Teachers, legislators discuss education at town hall meeting - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Teachers, legislators discuss education at town hall meeting

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Educators and legislators met over the weekend to express concerns about education funding. Educators and legislators met over the weekend to express concerns about education funding.
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Teachers and support staff hosted a town hall event Saturday at Rogers High School inviting local legislators to discuss major education issues.

Senator Andy Billig (D), State Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D) and State Rep. Bob McCaslin (R) were in attendance and spent most of the meeting listening to the concerns of local teachers.

"This is the session that our legislators need to fully fund education," says Jenny Rose, Spokane Education Association President. "This is it. They need to come up with the money."

Legislators were mandated to fully fund basic education by the Supreme Court per McCleary vs. the State.

"Our paramount obligation is to fully fund basic education," says Rep. Riccelli. "We're not meeting that obligation so we need to make a substantial down payment in the tune of $1 to 2 billion dollars."

The problem is where that money will come from. "Right now quite frankly we don't have the funds to close the gap," says Riccelli.

Senator Billig says that there is a revenue challenge. "The fundamental problem is that taxes are at the lowest point in decades." He says, "what we aspire to be as a state and what we fund in taxes, there is a gap."

A potential solution that will be proposed according to Riccelli, is a capital gains tax. That would only be paid by the top wealthiest percentage but extensive further discussion would happen before anything is decided.

Other issues brought up at the town hall event that turned out more than 700 members, were smaller class sizes, educator salaries, and less testing, more learning.

"We are actually losing good teachers because the joy is gone," says Rose. "All you do is you're testing to test."

She also says that cost of living pay increases haven't happened in the 21 years that she has been working in the education system. "Meanwhile healthcare cost is going up and these are issues that resonate with not only public school employees but our members and everyone."

Legislators are on board with smaller class sizes and the COLA raises.

They have the next six weeks to figure out where to get the money for education funding and balance the budget.

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