Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I am very grateful to teachers for all their hard work in the classroom and I'm certain they are making a great difference in the lives of their students.
I think about my own teachers growing up who had a profound effect on my life. I recall Miss Nadeau, my 5th grade teacher at the Catholic grade school I attended, Mr. Ogle, my creative writing teacher at Battle Ground High School, my two art teachers — Mr. Bob Peck and Mr. Dave Lowrey — and my favorite coach, Mr. Leroy James, who taught me the importance of hard work and discipline. All of these professional educators along with my parents and my professional mentor, Mr. Marvin Case, helped to shape the person I am today. I am grateful to all our professional educators. I know they are working very hard to inspire the next generation of Washington adults!
We have amazing teachers throughout the district who work hard and should be paid a living wage for what they do. Unfortunately, there's a lot of misinformation being spread around by their union, the Washington Education Association (WEA), regarding funding of K-12 education.
Teachers and citizens throughout Washington deserve to hear the truth when it comes to budget proposals regarding the issue of K-12 education funding being negotiated in the state Legislature. Here are the facts:
- The Senate Republican budget proposal would provide a nearly 18 percent increase for K-12 education (versus under 6 percent growth for non-education portions of the state operating budget), including $230 million for salary increases.
- $2.7 billion biennial increase (from $15.3 billion to $18 billion);
- This is the largest K-12 biennial percentage growth in 25 years;
- The Senate budget brings teacher COLAs (cost-of-living adjustments) to voter-approved levels;
- $210 million to pay for higher state pension costs, primarily due to longer employee life spans;
- Remainder is primarily “maintenance” state increases for higher enrollment, inflation, and increased costs for items such as levy equalization;
- The bipartisan capital budget proposal would build 2,100 more classrooms to reduce K-3 class size. K-3 and all-day kindergarten, particularly in poverty areas, was made a priority;
- Both chambers also want to invest about $1.3 billion of additional money for education in response to the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision, including increased funding for K-3 class-size reductions, full-day kindergarten, and maintenance, supplies and operating costs;
- K-12 education funding would comprise more than 47 percent of the state budget, which is the highest share in over 30 years; and
- None of the proposals would “cut” or “shortchange” education funding as the union suggests.
I support the Senate budget proposal, because it would provide the largest increase for K-12 education since Republican John Spellman was governor in the early 1980s. It would do this using existing revenue – including a $3 billion increase coming to the state in revenue because of economic growth. And it would provide these increases without raising taxes against our citizens and employers.
I'm very disappointed that the WEA is encouraging illegal teacher strikes by misinforming our teachers about budget proposals. I believe these walkouts are premature, because proposals are currently being negotiated, and the budget is not settled.
The last two years, I've spent a lot of time getting to know many of our local teachers, involving them with my Education Kitchen Cabinet, visiting classrooms and listening to their concerns. I hear them and understand their frustrations. I am opposed to tying teacher performance to testing. If we treated oncologists the same as we treat teachers, no doctor would take late-stage cancer patients. I'm on the side of teachers on many issues and agree with less testing, more local control, removing mandates, allowing school boards to set policy and goals that reflect their communities, and directing more money to classrooms, not to administration. Also, we need more counselors in our schools so that burden is lifted from our great teachers!
Also, teachers are among many people in Washington who have had to go without pay increases during the past several years as we worked to get through the Great Recession. And even though the economy is improving in some areas of our state, there is still high unemployment in many parts of rural Washington, and our state's economy remains fragile. That said, we are working very hard within all budget proposals on the table to ensure teachers receive cost-of-living adjustments in the new budget cycle.
Teachers have the right to be heard. Let me assure you the Legislature is listening. They do not, however, have the right to walk off the job. There are better and more productive ways to communicate with their legislators.
We have a toll-free legislative hotline (1-800-562-6000) for people to leave messages with their legislators. Every legislator has his/her own e-mail account. Mine is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can write, call, e-mail your legislator with your concerns. I regularly meet with teachers in my district who make the request.
I welcome a civil dialogue with teachers and citizens as budget negotiations continue. It's time to stop the finger-pointing, the animosity and the misinformation. The facts are very clear: When the final budget emerges, schools, teachers and students will be the winners as we make historic investments in K-12 education in the final budget plan. That's something for our teachers to celebrate, not picket.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"