The race for the 21st Legislative district, Position 2, brings into focus the state Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision and the mandate to fully fund K-12 education. Sixty years ago, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote without irony that “Washington has made education her proudest boast.” It’s a boast that’s grown less resonant over the years.
Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, who was appointed in January when Marko Liias was sent to the state Senate following Sen. Paull Shin’s resignation, has a visceral understanding of K-12 and is conditioned to see outcomes through a been-there, pragmatic lens. A mental health counselor and educator in the Everett School District, Ortiz-Self has worked at both Everett High and North Middle School. She’s witnessed the consequences of shredding the safety net as well as some novel approaches to ed reform.
“There should be more of us in the Legislature,” she said about K-12 educators. If Ortiz-Self is elected to a full term — and The Herald Editorial Board believes she deserves to be — she’ll have her hands full with all-things-McCleary.
Ortiz-Self, who serves on the House Early Learning Committee, advocates closing corporate-tax loopholes to underwrite McCleary. According to the state Department of Revenue, 575 state tax breaks have no expiration date. Well-heeled lobbyists labor to keep it that way.
Writing about the loophole conundrum in 2013, House Finance Committee Chairman Reuven Carlyle noted that, “Too often we jump to the conclusion that there is simply no political appetite in our state for tax reform to alleviate the weaknesses of our system for people, while simultaneously entertaining endless ‘modest’ fixes that alleviate the inefficiencies of our system on important industries.”
Ortiz-Self’s Republican opponent, Jeff Scherrer, is short on specifics beyond acknowledging that McCleary will dominate the session and that K-12 should be fully funded ahead of other spending. The Green Party candidate, Bob Lewis, is an articulate advocate for progressive remedies to ed funding and income inequality, solutions that are unlikely to gain political traction outside of Sweden or Seattle (a 5-10 percent capital gains excise tax, for example, and the $15 minimum wage). That said, Lewis and Ortiz-Self are both sensitized to the needs of low-income district residents.
The 21st, which includes Mukilteo and portions of Edmonds and Everett, as well as areas north of Lynnwood, is an urban-suburban cross-section. Ortiz-Self demonstrates the talent and leadership to represent all the citizens of the 21st. She should be retained.