Even as legislative leaders and Gov. Jay Inslee have said there will be no full plan this year to address the High Court’s 2012 education funding order, Democratic legislators Wednesday touted several bills they say will help address K-12 issues.
OLYMPIA — As the days dribble by in this year’s short, 60-day legislative session, legislators continue to try to come to terms with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision on education funding.
On Wednesday, Democrats touted several bills they say would help address K-12 issues raised in the court’s 2012 decision that said legislators were underfunding the state’s public schools.
The proposals talked up Wednesday include HB 2881, intended to address the state’s teacher shortage by improving teacher recruiting, retention and training, and SB 5859, which would increase the state’s contribution toward school-construction costs.
Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, said Democrats were pushing back on the idea that little could be accomplished this session on the McCleary order, which, among other things, calls for changes in how local property-tax levies are used to pay for basic education.
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“While the levy piece may not be something we solve this year,” Farrell said, “we have set forth a set of items that … are solving elements of McCleary.”
Democrats also talked up HB 2837, intended to make sure K-12 class-size reductions in large school districts are fairly executed.
But it remains unclear what lawmakers will ultimately do this session regarding McCleary.
The court in August imposed a $100,000-per-day fine because lawmakers have not yet come up with a full funding plan to satisfy the order.
Legislative leaders and Gov. Jay Inslee have said there will be no comprehensive plan this year to address McCleary.
Legislative leaders have also walked back from an estimate that a fix for levy funding could cost $3.5 billion every two years.
On Monday, the House passed HB 2366, a bill from a work group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers that would begin directly addressing some of the court’s remaining McCleary concerns.
But House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said in a Monday news conference that a Republican lawmaker recently informed Democrats that “basically the bill is dead” in the GOP-controlled Senate.
In a news conference Tuesday, Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said that among other things, the bipartisan work by lawmakers so far hasn’t done enough to recognize legislators’ prior work on satisfying the McCleary order.
“That was my greatest concern … We lost that in terms of the message the public is hearing,” Ericksen said. “I think we’re doing a very good job moving forward.
“[There’s] still more we can do,” he added. “And we’re going to look at that legislation and see if it fits into a policy that moves forward.”