I’m getting a lot of mail about a handful of policy bills that did not pass during the regular session. While most of them seem like reasonable policy to me, it’s difficult to imagine that the Legislature will come to agreement on them at this point since we were unable to in the regular session or the first special session. From today we have 10 days until the end of the fiscal year to agree on a budget, and every iota of work is going into coming to agreement on that.
The Legislature has ruthless deadlines to ensure that we can get our work done on time. ALL of these bills have passed all the deadlines and regardless of their importance it would be extraordinary if they came up for a vote by the end of the session. Continue reading
[UPDATE 5/20/15 10:30 PM We will be on TVW. You can find it on their website or click here.]
As I mentioned in my last blog post and newsletter, I think it’s necessary to discuss the details about levy reform in detail and in public.
Tomorrow, we are hosting a work session on K-12 levy and compensation reform. This session will be a chance for staff to present data on levy issues and for Legislators to discuss, in full public view, this information. While there will be no formal public testimony accepted during the session, we will welcome follow-up feedback from attendees.
Based on the work session and subsequent public feedback, I hope that we will be able to come to joint conclusions that reflect a larger consensus. Bipartisan support of a solution to this issue will be crucial for moving anything forward, and this won’t be achieved without the input and understanding of the public as well.
Thursday, May 21
House Hearing Room C
Washington State Capitol, Olympia
To learn more about these issues, check out my blog here and here for some lengthy discussions on the topic.
More useful advice from the fourth graders of Somerset Elementary School in Bellevue.
Click the chart to get a cool interactive version on the Seattle Times website.
Two recent articles in the Seattle Times point out one of the remaining key elements of resolving the McCleary “problem”, and it’s a BIG element. Most estimates have the size of the problem at about $3,000,000,000 to $3,500,000,000 ($3 – $3.5 billion) a biennium.
- Wildly varying teacher salaries part of state budget debate This article describes the overall problem and was the cover story in the Sunday paper. It’s a good summary. The chart to the left is from this story.
- State in ‘weird place’ trying to alter reliance on school levies. This article talks about the politics involved, but doesn’t bring up all the weirdness with school funding formulas, in particular “levy equalization” paid to well over 200 districts (of 295) because their property values are lower than the core central Puget Sound districts. It also doesn’t address the “small school factor” that results in some very small school districts getting $50,000 per student.
I wrote a long piece on this issue last month. We have to make significant progress on the problem to comply with the supreme court. There are two endpoints of the discussion at this point: Continue reading
Last week the Appropriations committee held a hearing on the second half of the McCleary decision; the requirement that the state fund adequate compensation, not local taxpayers. The hearing took over 3 hours and is super-interesting. You can watch it on TVW here.
This sounds terrifyingly dull, but it wasn’t. Anytime you talk about property taxes and use numbers like three and a half billion dollars you get people’s attention. We had a briefing on three Senate bills and a proposal by yours truly that isn’t drafted as a bill. The bills wind up being 70 pages long and we are not close enough to having agreement to spend the effort drafting legislation – I’d rather agree on policy first and then draft a bill. The drafting is a lot of work for staff that are all working on budget right now. I’m not a fan of random work.
- Bruce Dammeier introduced a bill (SB 6109) that does many, many things. It’s AN implementation of a levy swap, but has a lot of restrictions in it that make it unattractive to urban districts. Bruce implements a regional compensation model.
- Christine Rolfes has a bill (SB 6104) that does many of the same things, but also funds initiative 1351. It’s profoundly expensive and depends on the capital gains tax to pay for part of it. Christine does not do regional comp.
- Jim Hargrove (SB 6103) uses property tax to shift some payments for compensation to the state, making major changes to property tax.
- My proposal is very focused on dealing with the compensation problem, without making a lot of changes to how teachers are paid, restrictions on use of levies, etc.
Information on all of them is available here.
The House bill we had a hearing on (HB 2239) makes no actual changes in law, other than a judicially enforceable schedule of making the decisions that need to be made. The schedule would lead to the new financing system being in place for the 2018-19 school year, just in time to comply with McCleary. The decisions could be made more quickly, but it would be difficult to get the buy-in if we do.
I’m not sure what our next step should be at this point. We need to have some public hearings to determine the financial parameters of the actual problem. I will attempt to schedule some meetings. We may choose to use a smaller room and have them be option for all the members of Appropriations to attend, or some other way to have a more interactive hearing. More to come.
I’m not sure what to add to this.
This advice comes to you from the 4th graders of Linda Myrick’s class at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue.
[Update: 5/8/15 added link to AP article “New standardized tests bring technical challenges, concern“]
One of the issues that is tangentially budget-related that needs to be addressed during this special session is that of high school graduation requirements and the assessments that we are asking our kids to take. We’ve gone through many changes over the past few years in our efforts to settle on a set of graduation requirements that work. In addition, we’re struggling to deal with one of the leftovers from the Bush administration, the “No Child Left Behind” act, which mandates a certain amount of testing.
Our goal is to ensure that students learn enough material in core subjects to be able to succeed in the 21st century, and to ensure that our schools are both offering a curriculum that leads to this level of accomplishment, but also focused on ensuring that all kids get there.
Current graduation requirements can be found here. As you can see from this graphic snippet from the site, there are different requirements for every graduation class. This is because the State Board of Education (SBE) has a goal of not changing the requirements for a class once they start high school.
I’ve been swamped with email on education issues and want to consolidate my responses to a number of popular questions as I think it’ll give a better sense of what my positions are on your issues. I’m hearing about:
- Basic Education funding, including ensuring that we adequately fund our McCleary obligation.
- Funding and implementation of Initiative 1351
- The “waiver”, or making use of state-wide assessments for evaluations of teachers.
- Senate cuts to teacher retiree benefits. In particular, a 27% cut to the Medicare subsidy, a flat dollar amount that’s part of the retirement benefit for teachers.
- Testing and our graduation requirements. There are a number of proposals to change (reduce) the amount of testing we do. I address this in a different post.
4th Graders Visiting the Capitol
I write this on Tuesday April 21st. At this point I do not expect that the Legislature will agree on a budget before the regular session ends on Sunday April 26th. The Seattle Times published a lot of articles this weekend about the budget, and I’m structuring this newsletter around them. The first article in the collection discusses in detail all the press conferences that the two sides had all week. We’ve had a number of meetings between the two negotiating teams to try to set up the framework for talks, but we’re not making much progress.
I think it’s mostly about the different approaches the two sides take to the budget. The House Democrats look at the various categories of spending and make recommendations about what we think the state should invest in, then work back to figure out how much revenue we need based on that. This is a balancing decision, and lots of desired spending doesn’t get done in the budget proposal. The Senate Republicans make a decision that they won’t vote for taxes (except for roads) and try to deal with the huge increase in required K12 spending by cutting everything else and using a lot of one-time gimmicks. This results in many bad outcomes.
I made a proposal that both sides work through all the areas where we have significant differences and resolve the details of what we want to purchase. The Senate suggested we set a dollar limit (theirs) and work within that. The limit was low enough that it prevents making reasonable decisions. We are at a temporary impasse.
Education funding stuff after the break. Continue reading
These advice cards make me smile every time. They’re from Linda Myrick’s 4th graders at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue.