Putting the cuffs on the real criminals

November 28, 2011

The Occupy movement in Washington state is planning a mass protest and acts of civil disobedience starting on November 28 as the legislature meets in Olympia for a special session dedicated to covering an additional $2 billion shortfall in the state budget.

Jesse Hagopian, a high school teacher in Seattle and member of Social Equality Educators, will be part of the protest. Here, he writes about the message he and his fellow teachers are planning to send to the budget-slashers--that it's time to follow the law and fully fund public education.

A PREMEDITATED crime is about to take place on November 28, 2011.

With police across the country obsessively focused on enforcing camping regulations on Occupy activists, dangerous criminals who perpetrate truly heinous crimes are being left to run free.

When a crime syndicate recently announced its intention to make another hit on the youth of Washington state, teachers began preparing to take up yet another unpaid task in their day to help enforce public safety.

This organized crime ring is made up of the state lawmakers from both parties who are set to convene a special legislative session on November 28 to cut $2 billion from the state budget, largely from education and health care--a clear violation a Washington state court ruling last February that found the state guilty of not fulfilling its Constitutional obligation to fund basic education.

As King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick stated in his February school-funding decision, "State funding is not ample, it is not stable, and it is not dependable."

Seattle occupiers stand up for public schools
Seattle occupiers stand up for public schools

Washington's constitution declares that education is the state's "paramount duty"--making the proposed shortening of the K-12 school year by four days and cutting $152 million in levy-equalization payments to property-poor school districts in clear violation of the law.

Beyond breaking the state constitution and Judge Erlick's recent ruling, these budget cuts are literally a matter of life and death. Should the cuts be ratified, it would result in the elimination of the state's Basic Health Plan, ending a program that subsidizes health care for some 35,000 people living in poverty. Denying health care to the state's most vulnerable populations will undoubtedly lead to increased morbidity.

In a feeble attempt to defray these draconian budget cuts, Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire has proposed a regressive sales tax increase. Yet in a state that gives away $6.5 billion through tax loopholes, mostly to big business, taxing already struggling Washingtonians is no solution.

Washington-based Microsoft received $143 million last year in special tax breaks, and aircraft maker Boeing got $104 million. JPMorgan Chase, which took over Washington Mutual in 2008, continues to receive a $120 million tax breaks on interest collected on first-time mortgages. There are also loopholes for cosmetic surgery ($6.25 million this year) and private jet enthusiasts ($5 million this year).

By some measures, Washington state has the most regressive tax system in the entire nation, which has already led to $2.7 billion in cuts to K-12 education over the past three years. This means that even if the legislature passes a proposed sales tax--a measure very likely to fail--it will still be in flagrant violation of the law.

On Monday, November 28, Occupiers will be attempting to turn the Olympia Capitol building into a scene out of Wisconsin.

I will be taking the day off from school to teach a more vivid civics lesson than I ever could from within the four walls of my classroom by joining with scores of educators to help reclaim our State Capitol building in Olympia. Members of the Social Equality Educators (SEE), a progressive network of Northwest teachers, will be issuing citizen arrest warrants to the state legislature for their failure to uphold their constitutional duty to fund education.

It's the day after Thanksgiving, and I'm going shopping--anyone know of a good "Black Friday" deal on a sturdy pair of handcuffs?

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