Special education should be considered basic education. The state has a constitutional obligation to cover basic education with state dollars. Shortchanging school districts and the children they educate is just wrong.

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Washington lawmakers are acting like they don’t understand the urgency of special education funding gaps.

No more hearings or studies or debates are needed. Washington has clearly underfunded special education services, and the Legislature must fix this immediately. Voters need a clear signal as many are being asked to approve local levies next month to pay for the state’s irresponsible shortfall.

Lawmakers need immediately to change funding formulas and pledge — in stone or as close to it as possible — more money for special education before diving into new business.

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On Wednesday, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee heard stark testimony from school districts around the state. With the state not giving them enough money to pay for special education, many district officials say they have no choice but to ask local voters to pay the difference with their property tax bills.

Special education should be considered basic education. The state has a constitutional obligation to cover basic education with state dollars. Shortchanging school districts and the children they educate is just wrong.

Most of the dozens of incumbent lawmakers who pitched their candidacies for The Seattle Times editorial board endorsement last year promised this funding gap would be a priority when the Legislature convened Jan. 14. It’s been almost two weeks. Where’s the money?

The special education funding gap should have been fixed last year when lawmakers finished answering the Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision on school funding.

While the Legislature, under court order, has added billions to the basic K-12 education budget, lawmakers all but set special education aside, as if these students are not entitled to the amply funded education to which their peers are.

The problem has been defined by school districts and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Superintendent Chris Reykdal, last year, called for the Legislature to add $160 million to the state budget for special education. Yet, lawmakers added just $26.9 million for the 2018-19 school year.

Lawmakers can and should discuss policy bills that will improve outcomes for special education students. For instance, Reykdal has proposed a new tiered system to provide a different level of funding for students according to how much of their day is spent in special instruction. This proposal offers a framework for tackling the special education shortfall going forward.

But the details can wait. Right now, school districts need certainty about funding for their current special-ed students and the approved plans for their education.

Under the new law, school districts are not supposed to ask local voters to fund anything that is defined as basic education. Only so-called enhancements can be the subject of local levies. Voters with levies on the ballot this February, including in Seattle, need the clarity only the Legislature can provide.

Most of the levies set for February mention special education in school districts’ plans for how the money will be spent. Seattle Public Schools alone says it needs $70 million to fill its special education funding gap.

Lawmakers should fix the special education funding problem now. They must provide clarity for school districts and voters, who should not be asked to fund special education on February ballots.