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Senate passes bill to "fix" McCleary funding plan; budgets due Tuesday

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Sen. Christine Rolfes is the chief budget writer in the Senate. A budget is expected Tuesday.

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Wednesday night the state Senate passed legislation to partially “fix” the McCleary funding plan the Legislature approved last year.

The bill passed along caucus lines with the Senate Democrats voting for the bill and the Senate Republicans voting against.

The bill is still a work in progress, but continues to improve as it moves through the process. This bill authorizes the early phase-in of educator salaries in school year 2018-19, one year earlier than planned, to comply with the most recent state Supreme Court order. 

It also increases special education funding, provides a small fix to problems created by salary regionalization and adds a salary safety net for school districts whose educators have higher-than-average experience.

In a glaring omission, however, the bill doesn’t lift the cap on salary increases in the 2018-19 school year, which limits school districts’ ability to provide competitive and professional pay. Gov. Inslee recognized that problem in his budget plan and fixed it. The Senate did not.

This bill now moves to the House.

In other school funding news:

  • The House and the Senate are expected to release their supplemental budget plans Tuesday. WEA members are urging legislators to adopt Gov. Inslee’s education funding budget, which would invest nearly $1 billion in K-12 educator salaries this year, as ordered by the Supreme Court. WEA is running Facebook and radio ads about the budget.
  • The state revenue forecast released Feb. 15 includes an additional $628 million for the 2017-19 biennium, and an even higher amount in the following biennium. State budget reserves are expected to top $2 billion. This means the Legislature has the funding to comply with the Supreme Court’s order.
  • In local school elections this week, voters approved 95 percent of the 154 school district operations levies on the ballot.
  • This week the Senate also approved a bill that provides a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for retired educators in Plan 1, up to $41.66 per month. The bill now goes to the House. Plan 1 COLAs are a WEA Unity Agenda priority.

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