Currently our schools are unconstitutionally underfunded, in a literal sense. Article IX, Section 1 states, “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.”
In 2010 the Washington State Supreme Court sided with the plaintiffs, the McCleary Family, numerous schools district, teacher’s unions, and many others, in a case alleging that the State was failing to meet this constitutional obligation. The state continues to fail to do so, and has been fined $100,000 per day since January 9th, 2014 as a result. The time for meaningless fines is over, the time for action is long overdue.
I teach 4th grade, and I love my job. I spend every day working, in a portable, with 30 wonderful nine and ten years old as we endeavor to learn the strategies and concepts integral to math, reading, writing, science, art, social studies, and much more. To do this work we haul in water for our science experiments, our portable doesn’t have running water, rearrange the desks to see how to make more room for incoming students, and we read from books I bought at the Half-Price Books in James Square. We make it work, and we have a lot of fun as we learn, but there are substantial ways in which our situation could be improved. As I mention in the ‘About me’ section, I teach in Redmond, but this is a statewide problem. You don’t have to just take my word for it either, the Washington State Supreme Court agrees.
We need smaller class sizes in order to give every student the individual attention they deserve. We need new and improved buildings to safely house our every increasing student populations. We need updated resources, technological and otherwise. We need to improve our mandated curricula, give students the ability to learn an accurate history of the world, to take courses in subjects that will actually increase their ability to become happily and successfully employed. We need internships back, and field trips, and we must provide for education in art, music, science, and physical education that creates well rounded citizens. We also need to give our teachers, who spent years training for these positions, the respect of trusting their professional judgement when it comes to instruction and assessment.
In order to retain new educators, and end our teacher and sub shortage, we need an adequate starting salary and benefits. We need reasonable standards for recertification. Currently this certification process largely ignores the actual results of a teachers abilities, the success of their students, and instead insists that teachers justify their approach through a series of repetitive and convoluted manufactured tasks. The current system is exactly like asking lawyers to take the BAR exam over and over, or asking journeyman and master electricians to become apprentices again every few years. We need to respect our teachers who have committed their lives to this profession with adequate increases in pay, and job security.
As a city we rely a great deal on the state and the federal government for funding, and are bound by their legislative decisions. As a city council we need to be in constant contact with our representatives at those levels to ensure they are working towards the achievement of an adequately funded educational system that works in the best interest of our students. At the local level we need to work hard to ensure the continued passage of bonds and levies, and be committed to developing new ways of generating the necessary revenue.
It is a constitutional clause that states it is the paramount duty of the state to prioritize education for our students. It is a moral imperative the determines we all share that responsibility.