A great education for ALL of our kids

A great education for ALL of our kids

by Rep. JD Rossetti

Published in the Camas-Washougal Post-Record on June 14, 2016

Every mom and dad wants the best for their children.

Right now, we’re not getting the best because of D.C.-style gridlock in Olympia.

Here’s the story, and what we can do to fix it.

Our paramount duty

The founders of Washington state were clear about education: a basic education for every child is the paramount duty of the state.

Yet kids in small towns and rural areas like our 19th District don’t get the same education in public schools as students in Bellevue or other wealthy suburbs.

There’s a statewide teacher shortage, partly because teachers are leaving the profession.

There’s a classroom shortage, with a growing population of students crammed into overcrowded classrooms or portables.

And there’s a simple shortage of cash, with school after school struggling to buy textbooks and fund programs for our kids.

Rubbing salt into this wound: your property taxes are actually higher compared to these wealthy zipcodes.

The root cause is simple

Why? Because the way our schools are funded is fundamentally unfair.

Parents noticed and filed a lawsuit (McCleary), which went all the way to the state Supreme Court, and judges agreed with the parents. They ordered lawmakers to fully fund public schools.

That case happened years ago.

Yet our kids, parents and teachers are still waiting for the day when schools are fully funded.

As a father, a school board director and a lawmaker, I’m just as fed up as the parents who started this movement, which actually started in the ‘70s, with parents pushing for full and fair funding of our schools.

It’s a question of fairness, opportunity and prosperity. All of our kids deserve a great education and a chance at the American Dream.

Our kids, and our state, will suffer if our public schools are struggling. Today’s global economy is based on brainpower, with workers and businesses competing for the best jobs in the world.

We can’t afford to let our kids down.

Ending D.C.-style gridlock in Olympia

There’s an ideology popular in Congress that’s increasingly infecting Olympia: that doing nothing is a victory. That cutting spending and taxes is the only good choice even when our population is growing. And that political gridlock isn’t a temporary glitch, but a permanent and preferred method of operating.

I reject those ideas. They haven’t worked in Congress and they won’t help Washington state.

We must work together, as Democrats and Republicans, to solve problems for kids and families from Aberdeen to Longview to Spokane.

Other states and nations aren’t standing still. They’re building schools and universities, bridges and highways, ports and parks. Doing nothing due to political gridlock only weakens our state’s economic and limits the future of today’s students.

That’s why I supported an innovative, bipartisan plan to build $1 billion of K-3 classrooms without raising a dime in taxes. Senate Republicans wouldn’t even consider it.

It’s why I backed boosting the starting pay of teachers to $40,000, because the best way to give students a great education is to make sure there’s a great teacher in every classroom.

And it’s why I believe we need to do more to tackle the high school dropout rate and find real solutions that will finally fix the education funding crisis.

The can has been kicked down the road so many times for so many years that you can’t even see it anymore.

Our kids, parents and teachers deserve better.

Education isn’t just the paramount duty under our state’s constitution. It’s our No. 1 priority if we want our kids to have a fair shot in life and our state to have a real chance at future prosperity.

Rep. JD Rossetti, D-Longview, lives in Longview with his wife and three sons. He is a small business owner who serves on the Longview School Board.