School funding bill heard in state Senate: “a plan for coming to a solution”?

Yesterday the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education held a public hearing on SB 6195. Summary from the bill report:

Ÿ Ÿ Ÿ Creates the Education Funding Task Force to continue the work of the Governor’s informal work group on implementing the program of basic education. Appropriates $500,000 for the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to contract for independent professional consulting services. Directs the Legislature to take legislative action by the end of the 2017 session to eliminate school district dependency on local levies for implementation of the state’s program of basic education.

The legislation has been called a “plan to plan.” That’s not the way sponsors see it, according to the Associated Press.

Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island and one of the bill’s sponsors, said it was a “pretty big set of compromises” between the Legislature’s different factions. She prefers the bill to be called “a plan for coming to a solution” rather than a plan for a plan, as many have dubbed it. The bill was pieced together by a bipartisan group of lawmakers that have been meeting since the 2015 legislative session.

Unsurprisingly, as the AP reports, some were disappointed.

Many spoke against Senate Bill 6195 for not saying how the Legislature will reduce its reliance on local school levies to pay for basic education, only making a commitment to try and solve the issue next year.

But, as we wrote earlier, it was never realistic to expect major funding decisions and commitments to be made during this short session. Gov. Inslee referred to the legislation in his State of the State address,

Legislation has been introduced that contains the first step so we can be successful when we return next year. I’m confident we’ll take the second step next year because every time legislators have set a deadline for themselves on this issue, they have met that deadline. Our next deadline requires the Legislature to fully fund basic education in the 2017 legislative session, and there’s no reason we can’t do that.

TVW’s Capitol Record blog covered the hearing and reports on the introduction two other bills related to education funding. 

The committee also heard public testimony Monday on two bills that deal with school levy lids. Under Senate Bill 6183, school district levy lids would remain at 28 percent until 2020. Starting 2021, those lids would be reduced by one percent per year until 2024.

A second measure, Senate Bill 6353­, extends the 28 percent levy lid for one year. It would immediately decrease to 24 percent in year starting in 2019.

Additional coverage in The Columbian

Pragmatically, a “plan for coming to a solution” might just be the best outcome this year.