The goal of advocacy for our education system—which really is advocacy for our kids, our communities, and our future—is to convince decision-makers to improve the system, then follow through on their promises. This month, advocates for education in Washington achieved a landmark win: the Washington State Supreme Court decision on the McCleary lawsuit.
The McCleary lawsuit asserted the state wasn’t amply funding basic education. There are details—such as what constitutes ample, the definition of paramount duty, the role of local levies, and the definition of basic education (it is defined) – but in short, the McCleary lawsuit asserted that our Constitution required the Legislature to amply fund basic education—as Washington state’s paramount duty—and that it was not doing so.
The Supreme Court agreed, and then went further: the Court retained jurisdiction over the case to ensure real progress is made, with full and ample funding realized by 2018. That’s about as heavy handed as a court decision of this sort can get.
What does this mean for us, locally? It means there will be an end to agonizing over what we cannot do, what we must stop doing, or which program we must cut. It also means we must begin thinking about what we will do, where we should focus, and how best to proceed with the resources we eventually will receive. In other words, we have some work in front of us. With increased capability comes increased responsibility – and frankly, desire and excitement—to do more. To do more for our kids, our communities, and to create a better future through an ample education…rather than an ever-thinning-budget education.
Unfortunately, not all is done with regard to ample funding. The legislature doesn’t yet have answers about how that funding should occur (we have ideas), and we can’t assume the Legislature will automatically observe the court’s decision.
We still must gird ourselves against current financial realities, and realize these changes won’t occur overnight…nor will they occur without continued pressure. But those resources will eventually come, I believe, and we should envision what an ample education provides, how it will enable our students to compete in a global and ever-changing marketplace, and what we must do to get there.
It’s a great time to be an education advocate. You win some, and you lose some. But in this case, we won something for everyone who wants a better future for their children, their grandchildren, or themselves.
It’s also a win for educators of every ilk… educators who really want to do more, to deliver better education and better results, to increase their potential and the potential of those around them, and who want to be part of something big and transformative. It will be a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort.
Thanks to all of you for your continued advocacy efforts—in Washington, we believe education is the key to a brighter future. Although we’re not done, together we’ve made a big difference. And we’re just getting started.
David Iseminger is President of the Lake Stevens School Board, and on the board of the state school directors’ association, WSSDA. Iseminger has authored a plan to fully fund basic education, including full financial modeling. His plan can be found at www.tinyurl.com/iseminger. He can be reached at email@example.com.