McCleary Almost Done

The latest decision from the court is available here.

The slide deck this particular image is from is available here. This was used in the November 16, 2017 House Appropriations Committee meeting and is another excellent product from Jessica Harrell, the education expert serving Appropriations – someone I depended on for many years.

It’s pretty exciting to see the progress being made towards adequacy and equity in the education funding system. This isn’t an optimal solution from my point of view, but it’s vastly better than what the system looked like in 2002 when I got peeved enough about it to run for office.

It was worth 13 years of my life to get this done. We now have full-day Kindergarten in every school in the state, not just the ones in rich suburbs that could afford it. Class sizes in K-3 are much more reasonable. Schools have enough money to cover reasonable transportation costs and the cost of materials and supplies they need to run a school. Most particularly, salaries are addressed so that there isn’t a huge disparity between districts.

I have quibbles about the details. It’ll need tweaking over time. It’s half of the state budget, so the Legislature should pay attention.

Ross’ Statement on August McCleary Order

funded class sizeThe Supreme Court released a new order in the McCleary case this morning, holding the state in contempt and fining it $100,000 per day (to pay for basic education) until it resolves the remaining issues, including both the unconstitutional dependence on local levies to pay for basic education personnel costs and the cost of construction of new classroom space. They also expressed concern about the pace of the phase-in of class size reductions.

It’s important to know that the phase-in plan in the budget we passed this year completely pays for the class size reductions called for in the McCleary order. The court recognized the work done by the Legislature in funding class size reductions, but seems to be concerned about the phase-in of lower class sizes.  There is some confusion in how the cost of this investment is described in various documents, and we will work with the court to clarify this. The attached chart shows the level of funded class size and those recommended by the task force the court refers to.

House Democrats proposed a joint process to resolve the personnel cost issue with the Senate and Governor’s office and passed legislation (HB 2239) putting the process in place on June 26th. The Republicans in the Senate refused to take up the bill or offer any alternative.

I share the court’s concern about finalizing the plan sooner rather than later. Governor Inslee has called a meeting of all four caucus leaders for Monday to create a public process to resolve these issues expeditiously.

What’s in “McCleary?”

In 2012 the Washington State Supreme Court found that Washington State is not funding our education system at anything close to the level the constitution requires. Just before the holidays the court opined again, that

“the overall level of funding remains below the levels that have been declared constitutionally inadequate.” (Washington State Supreme Court, 2012)

On the Legislative side the Joint Task Force on Education Finance report issued in December 2012 detailed an eventual cost of about $4.5 billion dollars per biennium in additional funding needed to meet the court’s definition of “constitutionally adequate.” Arguments that the court isn’t talking about funding are belied by the quote above.

Despite protestations to the contrary, this session the Legislature needs to make steady progress towards completely meeting the court’s requirement by 2018. There are 5 school years between now and 2018, and “steady progress” means we get about 2/5ths of the way to the complete solution, or about $1.7 billion.

Continue reading “What’s in “McCleary?””

Educational Goals: penny-wise and pound-foolish decisions

The Ways and Means committee heard a number of contentious bills Saturday, including HB 2538, which is intended to save money for school districts by reducing requirements that the legislature has placed on them without funding. It was requested by the governor, and most of the savings came from lowering the frequency of audits when there has been no problems. I’m OK with this part.

The Education committee, which heard the bill first, amended it to eliminate the required state assessment of writing skills, and consequently the graduation requirement that students must have proficiency in writing. I am very uncomfortable with this decision, as were a number of other members of the committee during the hearing. We assess core graduation requirements because we believe that what is measured is taught. We should not carry this too far, and many skills are best assessed in the classroom, but we assess core requirements to ensure that students have the opportunity to learn them.

Continue reading “Educational Goals: penny-wise and pound-foolish decisions”

How Much is Enough?

A constituent asked me the following questions in email this week and I think the answers are worth pointing out.

1) Can you show me the studies that indicate there is a correlation between money spent per student and student achievement? It would be good to know that spending more money would get better results.
2) How much money is enough? The common cry is that the state doesn’t spend enough money, but I wonder how we define “enough”. Is there some percentage of the budget or dollar amount that would be satisfactory and get different results from what we get now? (refer back to above question)


I pointed her to the results of a study we did in 2008 – the Basic Education Financing Joint Task Force. We used the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to examine the research in education, try to weed out the questionable work, and quantify what we proposed and how it would affect student learning. I warn people that reading too much into the details here can lead to absurd results, but I think they did a good job.

The results for our proposal, which is about a 40% increase in spending are below. More detail on their methodology is available in the actual report, available here. See appendix B.


At the December 8, 2008, meeting of the Task Force, we presented preliminary long

run effects of the Task Force portfolio on high school graduation rates in Washington.21

We update these estimates here. According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the current high school graduation rate in Washington is about 72.5 percent. This is a cohort on time graduation rate.22 We used the procedures described earlier to project two estimates: how both the Task Force proposal and the zero based option could be expected to affect this rate. These effects are estimated 14 years after full implementation of the options to reflect the estimated long-run effect of investments in preschool and the other grades at the end of the education cycle in 12th grade.
Task Force Recommendation
We project that the Task Force recommendations would increase the modal graduation rate to about 81 percent from its current level of 72.5 percent. Exhibit B1 plots these two figures and also indicates the significant amount of uncertainty around our estimated effect of the Task Force portfolio. The total area under the curve represents all cases from our simulation modeling. For example, in a small number of cases, the graduation rate could be expected to be much higher—over 90 percent; in most cases, however, it would be in the 78 percent to 84 percent range, with the modal case of 81 percent. The range largely reflects the underlying uncertainty in the expected effect of additional educational resources on student outcomes.







School Funding post-McCleary

A broken piggy bank filled with money.I have not yet completely read the long opinion Judge Erlick issued yesterday in a court case brought by school districts, parents, and educator groups but I’m excited by the summary and the implications for a positive impact on school funding in Washington. The judge ruled that the state does not adequately fund public education and that we are not meeting the constitutional requirement that we “amply provide for the education of all students.”

Like most judicial opinions that require the state to do something, rather than an opinion ruling some action of the state unconstitutional, there is a lot of deference given to the legislature in how to carry out the ruling. For example, when the US Supreme Court ruled in the Brown vs. Board of Education case the ruling phrase was that we should use “all deliberate speed” in eliminating segregation in schools. This was pretty ambiguous, but served as the basis for many actions, including federal protection of children attending previously forbidden schools and much court supervision over desegregation plans.

Judge Erlick ruled that the plan we passed last year (HB 2261, the result of our Basic Education Financing Task Force) was an acceptable framework for clearly stating what basic education entails and determining the cost. I’m pleased that the plan we produced meets the court’s approval, but now we will have to both close down the details of it AND determine a funding plan.

Continue reading “School Funding post-McCleary”

Updates to Basic Ed Financing

The Senate released their budget yesterday. The House releases its today. I’ll opine later on the differences. Both are mostly no-new-revenue budgets. The Senate packages up closing some tax loopholes. The House comes out later this morning so I can’t comment on it now.

Both bodies have passed a version of the Basic Education Finance Task Force bill. The House bill was the stronger of the two. HB 2261. You can get details here:

Our staff has written an analysis of the two that may prove helpful.

summary-of-sen-striker-to-2261 is a short summary of changes made to the senate bill in committee.

comparison-house-senate-as-passed-comm-2 is a longer summary of the differences between the original House bill and the bill as it passed out of the Senate Education committee yesterday.

We still need to decide what form the bill will take in the end game and how we convince the Governor to sign it. There is much resistance to a bill that creates serious stakes in the ground for education.

Differences between the House and Senate versions of Ed Finance Reform

The House and Seante passed VERY different versions of the reform legislation. Below is a staff summary of the differences in language that’s reasonably easy to understand, though still somewhat “inside baseball.” The Spokesman-Review in Spokane captures it in language that makes more sense to the casual reader when they say

What’s emerged in the Senate is a “We Love Education” bumper sticker.

The hollowed-out bill states an intent to really, really do something about this issue in the next biennium. The following have been removed: Core 24 (the state board of education’s wish to increase the number of required graduation credits from 19 to 24), all-day kindergarten, preschool for low-income children, an increase in transportation dollars, school accountability and changes in teacher certification, assessments and pay. Spokesman-Review full editorial

It’s too easy to demonize one side or the other in this debate, and difficult to come to an agreement about the most important thing we do as a state government. We’ll keep working on the overall plan and try to get to a final agreement that makes sense and does more than just move the ball forward.


House Approves Ed Finance Bill

Last night the House approved the current incarnation of our ed finance reform bill – HB 2261. I’m including links to some summaries of the bill, including the AP story from the Seattle PI site (out of nostalgia). It’s depressing that Curt Woodward was the only reporter physically present on the floor when we passed the bill – there used to be many, many more.

AP Story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Staff Summary of ESSB 2261

The bill includes an amendment from me that creates the strong legal definition of “basic education,” a key element of requiring the Legislature to step up to the level of funding required to provide students with the opportunity to earn a meaningful diploma.

We have more work to do as you can tell from the following comparison of this bill to our initial proposal. I can guarantee that we won’t do a bill exactly like our first proposal, but we need to address all the same categories of decisions. We are making progress and I hope to continue.

Comparison of HB 1410 and ESSB 2261

Education Financing Update

For the entire 6 years I’ve been in the legislature I’ve worked on school funding. I’ve tried to improve the amount and the efficacy of use of the money. This year a bipartisan group of six legislators introduced a package of reforms coming from the Basic Education Financing Task Force report. I’ve written about it in this blog before ( and will in the future.

We’re in the middle of a tumultuous period in the evolution of the bills. Our original bills (HB 1410 and SB 5444) were a 110 page first draft that we expected to engender a robust discussion. We were right about part of it – the discussion was robust, but unfortunately not substantive. The Olympia-based education groups have been very negative on the proposal, with most outside groups supportive. The legislation changes distribution of billions of dollars, and we were probably naive to expect change of this magnitude to go smoothly.

We’ve taken a new approach – we’re starting with a blank slate instead of a large first draft. We’ve introduced two bills with similar titles but no real content. The new bills are HB 2261 and SB 6048.  We will move these bills through the system while we work on re-crafting a comprehensive bill. This is the strategy we used successfully in fixing the math standards last year.

Behind the scenes the House and Senate are working daily on trying to build consensus around the big pieces of the package. We’ll recapitulate the process we used to build the original legislation with the six of us in a room, but with many more people involved. I expect this to be painful, but it’s a necessary step. Pat, Skip, Rodney, Fred, Glenn and I spent hundreds of hours learning and working with the alternatives. We’ll try to lead everyone through the same process, but in less time.

This will be a circuitous process. We need your input as we move forward. Thanks for staying engaged.