The GOP state Senate’s plan to fully fund K-12 education is expected to cost more than originally projected. Senate Democrats say Republicans moved too quickly on the proposal when there were still questions with it.
OLYMPIA — The Republican state Senate’s plan to fully fund K-12 education is expected to cost more than originally projected, the chief GOP budget writer said Tuesday.
Legislative staff discovered issues about a week ago with the Republican plan that is intended to satisfy the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision on school funding, said Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
The proposal is intended to make the system more fair through a so-called levy swap. In that plan, school districts like Seattle and Bellevue, with high property values, would send property-tax money to other “property-poor” districts.
The GOP plan would also put an additional $1.4 billion in existing revenue into the education system.
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But because of the newly discovered issues, Braun said that number could rise.
“There are some significant revisions to the numbers that will come out,” Braun said, adding that those revisions would be released soon. “This is based on feedback we got … after we released and heard and voted the bill out of the Senate.”
In the revised version, “There is some additional cost, I tell you that,” Braun said.
“But we still think that’s it’s manageable with existing [tax] revenues,” he added.
The main issue with the original GOP proposal is how student populations are modeled in the plan, Braun said.
The last big remaining piece of resolving the McCleary order is determining how the state will fund the salaries of K-12 teachers and other school workers.
Much of those costs are paid through local property-tax levies in Washington’s school districts. But the justices ruled that the state is responsible for those salaries as part of providing a basic education for students.
Senate Democrats on Tuesday criticized Braun for not sharing information about the proposal’s issues, and for moving quickly to pass the plan through the Senate, which the GOP controls.
In less than a week, the plan was introduced in the Legislature, given a public hearing and then passed out of committee and off the Senate floor.
“I think what we saw from the Republican plan is you can’t smash this through the Legislature” in a few days “and think that’s going to work,” Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said during a regularly scheduled Democratic news conference.
Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, said Braun wouldn’t share details with him in recent days concerning the issues with the plan.
The revised GOP plan, “could be substantially more in the red, it could be a little bit more in the red, we just don’t know,” said Ranker, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.
“We had a debate on the Senate floor, we had a debate in Ways and Means Committee and it was all based on information that wasn’t factual,” Ranker added later.
Braun described Senate Democrats’ frustration as a “made-up crisis.”
“I didn’t consider it my responsibility to tell them that we were listening to people’s concerns and trying address them,” Braun said. “That’s a normal thing, just like any other bill.”
The Republican plan is one of four proposed to address the McCleary decision and fully fund education. Gov. Jay Inslee and Democratic lawmakers each have issued their own plans.
On Tuesday, Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah also released his own proposal.