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This Week In Olympia

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Riverside Rally Linda Peterson
Around 200 WEA members rallied for school funding in Vancouver last Saturday.

Week of March 13

Senate budget expected next week

The Republican Senate budget is expected to be released next week, and for K-12 schools, it’s likely to be even worse than the school funding plan the Senate approved last month.

We won’t know what’s in the Senate budget until it’s released publicly. However, the amount dedicated to K-12 public schools probably will be less than what was previously approved by the Senate. (After the Senate Republicans hastily pushed through their education funding plan, they discovered the plan was underfunded by $2.4 billion.)

WEA strongly opposes the Republican Senate school funding plan, which we’ve characterized as reckless and punitive – and falling far short of what the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision demands.

After the Senate rolls out its budget, it’s likely to have a committee hearing within a day, then it will quickly move to a vote by the entire Senate.

The Democratic House likely will release its state budget plan the week after the Senate releases its proposal. And then the two sides will have to reach agreement on a final state budget, which will not be easy or fast.

WEA continues to support the K-12 budget proposed by Gov. Jay Inslee. It comes closest to fully funding K-12 education as required by the Washington Constitution and McCleary.

Update on key bills

March 29 is the cutoff for non-budget policy bills to pass out of committee in the opposite house from where it originated.

Substitute House Bill 1046, which de-links high school tests from graduation, is being heard in the Senate education committee Monday at 1:30 pm. Two WEA members are scheduled to testify in support. The bill already passed the House.

House Bill 1778 allows voters to approve school construction bonds with a simple majority instead of the current super-majority of 60 percent. Rep. Monica Stonier, a WEA member, is the prime sponsor. It has a hearing March 21 in the House Education Committee, but it’s unlikely to pass out the Legislature this year.

Engrossed House Bill 1237 allows community and technical college faculty to bargain salaries locally, and it scheduled for a March 22 hearing in the Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee. WEA strongly supports this bill. It already passed the House.

House Bill 1341 adds a third option for teacher certification. In addition to ProTeach and National Board Certification, teachers could qualify for professional certification by earning 75 professional development credits. (clock hours). It was heard last Wednesday in the Senate education committee.

Senate Bill 5070, which deals with paraeducator licensure and training, has a hearing Monday. WEA opposes the bill and is working to replace it with House Bill 1115, which provides and funds professional development for paraeducators without mandating licensure.

State revenue increase falls short of meeting needs

Ann Rivers
Sen. Ann Rivers explains the Senate Republican school funding plan to educators last Saturday.

State revenue is up, but not enough to fully fund K-12 public schools and protect important social and health programs and other services Washington families need.

State officials released the latest revenue forecast Thursday morning. General fund and related revenue for the current biennium (2015-17) is projected to increase by $258 million and by $313 million next biennium (2017-19). That represents moderate growth in comparison to the total budget. Total state revenue for the current biennium is now estimated to be $39 billion – so this change represents less than 1 percent change.

Under the McCleary order, the Legislature must increase state funding for K-12 public schools by billions of dollars before a Sept. 1, 2018 deadline.

WEA supports new sources of state revenue that are more fair, adequate and sustainable.

Now that the latest revenue forecast is out, Senate Republicans are expected to release their state budget proposal next week, followed by a budget from majority Democrats in the state House the following week.

Both houses already released school funding plans, as did Gov. Jay Inslee. WEA strongly supports Inslee’s school budget, which comes closest to fully funding K-12 education as required by the Washington Constitution and McCleary.

We’re just as strongly opposed to the reckless school funding plan approved by the state Senate. It doesn’t fulfill the McCleary promise, and it’s packed with punitive policies that would hurt teachers and students. The Senate Republican budget:

  • Increases class sizes by eliminating voter-approved I-1351
  • Reduces funding for special education students
  • Eliminates the voter-approved COLA for educators

Trump-DeVos budget is reckless and hurts children

DeVosThe education budget released Thursday by the Trump Administration and Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos hurts kids. It slashes more than $9 billion in funding for public schools, while transferring millions of dollars into private school voucher schemes.

“The Trump-DeVos budget would take an ax to important education programs for students, including eliminating after-school programs, and other student enrichment programs. In real life, these cuts mean students are robbed of the tools and supports they need to get ahead,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association.

Slashing federal funding for public education will disproportionately hurt students in low-income communities.

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