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The 2019 Washington Legislature’s regular session is set to end Sunday, April 28.
As of Wednesday, lawmakers had not solved one of the biggest challenges facing K-12 public schools this year – the need to restore local levy flexibility so school districts can continue meeting the needs of students beyond state-funded basic education.
Whether or not they approve levy legislation, legislators must pass a two-year state budget by Sunday night. If they don’t, they’ll have to convene a special session.
Restoring levy flexibility is one of WEA’s top 2019 legislative priorities. In 2017, the Legislature voted to dramatically restrict local school levies. The levy restrictions went too far, and we’ve been working with legislators and allies to restore levy flexibility since the Legislature convened Jan. 14.
Because of the Legislature’s severe restrictions on levies, school districts of all sizes in all parts of the state are threatening major budget cuts, including larger class sizes, less help for students and layoffs.
Both the House and the Senate have bills that restore some levy flexibility, but neither bill has gone to a full vote.
Local levies allow voters to invest in the unique needs of the students in their community beyond the basic education funded by the state. Local voter-approved school levies fund additional teachers, librarians, school nurses, early learning, music, art and many other student needs.
Even after recent increases, state funding still falls short on meeting the needs of special education students, reducing class sizes in all grades and funding for counselors, nurses, social workers and others who meet the emotional and mental health needs of our students.
WEA also is fighting against a campaign by the Washington Association of School Administrators and the Washington State School Directors Association to reduce negotiated health benefits for part-time school employees and a related effort by WASA and WSSDA to restrict our ability to negotiate pay at the local level.
It’s shameful that school administrators and school boards are actively working to reduce health benefits and restrict pay for their own employees instead of focusing on increasing overall school funding. These are the same groups now threatening layoffs and major budget cuts that will hurt students.
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