WASHINGTON residents want the Legislature to prioritize education, both by fully funding the spectrum from early learning to higher education and embracing innovation as a means to improve educational outcomes for all students ages 3 to 23.
The state Senate’s new bipartisan coalition offers the best opportunity for credible education reforms.
Republicans have had good ideas on education but have been frustrated by their minority status in a Democratic-controlled Legislature. Now that Republicans are in charge of key Senate committees, including education and the budget, they must deliver.
A strong start is the ascension of Mercer Island Republican Sen. Steve Litzow to chair the Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.
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Removing Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, from atop the education committee was key to moving forward. McAuliffe and her counterpart in the House, Education Chair Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, used their leadership prerogative last session to weaken or kill promising reforms.
By contrast, Litzow has led on reforms. He pushed for replacing a seniority-based layoff policy for teachers with one based on performance. He supports restructuring health-insurance benefits for school employees. Scrutinizing a program that costs the state $1 billion annually is not anti-teacher, it is common sense.
Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, has pledged to grow the education portion of the state budget, a welcome template in keeping with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary v. Washington mandate to amply fund education.
Money is only part of the equation. The state’s economic struggles demand legislators deploy a combination of cost-saving strategies and targeted investment.
The Majority Coalition Caucus has the vision to do this. Equally important, they have the 25 votes necessary to lead.
This is what the public wants. The Legislature moving forward on governance, job growth and a strong educational system from early learning to higher education are values that go beyond party lines.