PTSA to hold legislative discussion
January 8, 2009
By Laura Geggel
Meeting has been moved to Chief Kanim Middle School
The Snoqualmie Valley PTSA Council has big plans for 2009 — they want more state funding for education and they want community members to join their cause.
Every year, the Region 2 PTA — an organization that encompasses the Eastside school districts of Snoqualmie Valley, Riverview, Lake Washington, Bellevue, Issaquah and Mercer Island — organizes a legislative roundtable with state representatives and senators and community members.
Schedule conflicts kept some of the elected officials from Legislative Districts 5 and 45 from attending the annual November Region 2 forum, prompting the Snoqualmie Valley PTSA Council to hold a roundtable of its own.
The roundtable was originally scheduled to be held at the school district offices. Because of recent flooding, it has been moved to Chief Kanim Middle School, 32627 Redmond-Fall City Rd., in Fall City from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Jan. 9. Those driving from the east of Fall City should take Interstate 90, ext 22 for Preston/Fall City, since highway 202 may be closed.
As of Jan. 6, the council had confirmed the attendance of representatives Glenn Anderson and Jay Rodne and Senator Cheryl Pflug from the 5th District, as well as Representative Roger Goodman and Senator Eric Oemig from the 45th District. The council is still waiting to confirm the participation of Representative Larry Springer.
“We are just trying to get awareness out there and let parents know they do have a voice,” said Cathy Renner, Snoqualmie Valley PTSA Council president.
The state congress will decide the 2009-2011 budget when it convenes in Olympia later this month. Several education funds are at risk, including Initiative 728, a fund that reduces class sizes, increases learning opportunities for students and provides professional development for staff. The initiative funds salaries for 30 teachers in the district and, if cut, would amount to about $600,000 in losses to Snoqualmie Valley.
The suggested budgeted also calls for the suspension of Initiative 732, which funds $350 million of cost of living adjustments for teachers statewide.
With these issues at stake, the PTSA Council will also focus on the larger picture of education funding. Washington state funds all school districts based on formulas set in the late 1970s after the “Doran Decision” lawsuit prompted the state to invest more money in education. While the decision was monumental at the time, the formulas it produced are now outdated.
“What was defined as basic education in the 1970s is completely different from how we define basic education today,” Renner said.
Several statewide task forces have examined the lackluster state of education funding in Washington, but little has been done to implement their recommendations.
The state legislature created the Washington Learns Steering Committee in 2005, which looked at the state of education, its funding and other issues concerning early learning, K-12 education and higher learning.
However, the committee failed to label sustainable funding sources, Renner said.
“It became this thing that sat on the shelf,” Renner said.
A new committee — Basic Education Finance Joint Task Force — has tackled the education and funding issue once more and even includes recommended funding sources, Renner said. Legislative District 5 Representative Glenn Anderson served on its task force.
Renner encouraged the public to contact elected state officials to tell them to keep the new study from the fate of the Washington Learns report — that is, to implement instead of shelve it.
“We really need to push them to push it forward, even if it doesn’t have everything parents want on it,” Renner said, adding that any change of funding to Snoqualmie Valley would be beneficial, especially since out of 295 districts in the state, the Valley is the 290th lowest-funded district.
“We’re at the bottom of the barrel,” Renner said.
The PTSA Council will have several prepared questions at the roundtable, and it encouraged community members to attend, even if it is just to sit and listen.
“We realize there isn’t a lot of money and budget cuts are everywhere, but we want them to know you can’t cut education,” Renner said. “If you cut education, you are depriving your entire population of educated people. You can’t have a thriving economy without an educated mass.”
March in Olympia
The PTSA Council is also planning a rally in support of improved education funding at the Capitol building in Olympia at 12 p.m. Feb. 26. To help make signs, carpool or learn more, contact Cathy Renner at firstname.lastname@example.org or PTSA Legislative Council Chair Liz Piekarcyzk at email@example.com.