Join Washington Parents in a Fight For Fair Funding
Anna McCartney and her two children want legislators to know that funding education is their paramount duty.
Photo: Joshua Huston
A few days before the 2015 march to support striking Seattle teachers, a group of parents met in a coffee shop and asked themselves what they could do to change school funding. From that conversation was born a grassroots, parent-led campaign to fund public education in Washington.
Every child is entitled to an amply funded education regardless of race, color, socioeconomic status, or sex under Washington’s state constitution, but the courts have found that Washington has not been providing children with that education. For more than a generation, the state has failed to meet its constitutional duty. The SPS teachers’ strike brought more awareness to how poorly funded Washington’s K-12 schools are.
“We’d all been aware of the funding problems, and as we talked, we decided that if we didn’t have enough motivated people to start a campaign then, at the height of the strike, it would never happen. We decided to start with a Facebook group because that was where the conversation was, and it’s an easy way for people to connect online,” says Rebecca Vaux, a founding member of Washington’s Paramount Duty.
The Facebook group grew to more than 2,000 members within just the first few days, indicating how ready parents, educators, and students were for educational funding reform—the members of WPD were not alone in believing this reform is long overdue.
Anna McCartney, a parent and a volunteer lobbyist, uses her advocacy experience to advise WPD. She has a history of getting legislation passed, including a bill that requires food labels to plainly list allergens, and another that allows students to bring epinephrine injectors and asthma inhalers to school and self-administer.
She says her approach to effecting change is realizing that “legislators are just regular people, and you can and should go ask them for help when you see a problem. You can't hold them responsible for not fixing things if you don't tell them there is a problem, and offer any ideas you have on how to solve it.”
Crowded classrooms, out-of-date textbooks, and inadequate special-needs programs are only a few of the problems that WPD aims to fix. Families and schools have been trying to raise the needed revenue through local tax levies and fundraising, but not all schools have parents able to raise funds to act as a band-aid.
Many Seattle schools are unable to provide students with the supplies needed for a competitive education.
According to documents filed with Washington’s Secretary of State, for the fiscal year ending June 2014, Madison Park’s McGilvra Elementary PTA reported raising $430,530, while Lowell Elementary PTA raised only $29,359. This kind of inequity directly reflects in the quality of education received by students.
“I think that people in our state are tired of having their PTA having to scrounge up money for basic education,” McCartney adds. “Folks know the system isn't fair, because affluent schools can raise more money, and end up giving their kids more educational opportunities than schools in poor communities.”
WPD is asking legislators to publicly commit to fully funding K-12 education. “What [the legislature] needs to do is to pass budgets that provide ample funding for K-12 public education. They also need to develop a plan, which they have also failed to do," Vaux says.
Even if parents are unable to donate a lot of time or money, they can still become involved with WPD by calling legislators, or joining WPD's letter-writing campaigns.
“It's about educating the people who will drive our state’s economy in future generations,” Vaux concludes. “I can’t think of a more important investment that our state could make.”