The results are in on the 2016 Primary for Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The bad news is that unfortunately, we did not make it past this “Top Two” Primary. The good news is that about 120,000 Washington citizens voted for our “Spring for Better Schools” campaign for better school funding! In this article, I will explain how this truly was an incredible accomplishment – and what we need to do from here in order to finally get full funding for our public schools.
Here is the break down of the votes for the top five candidates:
While we only got 9% of the vote, for fifth place in a nine person race, in terms of votes per dollar spent, we managed to get 66 votes for every dollar spent while the leading candidates only got 3 to 4 votes per dollar spent.
With a more level playing field, we would have won the primary in a landslide. As it was, despite the lack of funds, more than 75,000 people visited our website to learn about our plan to restore school funding by repealing billions of dollars in illegal corporate tax breaks. In the past 4 months, we traveled more than a thousand miles – attending campaign forums all across the state - from Aberdeen to Spokane and from Vancouver to Bellingham. We passed out more than 5,000 fliers and put up more than 120 signs. We appeared in several statewide candidate debates – the videos of which were viewed by thousands of people. We filled out more than 30 questionnaires from various groups and published more than 20 articles detailing how to solve the truly urgent problems faced by our public schools.
Our most important accomplishment was letting parents and teachers know that there is an alternative to school funding gridlock in Olympia – that the reason our kids are forced to attend the lowest funded and most over-crowded schools in the nation is because our state legislature gives away billions of dollars in illegal tax breaks to wealthy corporations every year. The ONLY solution to our school funding crisis is for the Superintendent of Public Instruction to ask our Supreme Court to repeal these illegal tax breaks.
Unfortunately, neither of the two candidates for Superintendent who will be on the General Election ballot are willing to challenge wealthy corporations by asking our Supreme Court to repeal these billions of dollars in illegal tax breaks. Instead, they both want to keep begging the legislature for 4 more years – under the false hope that the legislature will finally restore school funding in 2017 or 2018 or 2019. Like many voters in our state, both candidates refuse to admit that our legislature is NEVER going to fully fund our schools. As a consequence, regardless of which candidate wins in November, it is almost certain that our kids will be forced to endure the highest class sizes in the nation for four more long and painful years.
The real question is when parents and teachers will finally wake up to this robbery – this theft from our children – and demand an end to these illegal corporate tax breaks? Will it be in 2017 – when a gridlocked legislature once again kicks the can down the road with more excuses and delays? Will it be in 2018 when the legislature forms yet another fake committee to study school funding? Will it be in 2019, when the legislature moves some funds around from one account to another and falsely claims it increases school funding (as even more teachers are fired).
Hopefully, by the 2020 election for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, parents and teachers will realize that Olympia politicians have been making empty promises. Parents and teachers will finally realize that our only hope to restore school funding is to go around the legislature and elect a Superintendent who will go directly to our Supreme Court asking the Court to declare billions of dollars in tax breaks to wealthy corporations to be unconstitutional. It is basic math. We cannot give away billions in corporate welfare every year and still have enough money left to fully fund our schools.
We have Thomas Jefferson to thank for our system of public schools – the foundation of our economy and our democracy. We also have Jefferson to thank for frequent elections – a chance to choose new leaders every four years here in Washington state. Due to the lack of leadership in Olympia, I expect our school funding crisis to get much worse during the next four years. Maybe by the 2020 election, more voters will finally be ready to choose to place the long term education of our children above the short term greed of wealthy corporations.
The need for better school funding is not going away – and neither am I. Together, we can and must break the gridlock in Olympia, restore school funding and lower class sizes so that every child in Washington state gets the quality education they need and deserve.
As always, we look forward to your questions and comments.
David Spring M. Ed.
Spring for Better Schools (dot) org.