walegiTop Ten Reasons Why You Should Care About What Happens in Olympia

About 70% of school district funding is allocated by the Legislature. In this session, the Legislature is developing the budget for the biennium, so the direct effects on school programs will be felt for two years and longer.

Here are ten reasons why this is important to you and your profession:

1. Your COLA. The Legislature has the power to fund your COLA. Several years ago, in fact, they decided to suspend it. This year, you received a 3.3% increase from the state. If you're a beginning teacher, that's an increase of $1,100 over last year. If you're at the top of the salary schedule, you're making almost $2,000 more than you did last year.

2. Your salary. Teacher salaries in Washington have fallen to dead last among the west coast states. In the early 1980s, we were 5th in the nation.

3. The high cost of living in some areas. The Legislature has refused to pass legislation that would allow regions to run levies for salary supplements to help offset the high cost of housing in districts like ours. WEA will be trying again in the upcoming legislative session to get funding for this important concern.

4. Your benefits. Health insurance premiums continually rise at a rate much higher than inflation. The Legislature decides whether to fully fund the increases, like they did this year, or make you shoulder the additional costs.

5. Your retirement. Right now, those in Plans 2 and 3 won't be eligible to retire with full benefits until they reach age 65. For some, that means teaching for 43 years. The Legislature will be considering ways to reduce the retirement age to a more reasonable number.

6. Your class size. Washington is now 47th in the nation in class size. It's up to the Legislature to fund basic education so that you're able to give your students the individual attention they need in order to succeed.

7. How much money is spend educating your students. According to Education Week, Washington ranks 42nd in per-pupil funding.

8. Your certification. The new professional certification requirement, which came into effect in September 2000, is an extremely burdensome system that badly needs improvement. Legislation is needed that would make the requirements more reasonable and meaningful for teachers new to the profession or to the state.

9. Special education funding. The state significantly under funds special education, causing school districts to use funds from other programs to meet federal special education mandates.

10. School funding. In 1981, Judge Doran ordered the Legislature to fully fund education. The Legislature responded by creating the Basic Education Act and devoting 50.4% of the state's general fund budget to K-12 education. Today only about 42% of the budget is earmarked for K-12 education -- a loss of billions if the same percentage had been maintained over the years.