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.

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Budget Update and Thoughts on Teacher Compensation and Levy Reform

4th Graders Visiting the Capitol

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

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Week 10 of 4th Grader Advice for Legislators

These advice cards make me smile every time. They’re from Linda Myrick’s 4th graders at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue.

Advice Card 10

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House and Senate Budget Differences on K12

I’ll be posting a handful of high-level summaries of budget differences with the Senate over the next few days. As usual, K12 is my first post in this sequence.

House Democrats are investing $3.2 billion more in K-12 education with this budget over the amount we spent in the last biennium, a 21% increase. People have asked me what the difference is between the House and Senate budgets for K-12 spending. This chart has the highlights.

K12 Funding Differences

There are lots of other places I have concerns, like the Senate requirement that districts reduce their levies if they accept the constitutionally required operating cost money, even though the Senate budget doesn’t address the costs those local levies pay for.

For more thoughts on education funding, click here.


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Budget Negotiations to Start Monday

_MG_0217We’re now entering the budget negotiation phase of the session. The Senate and House are in pretty significantly different places. The top level difference is only about a billion dollars, but the underlying differences are much greater than that. We need to come to agreement by Wednesday the 22nd to be able to get the mechanical part of the process completed if we’re to finish on the 26th, the 105th and final day of the regular session.

On Thursday the budget negotiation teams met with the Governor. This meeting happens every year and it’s an opportunity for the Governor to lay out what he expects in a budget. He has a lot of leverage over the process as he can veto individual parts of the budget he doesn’t like or, if he really doesn’t like the product can veto the entire thing, sending us back to work. This doesn’t happen very often, but is definitely part of the process. There are ALWAYS vetoes of individual line items in the budget.

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Final 520 Pontoons to Arrive Thursday!

If you are crazy enough to actually want to track the arrival of pontoons to the new 520 bridge project online – here are the links. These are the last 3 pontoons. In addition, WSDOT is running a photo contest about pontoons. Here’s the link.

The journey from Grays Harbor is nearly complete and we expect the final three SR 520 pontoons to arrive on Lake Washington tomorrow, Thursday, April 9.

Below is a table indicating estimated arrival times for each pontoon and a link to where you can track their location as they arrive on Lake Washington. Please note, actual arrival times may vary due to towing conditions.

Pontoon Estimated time of arrival at

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

3015 NW 54th St.

Tugboat tracking link
Pontoon G 9:30 a.m. Tugboat Mudcat
Pontoon H 12:30 p.m. Tugboat Nancy M
Pontoon F 2 p.m. Tugboat Solana
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Timely Advice from 4th Graders

This week’s gem is particularly timely as we are about to spend the next two weeks debating bills on the floor and arguing about budgets. The advice comes from Linda Myrick’s 4th graders at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue.

Advice Card 9

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Advice from 4th Graders – Week 8

I think I missed a week. This week’s advice card is also excellent. I’m sad I have to white out the names of the kids due to privacy laws.

Advice Card 8

These cards are from the 4th graders in Linda Myrick’s civics club at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue.


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Debtors Prisons – Legal Financial Obligations

Just before session started this year I had a chance to attend the Facing Race legislative forum. Hosted by several local and national organizations, it was a chance for me to hear stories and facts about a variety of social justice topics, including Legal Financial Obligations. Some of the repeating themes were how hard it is for indigent people to get out from LFOs after they are released from prison, and how disproportionately people of color are impacted by this system.

LFOs are the fees, fines and costs that people convicted of crimes are charged in addition to their criminal penalties, like jail time. In Washington the average LFO amount is $2,450 and the interest rate on these is 12%. Considering up to 60% of former inmates are still unemployed a year after they get out of jail, requiring them to pay such large fines can put them into a crippling spiral of debt, homelessness, and recidivism.[1]

People who commit crimes should pay for the hurt and damage they caused – hence our criminal justice and prison system. The goal here is to provide a deterrent and take people who are likely to commit new crimes out of circulation. Once they get out of prison, society has a huge interest in encouraging them to get jobs, find housing, support themselves and their children, and in general become contributing citizens. A person with unpayable LFOs can’t achieve any of these things.

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Advice from 4th Graders – Week 7

I am really enjoying these posts from Linda Myrick’s 4th graders at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue. This particular piece needs broad circulation, and I will be sending it to all the members of the House. We have three more days of floor debate this week and the advice is very topical.

Advice Card 7

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