Sunday, October 5, 2008

That Pesky NEWS lawsuit
Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS)

Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS),
Here is C.R. Hoff's take on this lawsuit.

Unlike many other blogs and shows, I try to elict a variety of views.
I am not trying to control or dominate either thinking or discussion.

I do not agree with Charlie on some things, but I respect his opinion.
His views are worthy of discussion.

Here is Charlie's take on NEWS:

Would you be interested in raising the sales tax to 10.5%?

The Federal Way School Board seems to be interested in at least raising it to 9.9%. In fact they seem to be interested in spending $ 30,000 of your tax dollars to sue the State in such a way as to require the State to raise the sales tax, or some other tax, so as raise an additional, at least, $ 4.85 Billion dollars for “education!”

According to the State we face a $ 3.2 Billion dollar shortfall in next year’s budget if we continue to spend at the current rate. This would require raising the sales tax to about 9.4% just to cover this.

Couple this with the School Board’s request, and we come to a 10.5% sales tax. Anyone interested?

So what’s the problem? The organization that the School Board wants to join has a membership fee $ 30,000. Who is sponsoring this lawsuit? Would it surprise you to learn that the Washington Education Association (WEA), and its closely allied Parent Teachers Association (PTA), several individual “Education Associations” (normally called teacher’s unions), other school boards and the Minority Executive Directors Coalition are the sponsors of this request for a “blank check” from the taxpayers?

This group, called “Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS),
suggests that the level of achievement in our schools just isn’t very good.
Perhaps they had been reading this column, as they have cited some of the same examples as you may have read here. They state that “Only 51% of 10th graders passed the Math WASL” as an example.

What would this lawsuit accomplish if it were to be successful? It would require that the State “amply fund” education in this state which would presumably “increase achievement.”

The lawsuit does not suggest how much money would be required to “amply fund” education, nor does it offer any examples of how an increase in funds would “increase achievement.” The State did hire a consultant last year who suggested that the amount needed to “amply fund” education would be $ 4 Billion. Couple this amount with another lawsuit that the State is facing for “equal funding” that would require that each student in the state receive the same funding, and costing $ 0.85 Billion, and we will need a sales tax rate of 10.5% which would put us at the front of the sales tax pack in this nation.

The contention that increased “funding” will increase achievement is just that, a contention. The plaintiffs cite no examples of where increased funding has increased the effectiveness of any school district in the nation. Clearly there are districts in the nation that are similar to many districts in this state that are getting an additional $ 4000/student, what $4 Billion more would provide, in this state. If these districts are doing better than Washington school districts, this might be at least a small amount of support for their cause.

We do have two quotes that I think are quite revealing from someone who is held in high regard by many who are involved in this lawsuit. “No amount of money can buy achievement,” and “there’s this sense that education is somehow a passive activity, and you tip your head over and pour education in somebody’s ear. And that’s not how it works. So we’re going to have to work with parents.” Who said this? Barack Obama is the author of these very perceptive remarks.

Instead of believing what Senator Obama believes, this group seems to want the State to write a “blank check” to the educational community! The plaintiffs are clear in their lawsuit that they don’t know how much money is needed to provide an “ample” education to Washington’s children. Could the amount be infinite? Is a 10.5% sales tax only the beginning of an attempt at “ample?”

Currently the State’s contribution to education is over 40% of the entire State’s budget. Is this enough? The plaintiffs don’t think so. Yet there isn’t a school district in the State that is following the State’s direction as far as what to instruct, and what is not required. All of the 295 school districts are “doing other things.”

Taxpayers beware! There is a bomb ticking in your living room, and your school board is playing for matches!

A decision on this “bomb” will be made at the next School Board meeting on the 14th.


Anonymous said...

This won't fly in front of the school board and besides its a tax that harms disadvantaged families and businesses. Cities subsidize businesses like Walmart to build in their city - you raise sales taxes and they'll leave.

The only reason a city the size of Federal Way would want a tax like this is to gentrify their neighborhood, like Bellevue. Fine be a racist, screw up your school district so the only kids that can get educated are the ones going to private school.

I have serious reservations about the WEA. What are they thinking? There's more than one teacher's union in this country. The WEA has had many opportunities to do something right and yet they always miss the boat every time. Don't they think public opinion matters?

dan dempsey said...

What is going to happen is the NEWS lawsuit will go to court with or without the Federal Way schools' involvement.

Given results of similar suits in NY state and Wyoming, I think the odds of a NEWS victory are more than 50-50 in WA.

A NEWS victory would likely mean a judge will determine the actual cost of providing the k-12 education mandated by the WA state constitution. Then the State will need to raise that amount if it exceeds current funding levels. I think this would pave the way for a state income tax.

This is my prediction:
With Thomas Ahearne of Seattle's Foster and Pepper as the lead attorney for the NEWS side, given our WA state constitution and NY and Wyoming results, watch for a sizable increase in education funding for k-12 education.

Where the money will come from ?? I have no idea.

Anonymous said...

Is this the fair funding lawsuit you were writing about?

I thought this was the best explanation out of three choices. But we are a long ways away from talking mathematics curriculum.,20,Fair School Funding Federal Way School District v. State of Washington

I'm not sure how this affects curriculum, unless you take away the money spent on textbooks to pay for more teachers.

Anonymous said...

This is a worthwhile article that really speaks for the day. Why are we arguing over education in court when its really the legislature that is tasked wiith making the law?

Judicial Power Revisited
Filed under: School funding lawsuit — kansaseducation @ 2:58 pm

In 2005, the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy issued a policy brief titled “Undermining the Judicial Power of the State” (PDF). In it, Gerrit Wormhoudt warned that a decision by the Court (such as Montoy) to usurp legislative power could cost the Court the “trust, confidence and respect to which that office is entitled.” Now two law professors have jumped in, expanding the argument.

What follows comes from their op-ed in the Wichita Eagle. “Education policy is job of legislators, not judges“was published on July 8.

“Kansans and Oklahomans have much in common. They share a border, a love for college sports and a commitment, rooted in their pioneer heritage, to the principle that free people must govern themselves.

Unfortunately, Kansans and Oklahomans do not share equal power to shape their affairs. The Oklahoma Supreme Court decided in May to preserve the people’s authority to govern the most important area of state and local government finance: the funding of education. Kansans have not been as fortunate.

A series of school financing lawsuits in Kansas are part of a nationwide plan carried out by teacher unions and education bureaucrats to convince state courts to usurp the Legislature’s authority over education policy and to order a substantial and unwarranted increase in education funding.

In Kansas, this scheme started with a lawsuit alleging that the state’s education funding is insufficient to provide an “adequate” education. This lawsuit has been carried out with complete disregard of the state constitution. And it undermines the state’s system of government, in which the authority to make policy lies with the state Legislature and thus the voter.

The Kansas education lobby beefed up its lawsuit by seizing on constitutional language stating that the “Legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.” Nowhere is it suggested that state courts are responsible for monitoring the amount of school funding.

But the Kansas Supreme Court — in an infamous 2005 opinion replete with bureaucratic jargon but empty of any serious discussion of the structure and history of the state constitution — arrogated to itself the power to make education policy. The court found the state’s education funding inadequate by more than $850 million — one-fifth of the state’s general revenue.

In neighboring Oklahoma, the plaintiffs in a similar court action hoped for a similar result. They relied upon a phrase in their constitution: “The Legislature shall establish and maintain a system of free public schools.” Unlike their imperial Kansas brethren, however, the Oklahoma Supreme Court justices saw through the plaintiff’s gambit. The court explained: “To do as the plaintiffs ask would require this court to invade the Legislature’s power to determine policy. This we are constitutionally prohibited from doing.”

The Oklahoma decision demonstrates that state courts need not placate the demands of the education lobby. It should also remind Kansans that it is time to take back their power to govern themselves.

The Kansas Constitution should be amended to make it clear that the Legislature is solely responsible for making education policy. Perhaps then our robed masters will come to understand that our system is based on self-government and the rule of law, not the rule of lawyers.”

The few reactions on the Eagle’s web site only illustrate the dangers of forgetting the power of the Legislature. Like what they do — or not — they have the responsibility to set policy. Don’t like what they’re doing? Talk to legislators, not judges.

This is an unnecessary lawsuit and eventually will be thrown out of court. If schools are underfunded then its a legislative matter and that's what my union dues should be used for - to help pass laws that improve education.