Friday, April 21, 2017

Fully Fund Washington's schools, invest more (not less) and branch out for long-term revenue

My daughter, Sidney, 2nd grade
Our message to Senator Braun on 3/26
Dear Members of the WA State Education Task Force:
(Sen. Andy Billig, Sen. Dino Rossi, Rep. Pat Sullivan, Sen. Ann Rivers, Rep. Kristine Lytton, Sen. Christine Rolfes, Rep. David Taylor & Rep. Paul Harris)

Do you know what I see when I volunteer in my daughter’s elementary school each week? The incredible amount of effort and resources it takes--even in an affluent school--to teach and make progress with each individual child. Many educators do this without having the services, personnel and resources they need and many compensate for it out of their own pockets or with overtime, when they’d normally be with their own families.

So in a state that is home to some of the wealthiest people and the biggest companies in the world, how is it that our public schools are still so under-resourced? Why do we shortchange our children this way?

I'm at a loss as to how Senate Republican lawmakers can propose to only really fund HALF the state’s schools with their plan while at the same time pressing significant taxes upon the property-owning middle class. The Seattle Times reported on 2/22 that this plan weighs even heavier on Seattle-area property owners than previously thought and Seattle families will receive less per-student-funding for their contributions than other parts of the state. It seemed hasty that 5607 was shoved through. It didn't allow time for the public, the Committees or Senate Democrats to really dig into the details. As a result, the true financial impact and it’s inadequacy was only discovered after it passed the Senate.

But Senator Ann Rivers said to me in an email exchange on 1/31/2017, “Please don't misunderstand me – I don't think 5607 is perfect. It is however, at this time, the singular bill that has 25 votes in the entire legislature.” This sounds like Republicans knew the plan wasn’t so much about best serving our students but rather slamming through a solution that would appease the lawsuit. The bottom line is: it still doesn’t solve the problem.

It's time to start looking at stable revenue sources without gutting every other social service because this is a long-term investment in our children and our state's economy via our competitiveness for jobs & innovation. State Superintendent Chris Reykdal agreed that more resources are needed in this Crosscut article (2/22/17). "A straight swap of state for local dollars such as the one proposed by Republicans isn’t enough. “If you’re seriously going to change outcomes for every student … I think every school district should have more resources,” Reykdal said. “The bottom line is they need to invest more.

Therefore, I am asking you to support the House Democrats’ budget. I urge you to embrace the capital gains tax which will ensure that the wealthiest Washingtonians pay their fair share. And by the way, I’m not just asking here for ‘others’ to fund education. My husband and I will get to participate since we exercise stock and pay capital gains taxes every year too.

Also close tax break loop holes to large companies, like Boeing, who--let’s face it--have no loyalty to Washington when the bottom line is concerned. But our schools educate the next generation of workers. Why should big business reap the rewards of this workforce that they don’t help build? Washington is a great place to live and draws a deep and diverse talent pool. Companies are lucky to set up here and the state should start acting like it.

I’m a parent and constituent in the 36th District. But my family has and does live all over the state of Washington--and we are all products of the public school system.

  • Rep. David Taylor: My grandfather was born and raised in Toppinish. He went to school there and worked on the family farm until the family was relocated to a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming.
  • Sen. Andy Billig: My dad grew up on South Hill and attended the original Grant Elementary and went on to graduate from Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane.
  • Rep. Paul Harris: My father and stepmother now reside in the 17th district and my stepmom teaches 1st grade at Harmony Elementary, also located in your district.
  • And as I previously shared with Sen. Ann Rivers: I grew up in her district of Ridgefield and attended Union Ridge Elementary, View Ridge Middle School and ultimately graduated from Ridgefield High School.

As my kids look ahead to 3rd grade (Sidney) and Kindergarten (Calvin) in the Fall, I ask you now that you’re in special session to set aside the lesser angels of our nature and work together to finally fulfill Washington’s Paramount Duty of fully funding education. Use the House Democrats plan. Create a sustainable revenue stream that simultaneously fixes our lopsided tax system and keeps social services intact. Shore up taxes lost to big businesses who aren’t paying nearly enough and tax capital gains 5-7% more. This legislation will define our core values as a state but it really shows voters if our lawmakers can overcome ideology and special-interest influence to do right by our most precious and beloved resource: our children.

Thank you,
Kali Sakai
Seattle, WA

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Henry Shiro Sakai, 1926-2017

Last Wednesday April 12th while we were in Portland, my great-uncle Henry Shiro Sakai passed away. He was 91 and the youngest (and last) of my grandfather’s siblings. According to my Dad, he was an electrical engineer who worked in avionics for North American Aviation, which among other things had supplied modules for the space shuttle program. 
I had written to Uncle Hank this past February telling him of our plans to visit Portland during Spring Break and wanted to interview him. My thought was to get an account of our family’s experience in the World War II Japanese Internment Camps for posterity. He even made a joke in a subsequent voice mail that he hoped he’d still be around when we were scheduled to visit on Saturday April 15th. I had no idea that I should have taken his comment more seriously. I guess you can never know these things but I am heartbroken that I didn't take the initiative even 6 months sooner to talk to him about it. 

There isn’t going to be an official obituary or service—he and my aunt who survives him decided that wasn’t necessarybut I wanted to pay a humble homage to him anyway. RIP Uncle.

Photos by Cindy Hovind, 2013