The Washington state government will shut down on July 1 if the Legislature doesn’t do its job and pass a state budget before the fiscal year ends.
WASHINGTON state government will shut down on July 1 if the Legislature doesn’t pass a state budget. More important, the Legislature must create a once-in-a-lifetime solution to the state’s unconstitutional school funding system, which perpetuates education inequity around the state.
Legislative negotiators report they are exchanging offers for a deal to fix the way the state pays for education and answer the Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision. That’s good news.
But lawmakers need to share their agreement with enough time for their constituents — taxpayers, students, teachers and administrators — to review it and comment. The momentous nature of education reform in this state — so important it has been under the jurisdiction of the state Supreme Court since 2012 — deserves ample scrutiny and critique.
Contact your legislator
Call the in-state toll-free hotline: 800-562-6000.
Send an email message through: http://app.leg.wa.gov/memberemail/
For the hearing-impaired, send a message through in-state toll-free TTY Hotline number: 800-635-9993.
Anything short of an announced plan by Friday should be considered a failure. The Legislature’s second special session ends on June 21. School districts need time to read and understand the budget before lawmakers vote on it. Their input is important, in part, because school officials can help the Legislature avoid unintended consequences in their budget that could possibly make school funding less equitable.
Another reason for urgency: School districts are on the verge of mailing out layoff notices to their teachers and other staff. State agencies also have had to waste time and money preparing the shut down plans everyone hopes will never be used.
In recent years, lawmakers have lapsed into a bad habit — of playing partisan chicken until the last possible minute — hiding behind closed doors and doing violence to a public process that should be inviolate. The stakes are far too high for this approach to continue and it better serves parties and special interests than it serves the residents of this state.
Washington needs to inject equity back into its education system. Lawmakers must make sure extra money lands with struggling schools and students. And education isn’t the only important issue on the state agenda this year. The Legislature also needs to take care of all the other urgent state needs from mental health to homelessness to higher education.
For the future, the state needs a better, more transparent budget process that does not conclude on the brink of a government shutdown.