Key House and Senate negotiators are far from a deal on how to fund the state budget, but speculation is swirling around whether lawmakers can find a McCleary compromise before the Legislature’s special session ends.
With four days left in the Legislature’s special session, speculation in Olympia has swirled around whether lawmakers will announce a last-minute McCleary compromise amid a budget stalemate.
Key negotiators for the Democrat-controlled House and GOP-led Senate likely don’t want to end the 30-day overtime session without anything tangible to show.
And while they appear to be far from a deal on how to pay for K-12 schools and the entire 2017-19 state budget, agreement on a final fix to the broken school-finance system could get lawmakers one step closer to the finish line.
Here’s a roundup of the McCleary action over the past week:
Last Friday, the state teachers union started airing new commercial radio spots on local stations, Pandora and Facebook.
The one-minute ad features teachers from Seattle and Sumner urging lawmakers to oppose the Senate GOP’s budget and preferred McCleary fix.
“A quality education for our kids is a fundamental civil right that all students across our state deserve and our paramount duty to deliver,” the teachers say in the ad.
The Washington Education Association used grant money from member dues to pay for the ads, and local unions continued sending members to the Capitol in the third week of an “Occupy Olympia” movement.
Just a week before the end of the special session, Gov. Jay Inslee told reporters he “probably” would call a second overtime session if lawmakers don’t finish their budget work by Tuesday.
And while no one expects the worked to be finished by then, rumor has it that a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers has made progress in negotiations on a McCleary compromise.
That’s at least the reason Chris Reykdal, the relatively new state schools chief, cited when he canceled a Wednesday news conference.
Reykdal had planned to unveil a hybrid plan that would borrow ideas from competing Democratic and Republican proposals. But, “budget negotiators claim they are very, very close” to reaching their own agreement, Reykdal told The Seattle Times.
“I don’t have enough information to judge for myself whether they’re actually close,” he said.
And while the special session winds on in Olympia, breaking news out of the other Washington revealed deep budget cuts sought by the Trump administration.
The Washington Post on Wednesday reported on the White House plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives. Some of those cuts would help pay for a $400 million expansion of charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools.
And the Trump proposal would dangle $1 billion in grants to persuade public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies, according to The Washington Post.
In a statement, Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate’s education committee, criticized the “privatization” of public schools “at the expense of millions of students around the country.”
“I sincerely hope the Trump administration reverses course and sends us a budget request that invests in our students, teachers, and public schools,” Murray’s statement reads.