In June, the state Supreme Court said it would wait until the end of the last special session to judge the Legislature’s compliance with the McCleary decision. The Court wrote that it would give lawmakers 15 days from session’s end to present a full plan for meeting its requirements. (Remember, the Court found the Legislature in contempt last fall and delayed sanctions pending legislative action in the 2015 session.)
Last week, lawmakers submitted their 39-page report to the court. (We can’t find it yet on the court’s website. Here’s the final draft.) In all, it’s an impressive list of legislative progress in increasing public school funding. For example, as this pair of graphs from the report shows, the K-12 funding boost in the coming biennium is unparalleled.
Still, there’s work left undone, as the report acknowledges.
As described in further detail below, the enactments of the 64th Legislature in 2015 demonstrate that the state has implemented SHB 2776, its preexisting statutory plan (which the Court cited approvingly in its 2012 McCleary decision), in compliance with that plan’s statutory deadlines. Further, as also described in more detail below, the Legislature continues to engage in the policy review and consensus-building necessary to enact further basic education funding enhancements related to compensation and levy reliance, the final part of the state’s duty identified in the 2012 McCleary decision. (Emphasis added.)
“Policy review and consensus-building” is another way of saying there’s no agreement yet.
The Seattle Times ran a series of editorials and op-eds discussing next steps. It’s a nice mix of perspectives and prescriptions.
- The editorial board urges the court to “keep the pressure on” with respect to district overreliance on local levies.
- Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education Voters, praises the increased funding and identifies problems ahead: Initiative 1351 and continued reliance on local levies.. She calls on lawmakers to repeal or amend 1351 and for the court to compel legislative action to assure that local levies do not pay for basic education.
- WEA president Kim Mead says the new budget fails to fund adequately class size reduction and teacher pay. The WEA sponsored I-1351.
- State Senator David Frockt looks for a “grand bargain,” combining new revenues, a guaranteed share of increased revenues targeted for education, and levy reform.
- Representatives Ross Hunter and Chad Magendanz identify the challenges and possible solutions to the levy reform problem.
The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin makes an interesting point, one with which many lawmakers agree.