Teacher compensation and McCleary, plus former Gov. Gregoire on state Supreme court’s education decisions

The Seattle Times has a good preview of education issues likely to come before the 2016 Legislature. While it’s still anyone’s guess as to the degree the election-year short session makes much headway, there’s bound to be much discussion of charter schools and the McCleary decision … discussion that will extend through the election cycle.

As the Times reports, this year’s contract negotiations raise the McCleary stakes.

Under the state Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary school-funding decision, the state must pick up the full cost of paying teachers, not just a portion of it as it does now…

And the raises teachers received this year make the gap even bigger to fill between what the state provides and what teachers are really paid.

“One of the assumptions that we’re making is that what teachers are paid currently is a competitive salary,” said state Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, ranking member of the House Education Committee. “So however that rises with this latest round of collective bargaining, that sets a higher bar for us to match with state funding.”

Getting compensation right involves sorting through a complex structure. The Times reports that local districts are picking up about 23 percent of total compensation costs, with wide variance among the 295 districts. Washington is a big state, with significant regional fluctuation in the cost of living.

A July 2015 op-ed by Magendanz and former House Appropriations Committee chair Ross Hunter acknowledged that regional variation complicate levy reforms believed necessary to McCleary compliance.

For those of us in the Legislature working to satisfy the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision on school funding, however, there’s still one very important task to complete: eliminating our reliance on local levies to fund competitive salaries for teachers and staff.

…Like the budget negotiations earlier this year, bold leadership and a willingness to compromise will be required on both sides of the aisle. We can start by recognizing the great thinking done this session on how to provide local labor-market adjustments based on regional costs of living and to improve transparency in accounting.

Statewide collective bargaining for teachers has been proposed. Sure to be a controversial issue, any approach to statewide negotiations will have to provide “local labor-market adjustments.” 

We expect these issues to remain in play through 2016, with heavy judicial oversight. And any mention of the court’s role requires a reference to former Gov. Chris Gregoire’s widely discussed comments on KING 5. At the end of her discussion of  Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Seattle, she was asked about the court’s charter school decision. She stated the minority’s dissent was “spot on” and called the timing of the decision “not right, not fair.” She also indicated disagreement with the court’s “unprecedented” contempt ruling against the state in the McCleary decision. Her comments begin at about 7:50 in the link.