(Almost) Post-Session Advice

You’ll start getting some (almost) post-session notes from me now that I have time to digest what happened and what still needs to be finished. I have not had time recently to keep up with posting the advice cards I got from kids at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue so I’ll release several as catch-up. I believe this one is the 13th in the series. I have another dozen or so in reserve and will put them up as I get to it. These almost deserve a book of their own – to be handed out to legislators as they take office.

Advice Card 11

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WSDOT: Public Tours of the New 520 Bridge – Register Today!

[Update 7/13/15] The text below is from WSDOT, not from me. They are offering this tour. It’s probably full by now anyway. They may offer more, so it’s worth watching the space if you are interested.

bridge tourRegistration opens today for next public tour of the new SR 520 floating bridge

Are you curious about complex feats of technical engineering? Have you driven on the world’s longest floating bridge and wondered about the slightly longer floating bridge taking shape right alongside? Do you enjoy wearing a hard hat and reflective vest?

If so, you’re going to love this news. Registration opens today (July 2) at 10 a.m. for the next of our summer public tours of the new SR 520 floating bridge. Leaving from Medina, these guided tours will give you a hardhat-required look at the new bridge, from vantage points not typically accessible to the general public.

Visit our website for full information and links to put your name in for a spot. The tours take place on the last Saturday of each month, beginning in May and lasting through September.

Demand has been very high for these tours, and spots are limited. So signing up is not a guarantee of securing a spot. Tour participants will be randomly selected from those signed up, with separate sign-ups held prior to each month’s tour.

Additionally, we are offering tours of the West Approach Bridge North project in Montlake. The next tour of this project is Wednesday, Aug. 5. Information about these tours also is available on our website.

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Bills I’m Hearing About – Voting Rights, Erin’s Law, Solar and Front License Plates

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

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Meeting on K-12 Compensation and Levy Reform

[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
10:30 a.m.
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.

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Respectful and Understanding…

Advice Card 13

More useful advice from the fourth graders of Somerset Elementary School in Bellevue.

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School Levy and Compensation Reform

teacher compensation differences between districts

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

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School District Compensation and Levy Reform

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.

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Special Session Advice from 4th Graders

I’m not sure what to add to this.

Advice Card 15

This advice comes to you from the 4th graders of Linda Myrick’s class at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue.

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Too Much Testing?

[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.

Graduation RequirementsCurrent 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.

Continue reading

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Answers to Popular Education Emails

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.

Continue reading

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