Opinion

SOUNDOFF: Governor's cuts will hurt schools

Oak Harbor School District’s teachers, administrators, and classified staff have joined over 150 other school districts in taking a strong stand in support of the upcoming Jan. 14 Day of Action. On that day, educators from across the state will rally in Olympia, Spokane and the Tri-Cities in support of a quality education for our kids.

A petition describing the failure of our legislature to provide and maintain adequate education funding and to develop a long term plan for the future of our schools was drafted, passed and approved by our school board to be carried to Olympia by the district superintendent and more than 125 spirited staff members.

The reasons for this action stem from one simple declaration in the Washington State Constitution: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” This duty has NOT been met and the next legislative session threatens to compound this failure.

The citizens of Washington voted overwhelmingly to support lower class size (72 percent for I-728, the highest margin ever for an initiative) which includes this important section: “It is the intent of the people that existing state funding for education, including all sources of such funding, shall not be reduced, supplanted, or otherwise adversely impacted.”

Unlike jails, stadiums, museums and libraries, which can be funded from other revenue sources, school levies can only be funded from property taxes. These levies require a supermajority 60 percent approval to pass. In other words, school districts are being starved and forced to carry a heavier burden of achievement and accountability. This burden is increasingly being shifted from state to local taxpayers.

Staff salaries in our state have not kept up with those across the nation. A quality education is tied directly to highly skilled, fairly paid teachers and staff. Inflation and out-of-control health care costs take huge bites from paychecks. The state is losing teachers to other, higher-wage states. Recognizing this, voters also approved I-732, the cost of living adjustment initiative, by a wide majority. But it, like I-728, was never fully funded, and now both are on the chopping block.

Educators are understandably frustrated. The governor’s budget proposals will profoundly hurt schools by making significant cuts to existing education funding. We will send a loud and clear message to Olympia: that nothing must be done to erode our ability to offer Oak Harbor children the high quality education they deserve.

Those of us making the long bus or car trip to the state Capitol will be supported by Oak Harbor School District staff and parents on local streets waving signs, e-mailing and making phone calls. We know our community is on our side. Jan. 14 will be a day for us to join together and send that message. Please contact Gov. Locke and our legislators, Barry Sehlin, Barbara Bailey, and Mary Margaret Haugen, to let them know of your support for education funding.

Peter Szalai and June Zacharias are co-presidents of Oak Harbor Education Association; Tony Silveira is president of Oak Harbor Public School Employees; Cynthia Shelton and Craig Dunnam, are co-chairpersons of Oak Harbor Building Administrators Association;Vicki Harring is president of Oak Harbor School District School Board; Dr. Rick Schulte is superintendent of Oak Harbor School District

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