An Open Letter to the McCleary Workgroup

On September 24, Governor Inslee will convene a work group on McCleary — the Washington State Supreme Court decision that upholds the state legislature’s paramount duty to fully fund public K-12 education. Rather than fulfilling that obligation, our state legislature is presently in contempt of the decision and paying a fine of $100,000 daily. If you want to get caught up, check out the grassroots group Washington’s Paramount Duty or use their handy list of relevant documents and articles here

Dear Senators Ericksen, Rivers, Rolfes, and Billig and Representatives Sullivan, Lytton, Magendanz and Smith,

I am the mother of three daughters; the oldest two are elementary students in the Seattle Public Schools. I am writing on behalf of these members of the Class of 2025, 2028, and 2033, in the hope that you apply sensible, bi-partisan solutions for Washington state to finally fulfill its paramount duty to fully funding public education.
Our state has unparalleled natural, agricultural, intellectual, and technological resources to marshal in providing for both our most vulnerable and for our future. By not fulfilling our promise to our children, we risk bankrupting our 21st century economy. The funding shortfall means that working, middle-class families are juggling constant requests to make up the budget at school, which always competes with the budget at home.
Here are the requests we have received to provide basic academic classroom equipment or supplies since the beginning of the school year:

  • Request to donate to a fund to purchase non-fiction and science books for our third-grader’s classroom
  • Request for $30 per student to provide basic school supplies to the classroom
  • Request for a donation of snacks for 26 students to share in the classroom
  • Request for additional supplies, such as plastic baggies, Kleenex, and baby wipes
In fulfilling these requests, we spent an additional $150 in the first three days of school. That is before registering for any sports, purchasing any school spirit t-shirts, or contributing to a PTA fund-raiser as we mimic a private-school funding model to make up for state shortfalls. Many families cannot continue to absorb these expenses as the cost of housing in Seattle has skyrocketed.
Since then, we’ve gotten notice that all of the children were exposed to chicken pox the first hour of the first day of school when I dropped the older two girls off in their classrooms. I’m especially concerned about my baby’s health, and I can’t help but wonder how the school’s response to this is limited by not having a full-time nurse on staff. Despite the fact that my kids’ school has nearly double the population of the rural town I grew up in, our school nurse is only available a few days per week. Without sufficient funding for full-time nurses in schools, our kids are on the front lines for any public health crisis without professional staff available to respond immediately.
My friends who have kids in private school wonder why I continue to monkey around with this system when I could just write a big check and be an educational client in a private school. The reason I keep my children in public school is simple: I heartily believe that it is our great democratic institution. When they walk through those doors, they meet the world. Their educators have been as warm, professional, engaging, and intelligent as  parent could hope for. I believe that public education —  the proposition that everybody goes to school-  is the place where my daughters will engage with their dreams and learn the skills they need to build the jets, write the code, write the business plans, open the gallery exhibit, and reap the harvest that the 21st century will require.
As a member of the McCleary workgroup, I believe you have an historic opportunity to fulfill Washington’s potential. I urge you to consider which state you wish to live in: a state of contempt or a state of care? A state of inadequacy or a state of equity?
Act now. The class of 2025 can’t wait.
Rachel Faber Machacha
First Day of School

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