05/05/2008: "WA Schools Underfunded by $2 B A Year"
It’s astonishing, infuriating, stupefying: in a wealthy state whose Constitution proclaims the education of our children its top priority, our schools are underfunded to the tune of two billion dollars a year.
On San Juan Island, that deficit works out to $600,000 a year, this year, next year and into the foreseeable future. On the table for cuts, every educational program you hold dear: AP classes, special education, ESL, marine science, the entire sports program, art, drama, music, plus the entire bus system, the school lunch program, teachers, custodial staff, administrators. If we, the citizens of San Juan Island can’t come up with this money by May 15th, something important will be cut. Not fluff, not fat, but the meat and bone of our public school system.
This is a crisis, not of our making but courtesy of our legislators in Olympia. Their solution is that we sue them – no joke - to get their attention. Our solution was on display at a May 1st public school board forum I attended at the Middle School Commons. Superintendent Michael Soltman and Board Chair Boyd Pratt explained cuts that have already been made and potential cuts now being contemplated. They asked for ideas. San Juan Islanders were brimming with passion for our public schools and with solutions both to the immediate crisis and our chronic problem. Many of the attendees were parents with a stake in the system. It was also heartening to see that citizens without children in the public schools were also in attendance. All recognized the value of public education to our society and our future. Many found the will to do what our state legislature will not: by the end of the evening Islanders had donated $3610 to the San Juan Public Schools Foundation.
Only $596,390 to go. Surely in the wealthiest county in Washington state, we can come up with that. Then we can sue the Legislature to uphold the state Constitution and fully fund the education of our children.