Solutions Summit 2018 Recap
May 25, 2018

For two days, our state’s community leaders, policymakers and concerned citizens came together at our state’s premier policy conference, Washington Policy Center’s annual Solutions Summit.  Audiences in Bellevue and Spokane walked away with deeper understandings of how Washington can keep its tax policies competitive and improve state policy in education, the environment, agriculture, and labor.

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Mark Janus headlines WPC Solutions Summit events
May 23, 2018

Over the past two days, hundreds of engaged citizens attended WPC’s 5th Annual Solutions Summit events in Western and Eastern Washington where they heard the story of Mark Janus.

Mark Janus is the man behind one of the most important legal cases of our time.  His case, Janus v. AFSCME, which is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, would end the forced unionization of public workers by giving them the right to reject paying a union for representation they may not want.  The nine Supreme Court Justices who will rule on Janus next month will determine whether requiring public employees to pay union dues or agency fees for the privilege of working violates the First Amendment rights of those workers.

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How to solve problems “around funding for services of autistic kids”
May 21, 2018

Rep. Mike Sells (D-Everett) read my post about Lindsay Legg, the mother whose autistic son Noah was turned away by her local public school officials. (See KING 5 TV story here.) Rep. Sells shares my concern for autistic children and challenged me to “solve the problems around funding for services for autistic kids.” I am delighted to respond to his invitation and provide a positive solution for kids like Noah.  

The public money for special needs children is there already. It’s just not being used in the right way. The legislature has just provided the largest increase in funding to public schools in state history, a $9.7 billion, or 75 percent increase, in less than ten years. Special education funding per student is rising next year to $18,000 per student. Lawmakers voted to impose a large property tax increase to provide these funds. This along with the other increases in funding the legislature has provided is a massive, unprecedented, and historic increase in school funding.

The problem is getting the money to the students. Most of Washington’s 295 school districts are highly bureaucratic, centralized, and unionized. A lot of the $22.7 billion the state provides is being diverted away from school classrooms and students. Central administrative office and other support functions consume on average 40 cents of every dollar, leaving little for classrooms. By comparison, private schools and public charter schools direct about 80% to 90% of their funding to teachers and classrooms.  

Index Public Schools, which denied services to Noah, spends $36,000 per student and has more employees in administration than in the classroom.

Seattle Public Schools, the richest in the state, employs 3,200 non-teachers and 3,200 teachers, full-time. Seattle has 6,634 special needs students, but diverts about $50 million in special needs funding to administrators. (See page 65 of budget, here.)

My answer to Rep. Sells’ very good question is to end the practice of diverting money out of special education services and direct these funds to parents. Give the money directly to parents like Lindsay, in the form of an Education Savings Account. Lindsay would deliver more of the benefit of these resources to Noah, and in a way suited to Noah’s needs, and not for the convenience of school officials.    

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