The Seattle Times reports that most districts in the state are predicting funding shortfalls just a year after the state complied with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary school-funding order.
Less than a year has passed since the Legislature injected nearly $1 billion into Washington’s public-school system. But districts from Seattle to Vancouver have warned that unless lawmakers offer them a lifeline, their financial straits could force them to cut budgets and lay off staff.
This problem, precipitated in part by unsustainable collective bargaining settlements, was predicted as early as last August, as we wrote. The Seattle Times, sounding a theme echoed by many editorial boards, wrote,
Sure, Washington’s Legislature decided to put an additional $1 billion toward teacher salaries for the coming school year.
But that doesn’t mean every penny of that salary money is meant to go straight into the pockets of teachers in the form of double-digit raises — no matter what the statewide teachers union tries to claim…
Districts need to stick to a basic principle as they negotiate these multiyear labor contracts: Don’t bargain away money you don’t have.
School district officials should not expect that the Legislature will swoop in and add billions more in K-12 funding to cover shortfalls stemming from districts negotiating unsustainable raises…
To avoid returning to a broken system, districts must hold the line when it comes to negotiating teachers’ raises, and not award more than they can afford.
To do anything else is simply irresponsible.
Well, many districts did not stick to that basic principle. In Seattle, the trip to Olympia for more money was baked into the agreement at the outset.
An extra $45 million budget surplus for this school year will help pay for the 10.5 percent raise promised to union members in the recent tentative contract, which is estimated to cost about $57.6 million.
It’s unclear, though, how sustainable that raise will be.Phyllis Campano, president of the Seattle Education Association, said on Wednesday that if the union and district can’t lobby the Legislature for more flexibility on the levy swap, there could be layoffs at the end of the school year. The district did not immediately respond to requests to confirm that the deal could potentially trigger layoffs.
When Campano was asked why the teams would approve a 10.5 percent raise if itcould trigger layoffs, she responded: “We think we can work hard enough to not let that happen.”
That means another trip to Olympia in 2019 for increased funding.
So now, as the Association of Washington Business writes, lawmakers are again dealing with school funding challenges.
It hasn’t been a year since the Legislature pumped almost $1 billion into the state’s K-12 educational system, but that jolt of money led to quick financial decisions that are now leaving local school districts warning of layoffs and budget cuts…
Lawmakers, meanwhile, point to double-digit pay increases that school districts agreed to with teacher unions last summer.
“That’s part of the problem, no question,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington.
The options don’t look good. Again, from the AWB report:
Sen. John Braun, ranking member of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, gives a brief history and economics lesson about the issue and about the steep costs of one proposed solution. Senate Bill 5313 would raise local K-12 property tax authority by $2.5 billion a year and return to the days of funding “haves and have nots” in richer and poorer districts.
This occurs as lawmakers are already considering significant tax increases, including a proposed capital gains tax and increases in real estate and B&O taxes on service industries.
As we wrote last month, this is an issue to watch.