Here was a self-described progressive state with a Democratic governor and House, an electorate that last year voted to improve school funding, and many cash-flush corporations famished for qualified graduates. If a solution to gridlock couldn’t be found here, how could other states — or the other Washington, the nation’s capital — break out of their political stalemates?
But the avalanche of data showing the impact of the state’s failure to fully fund education could not be ignored. Washington has one of the nation’s worst pupil-to-teacher ratios. It ranks 46th in percentage of high school graduates who go directly to college. (Only 48.3 percent do so, compared with 73.2 percent in Massachusetts, which ranks third.) And Washington ranks 40th in funding per pupil, at $9,436.I offer that Washington State ranks about 8th from the bottom (tied with Florida at 76% with the high being Iowa the high at 90%) for high school graduation despite the slow but steady ticking upward of the overall national rate.
As well, Washington state tends to rank in the middle or higher on other measures like SAT scores, NAEP scores, etc.
For example, no advanced placement course in computer science was offered — this in the home state of Microsoft. Only 51 of 709 public high schools in Washington offered such a course. Yet the need is great, with 20,000 unfilled computer jobs in the state.Just about the time the McCleary ruling came, there was this:
Just as the Supreme Court was trying to force the state to fulfill its education commitment, Governor Jay Inslee faced a separate crisis: Boeing, the state’s largest employer, with 80,000 workers, was threatening to move jobs out of state.But that issue with tax breaks for corporations points to one quite familiar fact:
The company said in a statement that the $8.7 billion in tax breaks would pay off for the state, citing a report that said the incentives, by fueling growth, would generate three times as much in state and local taxes over a 16-year period.
As for the face-off between tax breaks and education funding, Boeing was dismissive.
“Washington state faces serious challenges to its public educational system that can be traced to long standing fiscal and policy choices,” the company said. “To claim Boeing and the aerospace industry’s use of tax incentives are contributing to the problems is nonsensical.”
Washington has the nation’s most unequal tax structure, according to a report by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy. The state’s poorest 20 percent of residents pay 16.8 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the wealthiest 1 percent pays just 2.4 percent.
“We have the most regressive tax system in the United States by a long shot,” Inslee said. That “has exacerbated income inequality, [and] it has been much more difficult to find a source that would adequately fund education.”
“We have the most political tax structure imaginable,” said Rueven Carlyle, the legislator who revealed the tax figures. Key industries are “carved out from paying meaningful taxes in our state.”So naturally the McCleary ruling has been slow to be enacted.
With no definitive plan to pay for either amount, the court in August of this year ordered that the state be fined $100,000 per day until it comes up with an acceptable plan. It was a blow unprecedented in state history.
The McCleary case “is being used as an argument for raising taxes because that is what Representative Carlyle and the governor want to do,” said former attorney general Rob McKenna, a Republican who lost the 2012 gubernatorial race to Inslee. McKenna is now a consultant to Microsoft, whose public relations staff arranged for him to be interviewed for this story.An argument to raise taxes? Well, yes and hell yes, because the state is not fully funding education.
McCleary's lead counsel is mad.
(Thomas) Ahearne is incensed. In his view, the state has the money but is spending it elsewhere. Keep only essential tax breaks and abolish the rest, he says. That would yield more than enough money to fully fund education. The idea has gone nowhere.Here's what I believe is the two-fold problem.
1) Conservatives do not want to increase taxes. For any reason.
2) Conservatives - like many other citizens in our state - do not believe that districts should get more money because they have "enough" and are not spending it properly.
I can't speak for other districts but I surely can understand how some might wonder this about Seattle Schools. It makes it very hard to advocate for this district for McCleary dollars when the district is less-than-fully transparent with where all the money truly goes. A little pie chart is not going to cut it.
We can't ask taxpayers for more money when districts won't show where it all goes. It's a sad thing because many people who are in contact with parents know that the class sizes are too big, buildings are under maintained, there is not many arts programs - the list goes on.
So we know the reality - that schools truly need more money (especially with the costs of testing mandates) but districts are not transparent enough nor being held accountable for those dollars.
What to do about that? If districts were fully transparent, would the Legislature get on McCleary?