There’s no shortage of talk about how sharp the partisan divides are on, well, just about everything. (No need to provide links; you know what we’re talking about.)
So this report from the Kitsap Sun makes for pleasant Monday reading.
Washington legislators from both parties can agree on one of the toughest issues the state faces: how much to spend on public education.
How to come up with $7 billion over the next four years is another matter.
But there might be hope on that front if anything can be read into the civil — even collaborative — tone the opposing sides displayed at an education funding forum Sunday at Bainbridge High School.
The bipartisan meeting is a bit unusual and welcome.
The speakers — Sen. Christine Rolfes, a Bainbridge Democrat, and Sen. Ann Rivers, a Republican from the Vancouver area — said there’s little left to debate.
“For six years in the Senate, we’ve been the leads for our caucuses for education funding,” Rolfes said. “We’re trying to find common ground with our colleagues.”
While we recognize the challenges, we also acknowledge that bipartisan and civil negotiations are necessary for the solution. And we salute Senators Rolfes and Rivers for their leadership in moving the discussion along.
The Sun’s story also provides a good summary of the differences between the parties’ approaches.
Plans drafted by Republicans and Democrats have similar funding targets, but key differences remain over local school levies and sources of added funding.
Republicans want to replace local levies with a statewide uniform rate. The plan would shift some money from wealthy districts — like Seattle and Bainbridge — and decrease costs in other districts.
Rolfes agreed that reliance on levies is fostering inequity, but her party’s solution is to tighten rules on how levy money can be spent. She said putting more state dollars into teacher salaries would reduce reliance on levies. Freed from covering basic costs, levies could instead go to after-school clubs, sports and other non-essential programs.
Democrats haven’t delved into the specifics of how to better fund education. While Republicans might want to shift funding from other parts of the state budget, Rolfes and other Democrats want to hold the line.
The Seattle Times editorial board reminds lawmakers of what’s at stake, including, they say, a September without school.
NOTE to Washington parents: Start making alternative plans for early September. School could be canceled this fall if the Legislature doesn’t get its act together and come to a compromise on school funding reform that satisfies the Supreme Court and the voters…
Failure to reach a deal this Legislative session will have dire consequences: from shutting down schools to a dramatic budget intervention by the Supreme Court.
The legislative session is scheduled to end April 23. The clock is ticking. The Supreme Court and the voters are watching.
There’s no shortage of incentives for legislators to get the job done. What’s required now is finding the common ground discussed at BHS.