Remarks from the K-12 funding event

(Remarks as prepared for Dec. 13, 2016 event highlighting Gov. Inslee’s plan to fully fund education)

Gov. Jay Inslee joined by speakers at the press conference detailing the Governor’s K-12 funding plan at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash., Dec. 13, 2016 (Official Governor’s Office Photo)

I want to thank everyone here today.

We have an important job ahead of us: to fully fund education and fully fund it now.

We face an opportunity — and an obligation — in this upcoming session to not just put more money into the education system we already have, but to invest in the kind of education ALL our children deserve.

Thank you, Chris Reykdal, for joining us. I’m looking forward to working with you as our new state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Thank you, Kim Mead, for speaking on behalf of Washington’s educators.

Thank you, Carla Santorno, for hosting us in Tacoma, where your leadership has sparked such dramatic improvements in graduation rates.

Thank you, Nate Gibbs-Bowling, for giving us an opportunity to meet with your students later today, and I understand that a few of them are with us in the audience.

And thank you, Pat Erwin, for inviting us to Lincoln High School today.

There are so many incredible things happening here in Abe Nation, the kinds of things that I want every high school student to experience.

I’d like to acknowledge Tacoma’s mayor, Marilyn Strickland, who is a great advocate for education.

And thank you, Senator Darneille and Representatives Jenkins and Fey, for joining us as well.

When I took office four years ago, our state was being challenged in a court case known as McCleary for failing to meet its constitutional obligation to fully, equitably and amply fund basic education.

Since then, I’ve signed two budgets that have taken two large steps towards addressing McCleary, with $2.1 billion in additional state funding for:

  • all-day kindergarten,
  • reduced class sizes in kindergarten through third grade,
  • full funding for the costs of transporting students to and from schools
  • and full funding for essential costs like textbooks, utility bills and other operating expenses.

We also added funding for other things so important to student success, throughout the continuum of education, including an historic expansion in early learning, more mentoring for teachers, and a cut in tuition at our two and four year schools.

And now, in the 2017 session, I am proposing we fulfill the final step of our obligation to our schools, our educators, and our students.

IT’S TIME TO FULLY FUND EDUCATION.

This requires us to address compensation for educators and resolve the funding inequities.

All kids should have access to the same quality of education, regardless of their zip code.

Where you live should not dedicate what kind of education you receive.

We know what needs to get done, and we know this is the year to do it.

My plan would provide $3.9 billion in new state funding.

We will increase starting teacher pay so we can recruit and retain more teachers.

And instead of just swapping who signs the checks, we’re improving how we compensate our educators so we can provide competitive wages and make sure we treat teaching as a career and not just a job.

We will fund professional development time so educators can collaborate and continue to develop skills that we know help them excel in the classroom.

And for the first time, we will be fully funding basic education. This will bring us into compliance with our constitution, and should end the McCleary litigation.

But I believe the constitution sets a floor, a minimum requirement of a basic education.

And in this day and age, we owe our kids and parents more.

We owe all one million of our public school children a great teacher in the classroom and access to the programs and services we know they need, whether it’s tutoring, counseling or mentoring.

The number one contributor to student success is the quality of the teacher in their classroom. And, I know we have a lot of great ones here at Lincoln.

We know one caring adult in the school can literally make or break a student who’s feeling lost or considering dropping out.

And we know focusing additional resources on kids and families in poverty can help them break that cycle by getting an education.

Lincoln does that right here by giving students and families what they need — whether it is food for the weekend or connecting them with community resources.

That’s why in addition to the $2.7 billion related specifically to providing competitive wages to attract and retain great educators, I’m proposing an additional $700 million that will:

  • Help close the opportunity gap and get struggling students and schools back on track,
  • Enhance mentoring programs for teachers and principals and struggling students,
  • Add more nurses, social workers and counselors to our schools,
  • Boost STEM and computer science for all our students, and
  • Triple our investment in career-connected learning opportunities for students wanting to enter the workforce after high school.

These are proven, evidence-based strategies that I’ve seen as I have travelled across the state.

They help students at risk of dropping out get back on track, like here at Lincoln High School.

They help students who HAVE dropped out go back to school and get their diploma AND job training, like at the Workforce Development Center in Mukilteo.

They help new teachers develop the skills and confidence they need to be effective in the classroom like at Millennium Elementary School in Kent.

They inspire kids to get excited about coding and science, like at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle or Delta High School in Pasco.

They help kids who are hungry or homeless by connecting their families with support services, like at Lincoln Heights Elementary School in Spokane.

These programs — these investments — they make a difference.

I’m so confident about this that we’re updating our Results Washington goals to reflect new goals for closing the opportunity gap and increasing graduation rates for college- and career-ready students.

I’ll be talking more about the rest of my budget tomorrow and you’ll see that for the first time in over three decades, K-12 spending will top 50 percent of total state spending.

This is big. This is bold. And this is what it will take to fund the education system our children have waited too long for.

We pay for this in a way that is fair and sustainable.

Our economy is growing, and that helps.

And we’ve been able to put quite a bit of money into reserves, and that also helps.

But if we want to maintain our commitment to our students in a sustainable way, more must be done.

I am proposing to clean up our tax system by closing five outdated business tax breaks that are no longer serving their original purpose or fail to show a compelling economic benefit.

Instead of raising property or sales taxes and making our already regressive, upside-down tax system worse, I propose the wealthiest Washingtonians would pay a little more with a modest capital gains tax, the lowest on the west coast.

I propose we put a tax on carbon pollution, which also has the benefit of promising us cleaner air.

And I propose to update our outdated tax codes with a 1 percent increase in the B&O tax rate for services. That increase would come with an increase in the B&O tax exemption threshold so smaller businesses aren’t impacted and more than 38,000 additional companies will receive some tax relief.

The result is that every school district — every single school district in Washington state — will receive additional funding.

Here in Tacoma, the state will provide an additional $1,800 per student. In Yakima, $2800 per student. In Spokane, $1900 per student.

And because of the increased state funding for basic education, we can lower local property taxes in many school districts, with 75 percent of households and businesses seeing their property taxes go down.

Let me say this again: parents in every school district will see their schools get more resources, and most will get a property tax cut.

I am proposing to fully fund education, and to take the next step to providing not simply a basic education but a great one for all students.

I know this is a heavy lift for next session and legislators will come with their own ideas. This is the year to get this done.

I look forward to working with them and forging a path forward, together, for our students, teachers and families.