By Larry Springer and Roger Goodman
“Will the Legislature finally address its constitutional obligation to provide our children – all of them – the fully funded education system that assures their dreams will be a reality?”
When we took the oath of office this month in the House of Representatives, we did so knowing this one single question will define the 2017 Legislature.
The answer is an unequivocal “yes,” because they deserve it and our constitution mandates it.
We passed legislation in 2010 and again in 2012 requiring us to answer “yes” to the question. The state Supreme Court weighed in and agreed with us. So, this is the year. We’ve known since 2012 that this year was our deadline, so no more excuses. It is time for every legislator to step up and accept the challenge. It is what we were elected to do. We created a work group of four Democrats and four Republicans to propose plans to the Legislature by December of last year. By taking the best from each, we would reach a reasonable compromise that could garner sizable bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate. That’s how a good, working democracy gets hard things done.
Democrats presented a proposal at the appointed time. It’s a solution that ends the reliance on local levies to pay for basic education, pays teachers what they deserve, and ensures every school will be fully funded. However, our Republican colleagues did not propose a plan because they needed more time to study the situation. That may have been a reasonable position a year ago but not today, after working on this issue for more than five years. The time is now, no more excuses. We know our solutions are not perfect. We need a proposal from our colleagues so a robust debate can begin. It is not productive to just have a conversation with ourselves.
Every legislator agrees all 1.1 million Washington students deserve a high-quality teacher in every classroom, a safe place to learn, filled with up-to-date textbooks, the latest in teaching technology and smaller class sizes. And certainly most of us agree we will need additional revenue to make that happen. Our proposal outlines several possible revenue sources that meets our state’s needs while improving the fairness our very regressive tax code. We also know that compromises will need to occur and we look forward to the negotiation.
Robust negotiation is how we crafted a strong bipartisan solution to the budget crisis during the great recession in 2009-2013. It can happen again, it must happen again.
Our kids get one shot at a great education, 12 years go by in a heartbeat. We have talked about Washington’s school funding dilemma for too many of those 12-year cycles. No more excuses, no more delays. It’s time to finish the job.
Reps. Larry Springer and Roger Goodman serve the 45th Legislative District, which includes Redmond.