No doubt you have all been reading about the pessimistic budget forecast that came out last week. Editorials, news articles, opinion pieces and letters to the editor have been in the local papers about what should be done to “close the gap.”
Some of you have been contacting the Coalition asking what actions you as education advocates need to take . We are still recommending that you hold off on contacting your individual legislators. Rather, we recommend that you concentrate on local opinion and try to influence it. How can you do that? Letters to the editor are your most effective means and can have impact immediately. Legislators read their local papers.
What issues should you cover in your letters? Pick only one of the following and keep it within the word limits of your paper.
1. Funding education is the “paramount duty” of the state and further cuts to K-12 education in general constitute a failure of the Legislature in this paramount duty.
The NEWS suit for full funding will be before the Supreme Court of Washington on June 28th. Judge Erlick found the state to be out of compliance with the paramount duty clause and the state is appealing his decision. You can find more information at http://www.waschoolexcellence.org.
2. The state must proceed with full implementation of education reform (bills 2261 and 2776) as scheduled. As a clause in a proposed amendment to HB 1849 puts it in Sec. 101, “Washington cannot afford to wait for better times to make changes we know are necessary for our children’s and state’s future.”
3. Highly Capable Programs are not something extra to be funded only when times are good. For highly capable students, access to accelerated learning and enhanced instruction is access to a basic education. Cuts are going to be necessary but HCP can be cut in such a way that it won’t die. It can be cut with some sense of equity. It can be cut in a way that this essential program can survive.
How do you go about writing to your local newspaper?
You can find contact information for your local paper in the print edition of the paper or at the paper’s website. The Secretary of State also maintains a listing of newspaper websites at http://www.sos.wa.gov/library/wa_newspapers.aspx. Most papers will provide contact information on an “About Us” or “Contact Us” page. Many will accept letters to the editor submitted via email, while others will provide a mailing address.
If you have never written to a paper before, the National Association for Gifted Children’s advocacy web site at http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=3148 has some excellent suggestions and examples of where to begin.
Other efforts you can make now are to become active in your local parent support group. Parent groups have been forming at a great rate in recent months as the danger to HCPs has become apparent. They need your support when they advocate with local school districts to continue Highly Capable Programs despite budget cuts.