Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now in the third week of the 2012 regular session. Since there is not much happening with balancing the $1.5 billion shortfall, I wanted to provide some information to you about education funding and initial proposals.
The Washington State Supreme Court released a decision Thursday, Jan. 5, on McCleary v. State, a case that challenges the adequacy of state funding for K-12 education under article IX, section 1 of the Washington State Constitution. The decision can be found here. Essentially our state's highest court said the Legislature has not adequately funded education as mandated by the constitution. The courts want to supervise how the Legislature budgets education, which concerns me as it seems to challenge the equal but separate branches of government in the state.
I do believe we must be serious about funding education as our paramount duty. That's why I don't agree with the governor in funding levy equalization last, by putting it up for a vote on a state sales tax increase.
The center of the Legislature's budget debate is what percentage of our budget should be spent on education. Here's the current spending:
Another way to look at it is in terms of how much is being spent per student. This chart includes how much the state spends (from the general fund-state account) and how much is spent by the federal government and from local levies:
As you can see, there has been an increasing dependency on local levies and the federal government to make up a larger portion of education spending and growth.
Aside from education spending, the Legislature is discussing a growing number of proposals dealing with education which could make significant changes:
- House Bill 2334 would expand an educator and principal evaluation pilot program to school districts statewide.
- House Bill 2428 would establish up to 50 charter schools in Washington, specifically in areas with failing public schools. This would not affect our 15th District.
- House Bill 2479 would expand waivers from five to 25 school districts wanting to waive the state's 180-day school year requirement. Bickleton, Lyle and Patterson school districts were among the first to apply for this waiver from our district. This is not something for every school district, but I do think it's an important option for those locals who want to apply.
- House Bill 2533 would fund education first in the state's budgeting process.
I will share updates with you on these bills as they are fully developed and move through the legislative process.
Please feel free to contact my office anytime with your questions, comments or suggestions. If you're planning a visit to Olympia, I would enjoy meeting with you or your group.
It's an honor to serve you.