Senate passage of a school funding and accountability reform has led to a lot of media scrutiny of how lawmakers can finally resolve the lingering McCleary lawsuit. Opinions, as you might expect, are divided. And there’s a natural tendency to want to pick-and-choose among the proposals on offer. That’s to be expected; legislators will probably do something similar in trying to reach a compromise.
Let’s review what’s being said.
The Olympian editorial board finds some good in the Senate plan.
Republicans controlling the state Senate deserve credit for putting out a comprehensive plan for funding K-12 schools a week ago. The proposal has intriguing elements worth considering.
The GOP’s teacher-pay proposal includes a boost to $45,000 a year for starting teachers and a housing allowance for those teaching in high-rent areas.
Though the plan has serious flaws in the way it raises new K-12 funds, it does bring fresh ideas for allocating state funds for basic education.
Unfortunately the GOP plan replaces local voter-approved school property-tax levies with a statewide tax rate of $1.80 per $1,000 of property value. This cuts property taxes in rural areas but hikes the tax rates in areas with high property values. The plan acknowledges that another $700 million in state revenue is needed, but it doesn’t identify the source.
Clearly there are fairer ways to find revenues to bolster school funding and end the reliance on local levies for basic education costs.
It also looks like the Supreme Court can fade into the background, because its concerns have been addressed by all three sides. That’s a relief, because there were times when it looked as if Republicans were spoiling for a showdown.
Legislative Republicans and Democrats need about $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion to finance their plans. Republicans say they can cover the costs with existing revenue. If that means cuts elsewhere in the state budget, then it’s important to know what those will be. Finding more than $1 billion in cuts won’t be easy.
We do like that Republicans would repeal the class-size initiative, which has proven to be impractical and unwise to fully fund. We don’t like the idea of sending the ultimate solution to the voters. A failed referendum would return the Legislature to square one, and the court’s deadline would be missed. Plus, the issue is far too complicated to be placed on the ballot. Just try reading one of these plans without background knowledge of the many moving parts.
But these are precisely the types of details that can be negotiated. The good news is that with three plans on the table, those talks can begin in earnest.
The Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board mostly likes the Senate plan.
…Senate Republicans, after some grumbling in the past about what some considered court overreach, have put forth a plan with many strengths: It puts the state on the road to funding a plan approved by the Legislature, which is the court’s goal; it helps ensure statewide equity by reducing reliance on local levies; it assures money to poorer districts in the way levy equalization does not while building on the equalization precedent; and it doesn’t place extra burden on the taxpayer.
As this lengthy debate focuses on the mechanics of funding education, legislators also must keep in mind that education is about outcomes. The provisions for equitable statewide funding, and the recognition that high-poverty districts may need extra resources, are steps toward assuring better outcomes for our students. That, in turn, will result in better outcomes for our entire state.
The Seattle Times editorial board is ready for lawmakers to “stop bickering” and reach a compromise.
Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature and the governor have all presented some interesting ideas but also some ridiculous ones. These ideas need to be debated and compromises reached, or the children in Chimacum using old science textbooks won’t get the education they deserve.
The final agreement must improve student achievement, create more budget transparency and establish strong accountability measures for how education dollars are spent.
The editorial goes on to list the 12 things the editorial board thinks should be included.
To help make sense of the various elements in play, we recommend Seattle Times reporter Neil Morton’s review of teacher compensation and this comparative analysis of the Republican and Democratic plans by Melissa Santos in The News Tribune.