The last day of regular session for the 2017 Washington State Legislature is Sunday, April 23rd. As Senate Republicans and House Democrats have yet to begin serious negotiations over their respective budget proposals, closing a budget deal prior to the end of session is unlikely. Both parties have expressed concern and questioned whether the other’s proposal is realistic, given that the tax and revenue bills accompanying the both plans have not been passed. Therefore, at least one, if not more, special session(s) is in the forecast for the 2017 Legislature, as lawmakers struggle to find common ground over how to fully fund the state’s basic education program and comply with the state’s Supreme Court McCleary Ruling.
Both the Senate Republicans and the House Democrats have released their budget proposals for the 2017-19 biennium. While both parties are confident that their respective budgets will fully fund K-12 education and comply with the 2012 McCleary ruling, the House and the Senate take radically different approaches as to how that will be achieved.
The House plan gradually reduces existing local levies to pay for education and introduces an estimated $3 billion dollars of new revenue in the form of new taxes. The Senate plan eliminates those levies for 2019, caps them at lower rate of 10% beginning in 2020, and implements a new statewide property tax at the rate of $1.55/1,000 of accessed property value.
At the school level, the Senate plan calls for a restructuring of how funds are distributed with a new per-pupil funding model while the House plan leaves the existing prototypical school student staffing model in place. The minimum state basic per pupil guarantee in the Senate plan is $9,200 per student for the 18/19 school year and $10,200 for the 19/20 with additional allocations for students that are homeless, in poverty, and/or in CTE, SPED, or TBIP programs. The House Democrats argue that changes in the existing funding model is not necessary given that the state’s K-12 education system simply has not been fully funded in the past.
The Senate plan also throws out voter approved Initiative 1351 pertaining to class size reductions, while the House plan delays implementation for two years. The Senate plan calls for cuts in Early Learning, Higher Education, and social services, must notably the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Both proposals do agree, however, on increasing minimum starting teacher pay to $45,000.
The EEC’s Perspective on the Budget Proposals
The EEC is supportive of the Senate’s concept of transitioning into a more student-centered model, but has numerous concerns about the Senate’s proposal as a whole. Click here to view EEC’s take on the initial release of Senate Bill 5067.
The EEC has also released a policy memo on House Bill 1843, acknowledging efforts to make significant investments in Highly Capable Programs, Career and Technical Education, and the Learning Assistance Program, albeit over time. View an analysis of House Bill 1843 and our concerns here.
The EEC, together with the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission, is proud to host a five part professional growth series around the school-to-prison pipeline. The first of the series “Eliminating the Pipeline” will be held on April 27, 2017. Educators and those involved with the justice system are encouraged to visit our event page and learn more!
Earlier this legislative session, the EEC supported Senate Bill 5155 which prohibits suspension or expulsion of students in K-2. The bill represents EEC’s longstanding commitment to ending the unfair disciplinary practices that disproportionally affects children of color. Read why we supported SB 5155 here and why the EEC will continue to target policies and procedures related to discipline to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for all of the state’s students.
Washington’s Learning Assistance Program (LAP) currently serves 13% of the state’s students who are scoring below grade level standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics. While the program offers supplemental services to boost academic and/or readiness skills, LAP is part of the program of basic education program as defined in the state’s constitution. The EEC strongly believes that existing appropriations and statutory policies for LAP are resulting in inequitable access to services, exasperating educational and opportunity gaps, and underserving our state’s students of color. Read more about the EEC’s recommendations for the Learning Assistance Program in the 2017-19 biennium here.
With regards to Senate Bill 5607, publicly distributed on Saturday, January 28th 2017, the Equity in Education Coalition signed-in in support of the concept of transitioning the prototypical model currently being used in Washington State to fund education to a Student Centric Locally Controlled Funding Formula. There are, however, too many holes and questions under this proposal to receive the full support of the EEC.
Please read the Equity in Education Coalition’s full analysis of the bill here: EEC SB 5607 Analysis