4% of income. The difference between 5% and 4% is about $2 billion - or $2,000 per child for every one of the one million children attending our public schools.
It is ridiculous to look at measures such as Per Capita spending on schools because Per Capita spending assumes we have a normal distribution of income in our State. - We do NOT have a normal distribution of income in our State. OSPI along with various House and Senate documents have spent years hiding the truly disgraceful drop in school funding in our State - by deliberately failing to include school spending as a percent of income. But this is the fairest measure of school funding because it is the fairest way to approximate the cost of living in our State. In other words, a dollar of income buys much less in teachers in our State than it does in Alabama.
According to the 2008 Census Education Finance Report, released June 2010, for the year 2008. We are 47th in the nation in school funding as a percent of income. See Table 12. It is easily available on the internet. There is also an NEA report which found we were 49th in class sizes
Jesse Hagopian, teacher in the Seattle Public School System and Founding Member of Seattle Equality Educators (SEE) was arrested on Monday for standing up for his students. After the banner was unfurled, Jesse Hagopian called out "mic check!" and the teachers responded. Then the chant began:
It is immoral, It is illegal
These cuts will hurt families
These cuts will hurt kids
These cuts will hurt educators
King county Superior Court judge
Ruled that these cuts are constitutionally illegal
The Constitution of Washington state reads it is the paramount duty to fully Fund education
We therefore issue a Citizen’s arrest of this Washington State Legislature
We call for taxing the rich We call to fund the schools
See the video of the arrest at this link:
Police officers rushed in and Jesse was heard saying
"I'm not resisting but I'm also not leaving".
Jesse was arrested but released this morning. Below is what he said in an e-mail to friends and members of SEE:
I was arrested today at the capitol for protesting against the budget cuts. Still no bankers in jail, but they have arrested teachers trying to get money for the schools. And as we pointed out, it is the Washington State Legislature that is breaking the law by failing their constitutional duty to fully fund education. Anyway, I'm out now and back to school tomorrow! They can't jail an idea whose time has come! Thanks to everyone who helped protest for justice today!
According to one teacher who participated in the peaceful disobedience action several people were dragged away as teachers sat in the rotunda and sang "Which side are you on?" to the police and the legislative observers.
Washington Policy Center Deceives Voters On Education Funding Cuts
The Washington Policy Center is a radical right wing group whose goal is the destruction of our public schools and the eventual destruction of our Democracy. For years, they have misled the public with charts and graphs that seem fair but in fact, turn the truth on its head. Republicans are especially vulnerable to the WPC nonsense because their reports feed into Republican myths about the government being to big and growing at a rapid rate – even when thousands of public sector jobs are being cut.
In their latest newsletter, WPC claims that school funding has actually been increased in the past year by nearly half a billion dollars. Here is their chart:
It shows per pupil spending growing from $9,700 per Student to $10,400 per student – or growing $700 per student. Since our state has one million school children, this is a growth of $700 million.
But there are at least three things the above graph conveniently ignores:
First and most important, it does not list its source. It is impossible to tell where the numbers came from. But the latest information from the US Census Bureau Report, Figure 4, released in May 2011 for the 2008-2009 school year shows that while the national average spending per child was $10,500, Washington State spending per child was $9,500 or $1,000 less per child or one billion per year less for our one million school children. This is why our schools have among the highest class sizes in the nation. The WPC report claims there are only 20 kids per class. Ask any child in our State how many actual kids are in their class. In my daughter’s school district, the answer is that there are over 30 kids per class. The first lesson is it is always important to compare State School Funding to the national average as our kids will have to compete with kids from other States for jobs and spots in good colleges. A level playing field requires national average funding.
Second, the WPC chart fails to take into account the cost of living – which is much higher in our State than on other States. A more accurate measure of school funding is US Census Bureau Table 12 which compares the percent of total income spent on schools. The national average was 5%, but due to the Great Recession, it fell in the most recent report to 4.8%. Here in Washington State, we are at 4.153% or 44th in the nation.
What this means is that we are a relatively affluent State with a high cost of living. But we are failing to invest in our public schools. Again, it would take an increase of at least $1,000 per child – or one billion dollars for one million children - to even reach national average school funding and national average class sizes.
Third, the WPC chart ignores the loss of federal stimulus funds of over one billion dollars per year, funds that were used in the past 2 years to prevent massive layoffs of teachers. Because Republicans now control Congress, those funds are gone for good. We are on our own. So the actual total funding for the last biennium per student, including $1,000 per child per year in federal stimulus funding was $10,500 per child in our State and $11,500 average per child nationally. So per student school funding in our State, instead of growing from $9,700 to $10,400 per child actually is falling from $10,500 to $10,400 – moving us even further below the national average.
Fourth, the WPC chart uses ACTUAL state spending amount for prior years, but lists the BUDGETED amount of $10,400 for the current biennium. This BUDGETED amount was based on the false assumption that State revenue would grow to $34 billion in this current biennium. It is far more likely to be less than $30 billion – which is why the Legislature has been called into Special Session – to deal with the fact that the ACTUAL revenue is billions less than the BUDGETED revenue. What teachers are protesting in Olympia was the Governor’s Plan to cut another BILLION dollars from the public schools. If the legislature goes along with the Governor’s plan, then there will be another billion cut in the next school year, or another $1,000 per child for each of our one million school children. In short, the actual funding would fall from $10,400 per year to $9,400 per year – or $2,000 per child below the national average! Some school districts, such as the Snoqualmie Valley School District are funded at $1,000 per child below the State average. So we would be $3,000 per child below the national average. Remember, it is ACTUAL funding that counts, not budgeted funding.
Fifth, the WPC chart shows school funding going up every year. But it fails to explain that this increase in school funding does not go to our schools. Instead, for the past 10 years, it has gone to Wall Street corporate greed in the form of skyrocketing health care costs – which have gone up by more than 300% in the past 10 years. It is ironic that Republicans themselves have caused these skyrocketing costs by refusing to regulate the greed on Wall Street. If Republicans would have agreed to Medicare for All and taken the profit motive out of killing people – like every other civilized nation on Earth – were would have not been forced to deal with any of these budget increases and budget shortfalls. Remember, your tax dollars are not going to teachers – they are going to Wall Street speculators. Because the number of teachers per student has been going down every year, class sizes for our kids have been going up. So both tax payers and our children are paying the price for not regulating Wall Street greed. When Governor Gregoire refers to $10 billion in cuts during the past 4 years, with half of that being inflicted on our kids, what she means is cuts from the level of service (class sizes) or kids had just 4 years ago. The bottom line is to not believe any of the lies from the Washington Policy Center. Instead, believe your kids when they tell you that there are more children in their classroom than there are desks.