As you may know, the Washington State Legislature is in its first special session of the 2013 legislative session. The focus of the session is the budget and it is worth taking a careful look. The Housing Trust Fund, providing funding to affordable housing projects, along with other human services, has been cut substantially in the proposed budgets. (For more information , you can read the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA) blog on the Senate Budget). The reluctance of the Senate to close any tax loopholes or look for ways to increase revenue is disheartening.
The legislature’s focus this session has been on funding education, but sadly to the detriment of other essential programs. Education has been underfunded for over 30 years and it is true that our education system is in dire need of a major shot of revenue. But to think that we can pull money out of human services and give it to the education budget without doing harm to existing programs, to me, seems unrealistic. Children who are homeless or hungry are not ready to learn and it doesn’t make any difference how much money you pump into the education system, they will not be able to access what is being offered.
What I hear from my state senator, Rodney Tom, is that the people have spoken and they have voted for the 2/3’s majority to raise revenue. The senators are not going to be risk-takers by increasing taxes. But I question whether people really meant that they didn’t want to fund housing, healthcare, and education.
It is imperative that we look at education more holistically, understanding that it embodies more than the teacher and the curriculum. Education includes all of the services that support a child and their family. Children need a stable, safe home first and foremost before other services can be provided and have their intended impact. How do we expect a child to get the most out of their school experience if they are worrying about where they are going to spend the night and if they will return to this school tomorrow? It’s hard to do homework in a car or in a motel.
Encourage your representatives to fund the Housing Trust Fund through the Housing Development Consortium’s special session page—you can look up your representatives, call them, or even simply email them through the webpage. If you choose to use the email function, you can be most effective by changing the subject line and personalizing the message, even if it’s just the first paragraph.
Let’s put the home back in homework.
~Karen Tennyson, Advocacy Committee Member