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Ouch.

Last week The News Tribune wrote a scathing editorial titled “Schools didn’t fail; union-beholden lawmakers did“:

A few weeks hence, parents across the state will be getting letters telling them that their children’s schools are failures. The letters — mandated by federal No Child Left Behind law — will be lying.

The failure lies in the Legislature. Specifically it lies with lawmakers — mostly Democrats — who lacked the moral and political spine last spring to buck an unhinged state teachers union and do the right thing for kids.

The compulsory letters are hardly the worst consequence of lawmakers’ failure.

Of far great magnitude is the loss of school districts’ control over roughly $40 million a year in federal Title I funding for poor students. That translates, for example, into an estimated $1.8 million in the Tacoma Public Schools alone. The money will still arrive, but districts may have to use it to buy private tutoring for students or bus rides to other districts.

The back story on this is a little complex.  Essentially, the Washington Education Association switched positions on requiring statewide test data to be used in teacher evaluations.  They were for it, then they were against it and pressured Democratic lawmakers into opposing the requirement as well.

The lack of legislative action on this ended up putting Washington out of compliance with No Child Left Behind.

While the story is complicated, the bottom line is that the Washington Education Association’s bullying has cost our schools over $40 million a year in federal funds for poor students.  On top of that are the frightening letters parents will receive telling them their local schools are failures.

The editorial summed it up well:

Parents shouldn’t blame their schools for the letters. They should blame lawmakers who dared not fail a patently foolish union litmus test, even at the expense of the state’s schoolchildren.

What Do You Think?

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Have you ever wondered why you spend so much money on taxes and fees and yet there is a looming constitutional crisis here in Washington because the State Supreme Court insists that much more needs to be spent on education?

This is because, while government spending has dramatically increased over time, education spending has not been prioritized:

Non-education spending growth

This kind of radical deprioritization of education begs the question: Why do teachers’ unions still almost always support Democrats who, in large part, have had near or total control over Washington’s governing bodies during the last 30 years?

We don’t know the answer.  But the good news is that this trend has been reversed in the last couple years.

Education Spending Reprioritized Under Majority Coalition Caucus

Since the Senate has been controlled by the bipartisan Majority Coalition Caucus, this trend has begun to reverse.

The following chart shows Education spending growth (13%) compared to Non-Education spending growth (4%) since the Coalition has begun implementing its agenda:

Operating Budget Growth

This represents a radical change from the past 30 years.

When it comes down to it, this year’s state legislative elections have a lot to do with whether voters agree with prioritizing more money for education than on other government expenditures.

What do you think?  Is that important to you?

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Have you heard of JZ Knight?  She’s the Yelm-based spiritual leader who claims to channel a spirit named Ramtha.  Back in 2012, a video surfaced of Knight using hateful language in reference to homosexuals, Jews and Catholics.

Seattle Weekly summarizes Knight’s background:

Knight, now 68, says she’s been channeling the Ram since 1979, when he emerged one day in her Tacoma kitchen. That led to a multimillion-dollar business called the Ramtha School of Enlightenment at the gated site of her former Thurston County horse ranch in 1988, which this year has blossomed into a globe-trotting expansion of her teachings she calls the 2014 Ramtha World Tour.

Hers is not a religion or a cult, she insists, but an “academy of the mind” that supposedly involves the latest discoveries in neuroscience and quantum physics…

JZ Knight with her granddaughter and President Obama

JZ Knight and (apparently) Ramtha are very political, giving thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates.  Two years ago, the State Democratic party gave back $70,000 in donations from Knight after the aforementioned video surfaced.

Knight is back in the news now with revelations that she donated $65,000 this year to the Thurston County Democrats.  This is from the News Tribune:

The county party organization accepted $65,000 from Knight earlier this year. Its leaders thoroughly examined the matter and concluded, as county Chairman Roger Erskine put it, “JZ Knight is a very good strong Democrat, and she totally supports our platform and our goals, and I think that’s good enough.”

Survey: Should Thurston County Democrats Return Knight’s Donation?

It’s only fair to stipulate that accepting campaign money in no way means the recipients agree with the donors.  But many have nonetheless called for political contributions from Knight to be returned.  What do you think?

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Did you know that Governor Jay Inslee signed an agreement with California and Canada to achieve a low carbon fuel standard?

Did you know that this standard will do absolutely nothing to improve our roads, crumbling bridges, or provide congestion relief?

And did you know the Governor’s own consultants estimate that these new standards could cost Washingtonians $1.17 per gallon in increased fuel costs?

Calculate how expensive the gas increase will be for your family

Use this calculator from Shift Washington to estimate how much Inslee’s radical environmental agenda will cost your family.  Then sign the petition to stop Inslee’s Increase!

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Here’s a question for you, Friend: if King County voters solidly defeat a transportation tax increase that would have funded local transportation, where would one be popular?

On Tuesday, King County voters voted 54.5% to 45.5% to defeat Proposition 1, which was a 10 year measure to increase the sales tax by .01% and enact a $60\year car-tab fee.  The $130 million measure was to primarily be devoted for bus service, but with a significant portion also going to local and county road maintenance.

This little tidbit from the Seattle Times tells you volumes about what mattered in this election:

The measure enjoyed massive support among politicians, labor unions, environmentalists, social-equity groups and business coalitions.

The Move King County Now campaign raised $654,922 in contributions, compared with $7,700 for the opposition, called Families for Sustainable Transit.

Remember, this is King County. So why would a tax increase for something as important as improving transportation fail here?

Transportation Taxes: A Legislative History

A little background on transportation funding:  In the last couple of years (and really, beyond) there has been quite a lot of talk about the need for new transportation funding.  This battle has primarily been fought in the Legislature.  But up to this point there has been no sweeping transportation package.

This last session the Senate Majority Coalition’s mantra was: Reform before Revenue. The largely Republican-led Senate Coalition proposed a higher gas tax increase than House Democrats did but also included significant reforms in their package.

In the end, the two sides couldn’t agree and session ended.

Fast forward to this week’s failed ballot measure: Washington’s most tax-friendly county just declared their disdain for a tax promoted by a highly funded, well supported campaign.  King County transportation tax advocates had decided to do things their own way and fund projects locally…but to no avail (so far) in the end.

Taxes: Where Do We Go From Here?

We here at Washington Focus think there are at least a couple of lessons to learn from Tuesday night:

  • Voters (even King County voters) aren’t going to signup for just any tax
  • Maybe the Senate Majority Coalition was on to something with their idea that Washington should first better spend existing tax dollars before asking for more

In the end, the tax increase failed by 10%.  Next year there will undoubtedly be a push for more tax increases in the Legislature for transportation as well as for K-12 education, if not for more projects.

Our advice?  Legislators should not rush in where King County fears to tread.

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