Just like students frequently wait until the last minute to write and edit assigned papers, the Legislature has finally introduced at least four plans to address full-funding of K–12 education. With ten days left in the 2015 regular session, major and complex proposals have been introduced to meet the Washington Supreme Court contempt finding against the State. The proposals are the Legislature’s attempt to mitigate the Court’s finding that it “will reconvene and impose sanctions or other remedial measures” if the State does not “demonstrate, through immediate, concrete action, that it is making real and measurable progress, not simple promises” by the 2017–18 school year. This week, proposals were introduced by three caucuses and OSPI. The underlying issue with all of the plans is the Legislature’s distrust of school districts ability to live within their means and be accountable for student success and the local schools’ distrust of the Legislature to stay true to the promises made previously to fully fund basic education (in addition to not micromanage education).
Tuesday, State Superintendent Dorn introduced a six year plan that calls for an additional $2.2 billion. Read our Wednesday blog post for more details about his proposal. The post also provides links to additional documents with more specifics about the plan. On Monday, Washington State Treasurer James McIntire will hold a press conference to discuss what the State could do to fund the McCleary decision.
Senate Democrats Plan
On Wednesday, education leaders in the Senate Democrat Caucus held a press conference to unveil their plan to fully fund education. Senate Democrats introduced three separate bills dealing with:
- Compensation reform (SB 6104) – includes a new salary allocation model for teachers linked to the state’s certification system. It is scheduled for a public hearing on Monday, April 20th.
- Revenue to fund the McCleary plan (SB 6102) – creates a capital gains tax for 7,500 people with capital gains in excess of $250,000. It is also scheduled for a public hearing on Monday, April 20th in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
- Reducing reliance on local levies (SB 6103) – reduces a district’s levy collected by the same amount of any new K–12 salary enhancements received from the State. SB 6103 had a public hearing Friday morning in the Senate Ways & Means Committee,
A one-page summary of the all three bills is available and a more in-depth review of SB 6104 is also obtainable.
Senate Republicans Plan
Also on Wednesday, Senator Bruce Dammeier (R-Puyallup) introduced SB 6109 which Republicans are calling “sweeping school-finance reform.” The 66-page bill shifts the responsibility from local school district levies to the state common-school levy. It draws a clear line between basic education and other K–12 programs and what the State will pay for by creating a local levy reporting process that will be audited. It addresses the issues of compensation, health care by creating a School Employees’ Benefit Board, local school district levies authority, and would be fully implemented by 2020.
The bill was heard in a public hearing on Friday and had over 25 people testify. Of concern for principals is a passage on page 8, lines 5–17, which calls for the districtwide total compensation for certificated administrative staff (CAS) to not exceed the total state allocation for CAS augmented by the localization factor. If you follow the Seahawks and get the concept of the salary cap, you pretty much understand the issue with this part of the bill.
House Democrats Plan
Not to be outdone Wednesday, the House Democrats introduced HB 2239 with Representative Ross Hunter (D-Bellevue) as the prime sponsor. It creates a “plan to plan” where a new entity, the Washington Education Funding Council would review time, responsibility, or incentive (TRI) contracts and school district levies by August 1, 2019. It is not currently scheduled for a hearing.