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McCleary & School Funding Back in Court Sept. 7; Then What's Next?

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On Sept. 7, the Washington Supreme Court will once again hold a hearing for state officials to explain why they haven’t complied with the court’s demand for a plan to fully fund public schools.

In Washington state, public education is a civil right guaranteed by the state Constitution. A quality public education gives all children the opportunity to be successful. Yet every day the state fails to fully fund basic education, we are violating our children’s civil rights.

We do not know what action the court will take after the hearing, including whether the court will impose tougher sanctions beyond the $100,000 a day the state is being fined (which now totals nearly $39 million).

We do know that instead of fully funding basic education, the 2016 Legislature punted – they created yet another committee to study school funding (the fifth or sixth such group, by some accounts).

Earlier this summer, the committee held hearings and solicited recommendations from stakeholders. WEA submitted our recommendations for funding the basic education our children deserve, regardless of their ZIP Code or family background.

It really is pretty basic:

Fund smaller class sizes in every grade level and additional support staff as required by I-1351, which is now the law.

Fully fund competitive, professional base pay and benefits for all K-12 school employees, and maintain flexibility for school districts to supplement educators’ pay beyond the base state salary.

Fund 10 days of professional development.

Fund the full cost of supplies, curriculum, operating costs and transportation, and make sure all schools are equipped with modern technology.

Fund specific student needs, including special education, gifted, learning assistance program, and transitional bilingual education for English language learners.

Fully fund school construction to modernize existing schools, build new schools and expand classroom capacity.

Protect levy funding and preserve local control of public schools.

WEA’s complete report, including salary and class size charts, is here. Our plan also calls for increasing state revenue and reforming the state’s tax code to make it more fair.

Other groups, including WSSDA (school boards) and WASA (superintendents), recommended:

Restricting local decision-making

Eliminating locally bargained TRI pay for teachers

Requiring all K-12 employees to bargain salaries and benefits with the state instead of their local school district

WEA opposes those three proposals – none of which are required by the court’s original McCleary school funding decision, and none of which would actually increase state funding for basic education.

School funding will be the top issue in the 2017 legislative session. WEA members already are working hard to make sure the state invests in what matters most: ensuring every school and classroom is staffed with committed, caring, qualified certificated staff and education support professionals so students get the personal one-on-one help they need to be successful.

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