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No Budget, but Crucial Deadline Looms

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Washington legislators have been in session for 133 days – yet they haven’t passed a state schools budget that fully funds smaller K-12 class sizes. But with an important deadline looming, Senate budget writer Andy Hill says legislators have a strong incentive to pass a budget and leave Olympia ASAP._MG_0226

That important deadline? A golf tournament.

“Right now there’s a desire to get done by June 11 so we don’t hit the traffic Armageddon of the U.S. Open (golf tournament), and the lack of hotel rooms in Olympia,” Hill told The News Tribune.

Because of the Legislature’s failure to pass a budget, legislators remain in contempt of court over their failure to fully fund K-12 public schools. Meanwhile, the list of one-day walkouts against the Legislature has grown to 65 school districts, involving a majority of WEA members and Washington students.

Although the Legislature hasn’t passed a budget, officials in Olympia did make progress on one big issue during the 30-day special session that began in April: An independent salary commission gave legislators an 11 percent raise and said the increase was necessary to attract and keep quality legislators.

_MG_0476In contrast, current budget plans propose giving educators cost-of-living adjustments of either 4.8 percent (House) or 3 percent (Senate), both spread over two years. The Senate budget also fails to keep up with the increased cost of educator health care, which means many educators would actually take home less money next school year.

Both budgets fail to fully fund smaller K-12 class sizes as required by law, ignoring voter-approved I-1351. The Legislature’s refusal to fully fund I-1351 remains a major problem.

In addition to funding for smaller class sizes and professional pay and benefits, here are other big education issues in play:

Local control. Senate Republicans have proposed legislation that dramatically restricts school districts from investing local levy funding in academic programs and classes, a major attack on local decision making. For example, the bill would prohibit districts from offering music, art, AP or other classes beyond what the state funds, and it would restrict the ability to pay teachers for additional time, responsibility and incentive (TRI). (WEA opposes this proposal.)

High-stakes testing. A bill reducing the high-stakes nature of high school standardized tests passed the House but failed to get a vote in the Senate. (WEA supported the bill.) The Senate passed legislation linking test scores to evaluations, but it failed to get a vote in the House. (WEA opposed the bill.)

Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to call a second special session, and the Legislature must approve a state operating by June 30 or face a partial government shut down.

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