Updates: McCleary & the Minimum Wage

There’s some additional information on two current issues – McCleary and the minimum wage – we want to call to your attention.


Rep. Ross Hunter lays out in some detail the work ahead for the Legislature on the way to compliance with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary school funding decision. Teacher compensation is the major issue and it is closely tied to the question of local levies. The reason: School districts rely on local levies to supplement state funding, much of which goes to teacher pay. Here’s Hunter’s bottom line:

Most estimates of the problem assume that 90% of actual average statewide district compensation payments to employees that are part of the basic education staffing model go towards the State’s definition of “basic education.” The remainder is a local enhancement. This produces about a $3.5 billion total biennial cost that should be borne by the State. The details of this are mind-numbing, but the conclusion is pretty broadly accepted.

If the state pays its share, is there still a need for local levies? Hunter asks the question and answers it this way:

If the state is paying the full cost of hiring employees, why do we still have levies? …Districts want to do things that make sense for their students and their taxpayers. There is broad disagreement about what the levy system will look like after the transformation, but we all share at least one problem – what are the rules for the use of local levies by districts?

The goal is to prevent the use of local dollars to pay for compensation for basic education employees, which we define as employees in the staffing model. Districts should be able to hire additional employees, but there should be some mechanism to ensure that local funds are not used for basic ed. This will be complicated and will affect how districts and unions bargain compensation. 

Hunter’s is far from the only opinion on this matter. As he acknowledges, there’s plenty of legislative disagreement. But to understand the complexities that make consensus difficult, you might want to read his blog post.

Minimum Wage

The Seattle Times suggests you hold the applause for the $15 minimum wage experiment. (We suspect that won’t be difficult for many of you.) The Times editorial board examines the recent state Supreme Court decision upholding the $15 minimum wage for workers at SeaTac airport. The board lines up with the minority on that 5-4 decision.

The Supreme Court flexed its ideological muscle to reach what appears to be a predetermined conclusion in favor of $15…

The court’s majority also waded into micromanagement of the airport, deciding a higher wage had no effect on “airport operations.” How could the justices actually know that?

We’re in the early days of what the Times rightly calls a minimum wage experiment. While the justices have decided, the jury is still out.