Democrats in control of the House advance their preferred plan to fully fund Washington’s K-12 system, as school-district leaders warn Republicans about pending layoffs without action on a “levy cliff.”
As the Washington Legislature approaches the halfway mark of its 105-day session next week, lawmakers have made incremental progress in a five-year-long effort to finally resolve the landmark McCleary school-funding case.
Democrats in charge of the House passed their preferred fix, which now goes to the GOP-led Senate.
Republicans, meanwhile, continue to ignore calls to delay a so-called “levy cliff” that school officials warn could trigger layoffs.
And some lawmakers even crossed party lines — accidentally — in a mistaken vote for the opposing side’s legislation.
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Here’s a roundup of the McCleary action over the past week:
On Monday, a broad array of advocacy groups took advantage of the Presidents Day holiday to storm the Capitol grounds.
Educators, health-care workers, abortion-rights activists, Teamsters, parents, students — hundreds gathered outside the statehouse to call for a fully funded education system but not at the cost of other public services.
Inside the Capitol, Republicans criticized Democrats for their proposed McCleary solution.
GOP lawmakers have argued that plan doesn’t offer a specific way to pay for Democrats’ wish list of higher teacher salaries, smaller class sizes and more.
Democrats didn’t take the political punches lying down.
On Tuesday, they urged Senate Republicans to pass a bill to delay the “levy cliff” that next year would automatically lower local property-tax rates for schools.
That could cost districts about $350 million if the state doesn’t increase its education spending by that amount.
But some in the GOP have balked at the proposal and argue the threat of a cliff will persuade lawmakers to settle McCleary with more urgency.
Keeping track of all the twist and turns of the debate seems to even confuse lawmakers themselves.
On Wednesday, The News Tribune reported two Republicans mistakenly voted for the Democratic plan.
A quick revote ensured that bill passed along party lines.
Also Wednesday, legislative staffers released new numbers that corrected mistakes in estimates of how much the GOP’s proposed McCleary fix would cost homeowners.
In Seattle, the revised numbers show the average property-tax bill would rise by $628 in 2019 and $686 in 2021, wrote Joseph O’Sullivan for The Seattle Times. The original estimate was $250.
As for next week, educators in Seattle could begin to feel the impact of the impending levy cliff.
Unsure if they’ll be able to count on collecting as much as they have been from local taxpayers, districts like Seattle are planning for the worst.
Seattle Public Schools plans to notify principals by Feb. 28 of possible staffing reductions.