Opinion

Let’s give all of our kids a better tomorrow

 

By Reps. Tana Senn and Chad Magendanz

Washington’s constitution says it is the state’s “paramount duty” to provide for the education of all children.

After years of failing to fulfill that duty, the state Supreme Court, in its McCleary decision, called the Legislature to account and ordered us to fully fund K-12 education by 2018.

Complying with McCleary is a daunting task, but also a great opportunity.

We now have the chance to improve our public schools and help our most precious resource, our children.

There are many components to fully funding education: providing for better books and materials, better pay for teachers, reliable school bus services to get our kids to school – it’s a long list.

We must also build classrooms.

This week, House Republicans and Democrats worked together to make that happen.We overwhelmingly passed legislation, House Bill 2797, to provide up to $700 million in bonds, backed by state lottery funds, for building classrooms for students in kindergarten through third grade.

HB 2797 is a direct response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in January that “… additional capital expenditures are required of approximately $105 million for full-day kindergarten and $599 million for K-3 class-size reduction by 2017-18.”

It is rare for something big and bold to pass on a 90-7 vote – but House Bill 2797 brought us together.

It brought us together because House members from both parties recognize that an investment in our schools yields the best return imaginable: a brighter future for our children and for our entire state.

We’ve talked to our local school districts about what they’ll need to meet the court’s requirements for reducing class size. To reduce K-3 overcrowding, for example, Renton needs 42 new classrooms, Bellevue needs 82 and Issaquah needs 99.And that’s just to address the current demand, not anticipated growth.

Unlike other school construction funds from the state that require a local match, this bill does not ask for matching funds from local districts. Many districts, for many reasons, have been unable to pass school bonds. It wouldn’t be fair to shut those schools, and those children, out.

To meet some concerns by the state Treasurer, we made several technical changes to the bill.We are also heartened by our state’s strong credit rating and are confident that leveraging lottery funds is the right way to go to build the classrooms we need for our youngest students.

We have four years – and many more tough, contentious decisions to make – before we reach our goal of fully funding K-12 education.

HB 2797 is a first and necessary step in meeting our constitutional duty—and doing what is right for our children.

It is our sincere hope that the state Senate will join us in passing this bill so we can keep up a steady momentum on our paramount duty: education.

 

Rep. Tana Senn is a Democrat from the 41st Legislative District. Rep. Chad Magendanz is a Republican from the 5th Legislative District.

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