Letter to Legislators

June 6, 2017


Dear Legislators,

We know this letter comes as you and your colleagues are working urgently in the second Special Session of the 2017 legislative year and that you are grappling with some of the toughest decisions you’ve had as legislators. And we know that solving the McCleary crisis is not just about finding the dollars to meet the Supreme Court threshold, but that it’s about making sure those dollars meet the needs of every student. Your decisions now will determine the future of Washington’s education system for years to come.

There is a lot at stake: The future of our kids and our economy and our ability to address and reverse rising inequity. That’s why we want to thank you for continuing to show up to fight for Washington’s kids. We are also committed to being here with you, as we have been since we launched the Campaign for Student Success when you entered this year’s regular legislative session.

Our broad coalition of over 40 advocates for education, for kids and for the vulnerable has been clear from the beginning: our current system is unfair, and this is our moment to end inequity in our schools. We don’t need to tell you that our graduation rates are below most states in the nation, and that kids living in poverty, students with special needs and children of color are being left behind because of outdated policies that harm rather than help. You’ve been addressing these issues all year, and we know that you’re close to solutions that will meet the needs of every student, not the system.

We’ve laid out three simple priorities that will help you make sure money is dedicated and accounted for so that it helps every kid:

Focus on directing more dollars to high-poverty districts by making two changes to tackle current policies that make our system unfair. Washington state’s complicated staff-mix ratio is failing our students because it sends discretionary funding to districts based on bureaucratic hiring decisions. Eliminate this complicated formula so discretionary funding can reach students based on need. It’s also time to address the fact that local levy funding favors wealthy zip codes. By fixing the levy system, you can ensure that EVERY student has a fair chance and public education can be a great equalizer and create opportunity for all.

Seize this moment to fund students who need it most by adding $1 billion in funding and additional weight to certain student-targeted programs. Programs that work for our kids need more funding, including Learning Assistance Program (LAP), Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program (TBIP), Dual Credit Programs, Special Education, Career and Technical Education and the Highly Capable Program. For this additional money to work, real guardrails must be put in place to ensure that it serves the kids intended that will protect from future cuts, make sure funding gets into schools and ensure funds are spent on evidence-based practices that produce results. It’s also time that we establish new targeted funding to support students who are homeless or in foster care.

We must protect funding and make it transparent to ensure it reaches students. This requires simple solutions like ensuring all school spending is reported in the same way, publishing school-level data on how funding is spent and on student outcomes, and making sure parents have access to information and have input into school budgets.

These solutions require your hard work in this second Special Session to make them a reality, but together, we can get this over the finish line and set forth a new path for Washington that works for every student and every family and builds towards a secure future and economy.

Thank you for your dedication to Washington’s students,

Campaign for Student Success

Tony Lee, Asian Pacific Islander Coalition

Sharonne Navas, Equity in Education Coalition

Chris Korsmo, League of Education Voters

Libuse Binder, Stand for Children Washington

Marcy Bowers, Statewide Poverty Action Network