There are just 21 days left until the state budget expires, prompting state education officials and school-district leaders to brace — yet again — for a potential tangle in local school budgets.
Only 12 days remain in the Washington Legislature’s second overtime session, where lawmakers are trying to reach a deal on the 2017-19 state budget and a final fix to the landmark McCleary school-funding case.
And there are just 21 days left until the state budget expires, prompting state education officials and school-district leaders to brace — yet again — for a potential tangle in local school budgets.
Teachers must be notified next week if they might be laid off, although districts will have to guess how many pink slips to send because they still don’t know how much money they’ll get from the state.
Here’s a roundup of all the McCleary action over the past week:
Late Thursday, hundreds of teachers in Everett — who happen to be some of the most highly paid educators in Washington state — gathered at Cascade High School to offer state lawmakers an ultimatum.
If lawmakers don’t pass a satisfactory deal on school funding soon, the Everett teachers union may vote for a school walkout or strike, according to The (Everett) Herald.
The newspaper reported that roughly 300 union members, in a unanimous voice vote, agreed to set a general membership meeting by Aug. 15 to consider a strike if the Legislature fails to adopt a budget or takes action to curb collective-bargaining rights. In its preferred McCleary fix, the Senate GOP has proposed a prohibition of all teacher strikes.
“It’s a warning that we mean business,” a union official told the Herald.
On Friday, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) warned school districts about what’s become business as usual in Olympia: If a state budget isn’t approved on time, the superintendent’s office soon may have to delay some of its payments to districts.
That could force a majority of districts to dip into their cash reserves to keep paying their bills.
This is now the third legislative session since 2013 when districts faced possible reductions in payments because of a stalled budget agreement.
If that actually happens, however, districts likely will get a full back payment once the governor signs a 2017-19 budget into law.
In Seattle, some teachers soon will suffer the consequences of the deadlocked budget negotiations.
State law generally requires districts to notify teachers by May 15 if they’re going to be laid off for the next school year — and by June 15 if the Legislature goes into special session.
With no clear expectation of how much money they can expect from the state, Seattle Public Schools officials earlier this week started sending layoff notices to employees who may not have a job next fall. Districts also must submit a preliminary budget to OSPI by July 10, even without firm details about how the Legislature will impact their balance sheets.
“Right now we’re just waiting for a final number,” Chris Fritsch, assistant superintendent at Longview Public Schools, told The (Longview) Daily News.
Relief maybe — hopefully — will arrive soon.
On Monday, The Seattle Times reported key negotiators seem to be considering some revenue ideas pitched by Gov. Jay Inslee.
Although big tax proposals — like capital gains and carbon pricing — are likely out of the picture, Olympia reporter Joseph O’Sullivan explored the Legislature’s appetite for changes to real-estate excise taxes, an expanded online sales tax or adjusted property taxes.
On Thursday, state schools chief Chris Reykdal, in an interview with The Seattle Times Editorial Board, said he believed lawmakers have made a lot of progress on a McCleary plan and now are debating how to pay for it. But with the clock ticking, he worried the Legislature would release its final agreement, vote on it within hours and not allow much time for his office or the public to judge its merits.
“There’s a lot left (to do) in three weeks,” Reykdal said.
“If this is a 24-48 hour (deal), we will not know the gory depths of this thing,” he added. “If they can give us 72 hours or more, we’ll have time to make very informed judgments.”