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Washington State Set to Slash Education and Health Care for the Poor

Monday, 28 November 2011 08:27 By Jesse Hagopian, Truthout | News Analysis

A premeditated crime is about to take place on November 28, 2011.

With police across the country obsessively focused on enforcing camping regulations on Occupy activists, dangerous criminals who perpetrate truly heinous crimes are being left to run free.

When a crime syndicate recently announced its intention to make another hit on the youth of Washington State, teachers began preparing to take up yet another unpaid task in their day to help enforce public safety.

This organized crime ring is made up of Washington State lawmakers from both parties, who are set to convene a special legislative session on November 28 to cut $2 billion from the state budget, largely from education and health care - a clear violation of a Washington State court ruling last February that found the state guilty of not fulfilling its Constitutional obligation to fund basic education.

As King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick ruled in his February school-funding decision, "State funding is not ample, it is not stable, and it is not dependable." Washington's Constitution declares that education is the state's "paramount duty" - making the proposed shortening of the K-12 school year by four days and cutting $152 million in levy-equalization payments to property-poor school districts in clear violation of the law.

Beyond breaking the state Constitution and Judge Erlick's recent ruling, these budget cuts are literally a matter of life and death. Should the cuts be ratified, it would result in the elimination of the state's basic health plan, ending a program that subsidizes health care for some 35,000 people living in poverty. Denying health care to the state's most vulnerable populations will undoubtedly lead to increased morbidity.

In a feeble attempt to defray these draconian budget cuts, Washington State Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed a regressive sales tax increase. Yet, in a state that gives away $6.5 billion through tax loopholes, mostly to big business, taxing already struggling Washingtonians is no solution. Washington-based Microsoft received $143 million last year in special tax breaks, and aircraft maker Boeing got $104 million. JPMorgan Chase, which took over Washington Mutual in 2008, continues to receive a $120 million tax break on interest collected on first-time mortgages. There are also loopholes for cosmetic surgery ($6.25 million this year) and private jet enthusiasts ($5 million this year). By some measures, Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the entire nation, which has already led to 2.7 billion in cuts to K-12 education over the past three years. This means that even if the legislature passes a proposed sales-tax - a measure very likely to fail - they will still be in flagrant violation of the law.

On Monday, November 28, Occupiers will be attempting to turn the Olympia capitol building into a scene out of Wisconsin. I will be taking the day off from school to teach a more vivid civics lesson than I ever could from within the four walls of my classroom by joining with scores of educators to help reclaim our state capitol building in Olympia. Members of the Social Equality Educators, a progressive network of Northwest teachers, will be issuing citizen arrest warrants to the state legislature for their failure to uphold their constitutional duty to fund education.

Today, I am going shopping - anyone know of a good "Black Friday" deal on a sturdy pair of handcuffs?

Jesse Hagopian

Jesse Hagopian is an associate editor for Rethinking Schools magazine. Jesse teaches history and is the Black Student Union adviser at Garfield High School, the site of the historic boycott of the MAP standardized test.  He is the editor and contributing author to More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing (Haymarket Books, 2014) and recipient of the 2013 “Secondary School Teacher of the Year” award from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences. A survivor of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Jesse is an advocate for Haitian human rights. Follow Jesse on his blog at www.iamaneducator.com or on Twitter: @jessedhagopian


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Washington State Set to Slash Education and Health Care for the Poor

Monday, 28 November 2011 08:27 By Jesse Hagopian, Truthout | News Analysis

A premeditated crime is about to take place on November 28, 2011.

With police across the country obsessively focused on enforcing camping regulations on Occupy activists, dangerous criminals who perpetrate truly heinous crimes are being left to run free.

When a crime syndicate recently announced its intention to make another hit on the youth of Washington State, teachers began preparing to take up yet another unpaid task in their day to help enforce public safety.

This organized crime ring is made up of Washington State lawmakers from both parties, who are set to convene a special legislative session on November 28 to cut $2 billion from the state budget, largely from education and health care - a clear violation of a Washington State court ruling last February that found the state guilty of not fulfilling its Constitutional obligation to fund basic education.

As King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick ruled in his February school-funding decision, "State funding is not ample, it is not stable, and it is not dependable." Washington's Constitution declares that education is the state's "paramount duty" - making the proposed shortening of the K-12 school year by four days and cutting $152 million in levy-equalization payments to property-poor school districts in clear violation of the law.

Beyond breaking the state Constitution and Judge Erlick's recent ruling, these budget cuts are literally a matter of life and death. Should the cuts be ratified, it would result in the elimination of the state's basic health plan, ending a program that subsidizes health care for some 35,000 people living in poverty. Denying health care to the state's most vulnerable populations will undoubtedly lead to increased morbidity.

In a feeble attempt to defray these draconian budget cuts, Washington State Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed a regressive sales tax increase. Yet, in a state that gives away $6.5 billion through tax loopholes, mostly to big business, taxing already struggling Washingtonians is no solution. Washington-based Microsoft received $143 million last year in special tax breaks, and aircraft maker Boeing got $104 million. JPMorgan Chase, which took over Washington Mutual in 2008, continues to receive a $120 million tax break on interest collected on first-time mortgages. There are also loopholes for cosmetic surgery ($6.25 million this year) and private jet enthusiasts ($5 million this year). By some measures, Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the entire nation, which has already led to 2.7 billion in cuts to K-12 education over the past three years. This means that even if the legislature passes a proposed sales-tax - a measure very likely to fail - they will still be in flagrant violation of the law.

On Monday, November 28, Occupiers will be attempting to turn the Olympia capitol building into a scene out of Wisconsin. I will be taking the day off from school to teach a more vivid civics lesson than I ever could from within the four walls of my classroom by joining with scores of educators to help reclaim our state capitol building in Olympia. Members of the Social Equality Educators, a progressive network of Northwest teachers, will be issuing citizen arrest warrants to the state legislature for their failure to uphold their constitutional duty to fund education.

Today, I am going shopping - anyone know of a good "Black Friday" deal on a sturdy pair of handcuffs?

Jesse Hagopian

Jesse Hagopian is an associate editor for Rethinking Schools magazine. Jesse teaches history and is the Black Student Union adviser at Garfield High School, the site of the historic boycott of the MAP standardized test.  He is the editor and contributing author to More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing (Haymarket Books, 2014) and recipient of the 2013 “Secondary School Teacher of the Year” award from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences. A survivor of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Jesse is an advocate for Haitian human rights. Follow Jesse on his blog at www.iamaneducator.com or on Twitter: @jessedhagopian


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