July 1 — On Sunday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the 2013-15 state operating budget. Below is a statement from State Superintendent Randy Dorn on how the budget relates to the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.
I understand that passing a budget is difficult. This time around was more difficult than most. But it is essential that we are honest about how far we still have to go to meet our constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education.
In January 2012, the State Supreme Court ruled that the state wasn’t meeting its paramount duty to fully fund education. That decision,
McCleary v. Washington, gave the state until 2018 to fix the problem. The Court identified the process established by ESHB 2261, which established the Quality Education Council, as the remedy.
The full plan created by the QEC, including state funding of full-day Kindergarten, lower class sizes, full funding of transportation, supplies and overhead, and increased levels of staffing and compensation, will cost the state roughly $8 billion.
My original budget proposal for this biennium, which followed the QEC’s plan, called for a $4 billion increase in education spending. Later I said that the bare minimum needed in this biennium to show some progress was $1.4 billion.
The final adopted budget increased basic education funding by $955 million. Moreover, the Legislature did not fund voter-approved Initiatives 728 and 732 – which lower class sizes and increase teacher pay – two areas we must spend more on in the future. Had those items been funded, the increase to education spending would only be about $500 million.
Despite all the hard work this session, we have barely begun to make progress towards full state funding. We have five more years, and we are still roughly $7 billion short.
This leads me to two critical questions:
- Does the Legislature have a plan to satisfy McCleary by 2018?
- How will the Legislature provide a stable funding source so districts can plan for the future?
To get to the $1 billion increase this session, the Legislature picked what I’d call low-hanging fruit. These were revenue increases are issues that both parties agreed upon, and new revenue mostly created by growth.
For the future, we need to look at bigger ideas. One possibility we must discuss seriously is changing our property tax structure to reduce levies at the local level, and transfer that capacity to the state to fund basic education.
I don’t know how we meet our McCleary deadline without making this change. Other solutions will be necessary. My point is, in 2013 the Legislature avoided the hard questions and major decisions that will be necessary to satisfy
2018 is looming. Educators and the public are waiting for a plan to satisfy
McCleary with a stable and reliable source of revenue.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.
OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at (360) 725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.
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