Education

Funding education – from early learning through college or career –  is the single most important investment we can make in our state’s future.

Gerry has been organizing for lower class sizes and to address the severe overcrowding in our local schools since 2007; and, has been active with PTSA and education for many years. Gerry’s a leader in the Legislature to provide the revenue we need to fund our schools and make our tax system more fair so our children’s constitutional rights to education aren’t put on hold for another generation.

Before Gerry represented the 46th District in the House, the state provided no support to address the overcrowded schools in north Seattle. Putting to work his years of organizing and knowledge about the severe overcrowding and lack of school capacity in north Seattle, Gerry developed and led successful efforts to provide Seattle and Northshore schools with tens of millions of dollars to reopen the Marshall School (housing Hazel Wolf K-8), Cedar Park Elementary and others.

150 special education students die every year across the US from use of restraints and isolation in schools. That won’t happen any longer in our state. Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy recognized Gerry for his leadership in passing legislation ending the use of restraint and isolation on autistic and special education students in Washington in 2015. Gerry continues to lead efforts to improve outcomes, supports and opportunities for special needs and dyslexic students.

Gerry was responsible for developing the Legislature’s comprehensive plan to address the teacher shortage crisis in 2016. His innovative legislation, signed into law, includes a new grant program to pay for lower income college students’ junior and senior years’ tuition if they obtain their teaching certification and teach in shortage areas for five years. Gerry continues to be a leader to address the State’s critical shortage of teachers and is widely recognized as the leading voice for Special Education students in the Legislature.

Gerry’s work to improve access and support for higher education has been recognized as Legislator of the Year by The Washington Student Association an unprecedented two years in a row, and by the UW Graduate and Professional Student Senate.

As a faculty member at the UW School of Public Health and Vice-Chair of the House Higher Education Committee, Gerry sees the incredible burden of high student loan debts and high drop-out rates due to our still far too high tuition levels and lack of advising and other support for students. Gerry has led efforts to lower tuition, increase student aid and support for our colleges and universities. Working closely with AFT and WEA, Gerry developed legislation which has passed the House twice to address the unfair low pay and working conditions faced by community college faculty.

President Obama’s White House looked to Rep. Pollet’s Free Community College proposed legislation – “The Washington Promise,” developed with seatmate Senator David Frockt and then Senator Pramila Jayapal, as a national model.

In his first year in the Legislature, Gerry led the successful effort to save college work-study from being eliminated as proposed in Governor Gregoire’s budget. In 2017, the House passed Gerry’s legislation to protect students at for-profit colleges from outrageous loans, closing programs, and false claims made to entice students to enroll in programs with tuition that costs far more than similar programs at our state community and technical colleges. Gerry as led a facilitated dialogue on how to regulate the for-profit colleges during 2017, which will hopefully lead to final passage of groundbreaking legislation to protect students.

Encouraging Professional Development
Professional development programs are proven to enhance the effectiveness of teachers, and I wholeheartedly support salary and bonus awards for teachers who receive National Board certification. NBCT teachers not only improve the performance of the students in their own classrooms, but for the entire school. NBCT teachers spend incredible amounts of time, as well as large amounts of their own money, to achieve certification, and as a state, we made commitments to fund the steps for NTCB teachers and increased compensation for teaching in our most challenging schools. We must not break those commitments.

Gerry has also been a leader to remove the requirements for teachers to collect and pass PRO-Teach portfolios to remain teachers.. This burden can cost thousands of dollars and take tremendous time – without any increase in pay or evidence of it improving teaching.

Meeting our obligations to fund “Basic Education” and how Charter Schools would impact those paramount duties:
Our state Constitution – and our moral duty as citizens – requires that we amply fund “general and uniform systems of schools” for “all children… without distinction or preference.”

For years, even before the recession, we have been robbing children of their future by failing to fund what our state has defined as “basic education.” That definition of basic education is not even adequate – leaving out early learning and higher education. Essentially, our definition of basic education is decades behind the science of child development, which shows we need to be providing essential learning experiences – not just childcare – from ages 3 to 5 for children to succeed throughout their public school careers.

Gerry is a strong advocate for expanding the definition of basic education to include early learning opportunities and programs for all children.

Now is the time for every parent, teacher and advocate for our children’s education and our state’s future to unite in a campaign to provide the funding needed to meet this basic obligation.

Therefore, it is unfortunate and divisive to have those who advocated alongside Gerry and many others for fully funding education to spend millions pushing a charter school initiative, and then millions more to have the Legislature put a bandaid on what  will be a vain attempt to fix what the State Supreme Court held unconstitutional. Sadly, the charter school advocates prevailed narrowly in the Legislature and voted to spend millions of dollars on charter schools.But, their legislation still fails the basic test of being accountable to any elected school board or the Superintendent of Public Instruction; and, exclude students. This leaves local public schools overcrowded and having to fund the special needs students which charters don’t serve. Charter schools have been a step towards privatization and, by definition, involve a loss of local control and de-professionalization of teachers. This so-called limited experiment sought for our state grew from a handful of schools to proposing 40 charter schools, and that this expansion is fueled by privatization and anti-union agendas. It is ironic that advocates for charter schools can’t articulate why the “reforms” that they cite for charter schools’ performance are not adoptable within public schools without ceding control to an outside operator, removing control from the local school district and removing representation of the educators.

Let’s focus on what we agree is our paramount duty: to fund schools for every child.
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That is why Gerry assisted in drafting and filing two amicus briefs to the State Supreme Court in the McCleary case in 2017, hoping that the court would recognize we have NOT fully funded education. We have sadly left districts without the ability to provide special and bilingual education to tens of thousands of children in Washington. The work to fully fund out children’s education is far from over!