More politics as usual in Olympia

Editorial by Ken VanceI have to tell you, it’s getting harder and harder each day to stay involved in politics at any level. Whether it’s our local government and municipalities, or the current legislative session in Olympia or the circus sideshow that’s going on across our nation, I often feel like just running and hiding rather than engaging at any meaningful level.

Ken Vance, Editor
Ken Vance, Editor

I love social media, but venturing onto Facebook or Twitter can be exhausting these days and the venom and acrimony — those words don’t even seem adequate to describe what’s going on — seems to only be increasing each day.

Of the many things troubling me today, the actions of our legislators in Olympia has moved to the top of the list for the moment. Rep. Vicki Kraft, our first-termer from the 17th District, sent out her legislative update this morning. One of the items in her update was entitled “Fund Education First.’’

Kraft describes a battle that’s been going on in Olympia for a few years now. Legislators are still facing the challenge of complying with the state Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in which the justices ruled that Washington is violating its constitution by underfunding K-12 schools. To this day, the court has rejected the lawmakers’ attempts to increase funding for education. As a result, the justices held the state in contempt in 2014 and just last summer instituted $100,000-per-day fines against the state. As a result, all eyes are the lawmakers’ efforts to address the issue during the 2017 legislative session.

In recent years, state Republicans and conservatives have attempted to fund education first in the budget process but they have been unsuccessful in doing so. Those same efforts were thwarted once again early in the 2017 session.

“Funding education first would change the state’s budget process by requiring the Legislature to pass a K-12 education budget before any other appropriations,’’ Kraft wrote in her legislative update. “The Washington State Constitution, Article IX Section 1, says, ‘It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders …’

“This change to the budget process would indeed demonstrate K-12 education is our highest priority by funding it first in the budget,’’ Kraft continued. “This week, an amendment to the House rules was proposed to establish this requirement and fund education first. I spoke on the House floor in support of this amendment, noting this would demonstrate our desire to be accountable and fiscally responsible to our students and families.

“As the McCleary decision continues to loom, it was disappointing this measure was not passed following a party-line vote, 50-48. I am a supporter of funding education first,’’ Kraft said.

You can watch video of Kraft’s comments on the House floor here:

Obviously, what’s going on in Olympia is this. The lawmakers who oppose funding education first are well aware of their obligation to do so. As a result, they attempt to get as much other spending approved in the budget first, knowing they will be forced to increase the budget later to address funding education. If the education funding was approved first, it would be more difficult to get their pork approved in the budget after the fact than it is in the early stages of the process.

It’s exhausting. It’s exasperating. Choose your own alliteration, I just don’t see how it makes sense to anyone with common sense.

I know Rep. Liz Pike, of the 18th district, and other area lawmakers have fought the same battle in Olympia during recent years. I tip my hat to lawmakers like Pike and Kraft for fighting the good fight. We’ll see how the rest of the legislative session goes in terms of funding education and addressing the McCleary decision, but they are once again off the a bad start.

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About The Author

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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