Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With Labor Day and summer behind us, I want to share a few updates with you and look ahead to what will be a busy fall in the 35th District. Since the 2015 legislative session ended in July, I have spent the past several weeks traveling the District meeting with community groups and constituents. Though we have a part-time Legislature, I am your full-time representative and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve you year round!
Before I get into the updates, I want to briefly reflect on the fourteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In the days following the attacks, our nation came together, mourned the victims and celebrated the heroes. In the years since, we have faced many challenges as a nation, including the ongoing war on terrorism. Our national leaders continue to debate issues which carry serious consequences for our national security and the safety of our closest allies. For those making these difficult decisions, I hope they recognize the threats which still exist in our post-9/11 world and support policies that make the United States safer. We must never forget the sacrifice made by so many on that September morning, and in the years since.
I remain confident our best days are ahead of us, and if we stand together we can remain the driving force for a freer, safer and more prosperous world.
Education remains top priority
As teachers and students file back into the classroom, there is much to celebrate – though reading the headlines might suggest another story. With teachers on strike in Pasco and Seattle, I am grateful our local teachers have made the decision to stay in the classroom and work with the Legislature on continuing to improve our K-12 education system. They should be applauded for their dedication to their students.
This summer, we passed a budget that makes historic investments in K-12 education which now makes up nearly 48 percent of the 2015-17 operating budget. This multi-billion dollar increase includes funding teacher COLAs for the first time in years. We also invested in class-size reduction in grades K-3, expanded all-day kindergarten, and increased funding by nearly $750 million for maintenance, supplies and operating costs. This was the best budget for Washington's students and teachers in more than a generation.
Which is why I am concerned by two recent rulings by the state Supreme Court – both of which could have long-term effects on how we meet the needs of both students and teachers. The first ruling, which was handed down last month, stated the Legislature has not met the requirements of the 2012 McCleary decision. The Court imposed a $100,000 per day fine on the Legislature until the justices are satisfied their ruling is met and urged Gov. Inslee to call a fourth special session this year.
To be clear, regardless of this ruling, the Legislature is on track to meet the McCleary guidelines by the original court-ordered 2018 deadline.
Even though a fourth special session is unlikely, we are in the process of addressing the underlying funding issues with our K-12 system. One solution is to Fund Education First by creating a stand-alone education budget, which I proposed last session. Another is a bold, sweeping reform to the local and state levy system known as “levy swap.” In the coming months, we will be working across the aisle to ensure we have an effective plan to address this final, and underlying, component of the McCleary ruling.
A second ruling was released late last week declaring the voter-approved charter-school system unconstitutional. The ruling came nearly a year after the Court heard arguments in the case and as schools prepared to open their doors after the Labor Day weekend. This ruling jeopardizes the educational opportunity for 1,200 students across the state, many of whom are minorities or from low-income families. This ruling creates uncertainty for families – that is both unfair and unacceptable.
Education is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Charter schools provide high-quality learning opportunities for students who may otherwise be underserved in the classroom. Charter schools are operating and thriving in 41 other states, yet in Washington the Supreme Court has bucked innovation and opportunity, instead opting to uphold the status quo. According to The Seattle Times, the Court's decision is even more suspect due to the ruling justices' campaign contributions from anti-charter school special interest groups like the Washington Education Association. I believe students deserve better than the rulings offered by the Court, that are funded by special interests, in recent weeks.
I will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure students in Washington have every opportunity to succeed and thrive. I believe this starts by enacting bold reforms that improve K-12 funding, increasing access to classrooms that meet the needs of all students, and by finally putting kids ahead of special interests.
North Mason School District opens new school and offers flu shots at annual clinic
A special word of congratulations to the North Mason School District on the opening of their new, state-of-the-art high school in Belfair. This much-needed addition to the community will provide students with a world-class facility and prepare them for a bright future. You can read more about the new school in the Kitsap Sun. Way to go, Bulldogs!
I also received a public service announcement from the North Mason School District regarding their upcoming annual flu-shot clinic. The annual clinic will be held Monday, Sept. 28th from 2-6 p.m. in the North Mason School District Office. Staff, students, family, and the community are welcome to participate! For more information, or to RSVP, please contact district nurse Catherine Shutty BSN, RN at 360-277-2328 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for taking the time to read this update. I hope you take a few minutes to let me know your thoughts on these, or any other issues important to you.
And, of course, GO HAWKS!