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.
This slide came up for discussion today at Governor Inslee’s Results Washington meeting for the education group. We were talking about STEM enrollment in community college programs and talked about one the factors that causes students to not complete a program – lack of math preparation. A huge fraction of community college students need to do remediation in math before they can take classes for credit. Students that do remediation are about half as likely to graduate as students who don’t need it. As part of the 24-Credit graduation requirements adopted a few years ago by the Legislature students are now required to have three high-school level math classes. This chart shows the decline in students needing remediation in community college overlaid with the percentage of high school students meeting the math credit accumulation requirement.
The chart is dramatic (as charts like this go) but you should be careful with it. Typically in economic recoveries we see fewer students applying to community colleges because they are employed. This is more likely to be students who aren’t intending to transfer, so we may be seeing the effect of a slightly different student pool.
One wants to be really careful assuming causality from a correlation. I’m not really a statistician though, so I’m going to believe that the policy we fought so hard for in the hope of exactly this is actually working.
The League of Education Voters recently published a page of resources for understanding the McCleary decision and how it impacts school funding. It’s a reasonable collection of items.
In addition, I would recommend that you look at some of the posts I’ve done over the past few years on school funding and the Supreme Court. There are a number of candidates this year that are arguing that the court has overstepped its boundaries – getting “too big for it’s britches” might be a way of saying it in the vernacular. I totally disagree, and my argument is here.
Constitutional Crisis? Not so much.
My discussion of how the remaining part of the problem should be solved is on the front page of my website, or you can find it here.
McCleary Phase II
The Legislature has made significant progress toward fully funding basic education. In the last three years, we’ve reduced K-3 class sizes, funded all-day kindergarten, and provided kids adequate materials and supplies for their classrooms. But there’s one critical and final component we must deal with – teacher compensation and local levies. The chart below should start to explain the problem.
This chart shows how teacher salaries have been constructed since 1996. The gray portion at the top is the part provided by local levies, not by the state.
Teacher salaries aren’t the only cost. School districts also pay classified staff and administrators, and the split between state and local funding is even greater for these categories than it is for teachers.
There are lots of reasons for this. Some make sense given how the system works and some are the result of the legislature skipping cost of living (COLA) increases during the recent recession. When the Legislature doesn’t fund COLAs, but the local district wants to fund them (in order to actually be able to hire competent teachers) they use money raised in local levies to do so. If it was just extra, above and beyond what is needed to actually be able to hire, this would be expensive, but not a constitutional problem. However, every study that we’ve done shows that they’re paying just about what the market needs them to pay to be able to hire and retain competent employees. The court ruled this unconstitutional because it’s the State’s responsibility to adequately fund basic education, and we’re shirking that duty by foisting part of the cost on local districts. Continue reading “McCleary Phase II”
The 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.
Thank you again for letting me represent you in Olympia. It’s an honor and a privilege, though I feel much less privileged when the session runs into July. We finished our work Friday morning June 10th, passing a transportation spending bill and bills that allow the state to take out bonds based on the revenue. We also passed a small bill changing high school graduation requirements, the centerpiece of a disagreement in the Senate over initiative 1351 (class size reduction.) The graduation bill delays the imposition of the science standards for two years, allowing 2000 kids who met all the graduation requirements other than passing the biology end of course exam to graduate. It does NOT make a number of other changes I took issue with when they came up earlier in session.
In the last week of June we passed the 2015-17 operating budget, my particular responsibility in the Legislature. It’s reasonably straightforward and didn’t need to take us until the end of June to resolve, but the Republican Senate was unwilling to compromise on their all-gimmicks, no revenue strategy until the very end. In the last few days we came to an agreement that is a true compromise – the House conceded to the use of more financial shortcuts than we would have preferred and the Republican Senate agreed to close $350 million of tax loopholes. I didn’t get everything I wanted, and there are some elements of the deal that are distasteful. I think the same is true for the Senate Republicans. Had we gone past June 30th the state would have gone into a partial shutdown, including laying off doctors and nurses, shutting childcare facilities for 50,000 kids (which would cause 30,000 low-income single moms to lose their jobs or depend on sketchy care), and other bad things.
I’m glad to live and work in “this” Washington, a place where we can discuss issues rationally and come to compromises, unlike the “other” Washington where they seem to have great difficulty in doing so. I do wish it took less time. Continue reading “Post-Session Notes, Operating Budget Comments”
You may have read in the press that the Legislature got a budget done by midnight on June 30th, allowing the state to continue providing unemployment assistance, Medicaid, childcare, public schools, college classes, and all of the other things that we have decided to do collectively. I am frustrated that we were unable to come to an agreement more quickly, but pleased that we got it done. I’ll write more about the budget and what’s in it over the next few weeks.
However, we have work to do before we sign off. The Senate is high-centered on I-1351. I predicted that it would be difficult to come to a 2/3 vote on this issue and was proven correct by Tuesday night’s activities. Melissa Santos has a reasonable summary in the Tacoma News Tribune.
Continue reading “Legislature Still has Work to Do”
When writing about the budget it’s important to share good news as well as bad. First the good: (it’s short) the revenue forecast picked up a little bit. The bad is that we face one of the most difficult budget cycles of my time in the Legislature, and perhaps worse than we’ve seen in many decades.
The budget is showing strains from the slow recovery from the recession, we are seeing a slew of court cases that require us to spend significant amounts of money, and we are going to have to make significant progress in meeting our constitutional responsibility to fund public education.
Continue reading “WA Budget 2015-17: High Degree of Difficulty”
I made some remarks at the Bellevue Rotary yesterday that seem to have been misinterpreted by some people, so I’m clarifying:
Passing a transportation package this session is incredibly important for the Puget Sound region. I support a well-designed package.
Starting in January King County Metro will start reducing service to make up for an expiring car tab fee the state authorized them to charge several years ago. You can see the proposed reductions here. The Eastside cuts will result in significantly increased congestion as commuters shift to single-occupancy cars.
The 520 bridge project will stop planning for the next phase. They will lay off the design team, making it difficult to re-start the project, costing millions and adding years of delay. If no package is passed we will have a bridge that has 6 lanes all the way to Foster island, which turns out to not be all that helpful. The exit to Montlake will be dysfunctional and highly congested as buses and HOVs cross three lanes of traffic to get off and on. The vulnerable parts of the bridge will remain – the hollow pillars on the west approach to Montlake and the Portage Bay Viaduct, and could fail in an earthquake or by being struck by a barge. (This happened a few years ago and did serious damage to one of the pillars.)
- The Seattle metro area has some of the worst congestion in the nation. In 2012 our area was the 4th worst in the nation, according to the Tom-Tom data company. (Link here.) This is a deterrent to businesses locating here, and fixing it has been a major ask of the Boeing Company, Microsoft, and a host of other major employers. As I’m sure you have figured out by now it’s also quite painful to live through.
I support a large transportation investment package to improve this situation and will vote for a package that makes sense.
However, I don’t support just ANY transportation package – it needs to be good for the central Puget Sound. (Other parts of the state care about the impact on their area, which makes putting together a package an incredibly difficult balancing act.) A good package will have a number of key elements: Continue reading “Transportation”
I’m in Olympia today at the behest of Governor Inslee. He called us in to, in his words:
“I am asking lawmakers to pass a package of legislation that will guarantee that the Boeing 777X and its carbon fiber wing are built in Washington state,” Inslee said at a press conference today where he was joined by a bipartisan group of legislators, Boeing’s Ray Conner, chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. In addition, Machinist union officials Tom Wroblewski, president, Mark Johnson, aerospace coordinator, and Rich Michalski, general vice president, joined the group.
“If we can do this in the next seven days, we can be certain that Washington’s aerospace future will be as bright as its past,” said Inslee.
Continue reading “Boeing, Special Sessions, Tax Policy, and Transportation”