How close are state lawmakers to fully funding public schools?

Source: The Seattle Times

It’s now been a month since the opening of the legislative session, so how are lawmakers doing on coming up with a final fix for the landmark McCleary school-funding case?

The good news is that there are several full proposals on the table, and debates on them are under way. The not-so-good news: A quick resolution seems unlikely, given that the proposals are billions of dollars apart and include many controversial ideas. New taxes, for one. Merit pay for teachers, for another.

Here’s a roundup of the McCleary action over the past week:

On Friday, Republicans in control of the Senate unveiled a sweeping plan to overhaul how K-12 teachers are paid and how schools are funded. Seattle Times reporter Joseph O’Sullivan broke down the details of their proposal, which would set a uniform property tax rate across the state’s 295 school districts and install new school accountability measures.

The state teachers union, Gov. Jay Inslee and Senate Democrats all have criticized the GOP plan. Democrats in the House, meanwhile, at least initially were glad for the negotiating to begin in earnest, as Rachel La Corte of The Associated Press reported.

The Senate R’s #waedu proposal is a big property tax hike on many, yet puts little new money in schools. #waleg”

— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) January 31, 2017

Also last week, Democrats tried and failed to take over the state Senate and push through a bill that, if passed, would ease school districts’ fear that they may lose some local funding before they get more state dollars. Then came a second defeat for Democrats on Wednesday, when the Senate voted along party lines to advance the Republicans’ proposed McCleary fix.

That bill now heads to the House, where Democrats have filed much briefer legislation to increase school salaries and reduce district dependence on local tax levies.

The Democratic plan would cost nearly $7.3 billion to fully implement through 2021 and lists changes to the state property tax, a capital-gains tax and carbon pricing as potential revenue sources.

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, calls Democrats plan a “WEA plan,” citing the statewide teachers union #waleg #waedu”

— Melissa Santos (@MelissaSantos1) January 31, 2017

The House appropriations committee meets Monday at 3:30 p.m. to consider both bills.

Elsewhere in Olympia, Chris Reykdal, the state’s new superintendent of public instruction, on Tuesday bemoaned a report that ranked Washington near the bottom of states for the amount it spends on education compared with the total value of goods and services produced in the state.

In a prepared statement about that report, Reykdal, a Democrat, praised Republicans for their McCleary proposal.

I’m very encouraged by the comprehensiveness of the bill and the willingness of the Senate to propose fairly sweeping changes,” he said.