warning: the following post contains a long rant…

You may recall that I wrote a post earlier this month about voting, about the importance of participation in the whole electoral process.

You may also recall that I wrote specifically about HJR 4204, an amendment to the state constitution that would allow a majority of people who show up to vote to decide if school levies pass. Currently, it requires what is known as a super-majority (a complicated calculation based on how many voted in the previous general election) to pass these levies that provide monies for everything from transportation to school maintenance and improvement on occasion, to before and after school activities, to… so far I haven’t named anything frivolous.

And that is the point of this post. The education of our children, from providing them with the meals their parents do not or can not (as is sadly the case in many communities), to giving them a safe place to study and play after school, to providing what is often considered “fluff” arts, music, and sports but which expand a person’s connections with all areas of learning; without these “non-academic” offerings that support the learning process (clean rooms, safe transportation, interesting activities to engage them) children do not do as well.

In my state, “basic education” is supposed to be fully funded. But basic education is not well defined. A set amount is provided by the state for every student to each district/school for the basic education, but it isn’t enough to fully cover all the costs that we expect with schools.  Many schools have to pass levies simply to provide janitorial services!

An argument against HJR 4204 was that a “minority” shouldn’t be able to impose taxes on people who don’t want to pay them.

But I reply that, if MOST of the voters don’t want to pay levies to fund schools, then they can vote. Pure and simple. In our state, any person can apply for a permanent absentee voter ballot — so the difficulty getting to the polls is not an issue.And I reply also: WHY NOT fund the schools? Why not provide ALL students with the knowledge and activities that feed growing brains and bodies, rather than relying on knowledgeable, available, financially able parents? Not all parents can provide these activities for their children…

Because our school levies are funded by property taxes, landlords and others who hold lots of property are often opposed to levies. Perhaps they don’t have children? Landlords will pass any increased taxes on in rent anyway.

Now, I don’t place all the emphasis on this one bill.  The truth is that, ideally, all schools would be fully funded — fully able to provide the services and facilities that best serve the students.  Teachers would be abundant — class sizes would be manageable.  All students who could be helped by additional services (physical or speech therapy, for example) would get it, not just those whose parents are pushy.

Of course, we don’t live in an ideal world.  Parents who are able to provide good environments for their children at home are also the ones who are most likely to advocate for schools — and those are the districts that typically pass their levies under the current system.  Inequity of this kind would not end  if HJR 4204 passes… but the smaller districts might stand a better chance at passing levies, and the students would then be better served.

The problem we have with children being unprepared for life — unprepared to work, unprepared for further education, unprepared to participate as citizens in our world — begins with the impoverished schools they attend. What purpose does it serve to merely warehouse children in aging schools, with fewer and fewer programs and more and more tests?

As I write this, HJR 4204 is passing — barely. There are 50.2395 % percent of ballots in favor, 755,061 for and 747,863 against. I am astonished. Are people really this unconcerned about the future? Are they so morally and ethically impoverished that they do not see any value in providing for children? For the future of this world?

100 years ago in the United States, many people were able to find meaningful work without even an 8th grade education. People without high school educations could participate fully — and have decent living-wage jobs. That doesn’t work any more. It hasn’t for the last 50 years.

If this country is to find new ways to survive in a changing climate, both politically and economically as well as ecologically, we need to have adults who are creative thinkers, who have some knowledge of the past and an awareness of the possibilities. They don’t all have to be prepared to go to college… but they do all need to be able to play their role in society.

Let’s support our children — our very own, and the ones in our communities. Let’s make sure they have what they need to succeed!

3 Interactions on “The Importance of Education

  1. Ellen, thank you for your post. I completely agree with several points you bring up: property assessments, on which our taxes are based, are out of control and obscene; basing services on only one revenue stream places too much burden on that source; people are tired of constantly being hit up for more money.

    A simple solution to the first point would be to only revalue a property when it is remodeled or sold, and/or limit increases to half the cost of inflation (or some such predictable measure). I have trouble believing that my own home is worth the most recent assessment, I know it appraises for far less. There are, however, provisions for older people and those who are permanently disabled to reduce or avoid property taxes (taxes are paid later by the landholder’s heirs).

    Change the constitution to allow levy money to be drawn from sales taxes or even taxes on luxury goods and other sources. As long as additional levies are only on property rather than goods and services, property owners and renters will be pinched.

    And of course, my opinion is that since the state constitution requires public schools to be fully funded — before other services — that should mean the whole shebang: teachers, classrooms (building/physical plant), support staff, busing, books… None of those seem optional to me! Levies should pay for things like gym improvements, playground shelters for rainy days, after-school enrichment, not the desks or groundskeepers.

    With those things in mind though, I still think that levy passage needs to be based, not on 40% of the people who voted in the previous general election showing up and 60% of them voting yes (that is a simplified version of the way it works)! I think levies should be passed — or failed — based on the people who show up. After all, that is how most elections are conducted!

  2. Hello, I’m a fellow Washington resident, Babbler and NaNo writer. I love your passionate plea for children. I also feel they should be top priority. I currently have 6 grandchildren in public schools. I also taught for 15 years and continue to help out where I can.

    However, HJR 4204 failed here in SW Wa. The reason? Every county has a different tax base. On our ballots here, along with the school issue was a port levy that wanted $4.32 per $1,000 for the next 10 years ($864 on a $200K home) and firefighters who wanted an extra $1.40 per $1,000 for the next 8 years ($280 of a $200K home), and to raise by a certain percentage yearly. All this is in ‘addition’ to our current tax base. Add to this, home values which have risen yearly for the last 9 years (a $200K home would be a rare find) and basic wage earners along with retired folks are getting taxed out of their homes. I doubt that it is because people don’t care. In this area the message is “we’re tapped out”!

    Maybe there are other creative answers to be found other then higher taxes. My church has adopted two schools in lower income areas. We provide winter coats and shoes. Filled backpacks at the beginning of the school year along with tutoring and classroom help throughout the year.
    Just a thought.

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