Tag Archives: Senate Republicans

Senate majority presents landmark plan for K-12 funding

By Laudan Espinoza | Published on January 31, 2017

Education Equality Act would make student-centered, teacher-friendly reforms

Senate Majority Coalition Caucus members today introduced landmark reforms that would return state government to the role of primary provider for Washington’s K-12 schools while finally connecting school funding with the actual cost of educating students.

The MCC’s Education Equality Act is the first complete, ready-for-voting solution proposed by lawmakers since the state Supreme Court ruling in McCleary v. Washington. The 2012 ruling highlighted what was already known: decades of putting other services ahead of schools caused Washington’s 295 school districts to rely too much on local property tax-levy money to cover costs that should be the state’s responsibility. The Legislature has until April 1 to agree on a new funding approach that takes effect before 2018.

Sen. John Braun, as chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, is the Senate budget leader, and was one of the MCC members to serve recently on a bipartisan Joint Education Funding Task Force. That group managed to obtain educator-compensation information that was denied to lawmakers for more than a year, and was one of the final pieces needed to complete the MCC plan.

Braun said the Education Equality Act would not only result in full state-level funding of public schools but also address factors that have made the K-12 system inequitable for students, teachers and taxpayers.

“Our plan is student-centered and teacher-friendly. It’s based on fair and transparent funding and promotes local control and accountability. By any credible measure, this is a progressive approach that should eliminate the educational-opportunity gap, and the associated social injustices, caused by inconsistent district-level funding,” said Braun, R-Centralia.

“It also responds to concerns teachers have about compensation, and the concerns districts have about hiring as well as the so-called ‘levy cliff.’ These issues are outside of the Legislature’s constitutional mandate but are part of the larger picture, so it makes sense to include them in our set of reforms,” he added.

Under the MCC plan, legislators set a statewide per-student funding level that puts Washington in the upper ranks nationally; require each school district to levy the same local property-tax rate and put that revenue toward the per-student amount; and allocate state funds to cover the difference between the per-student standard and the local funding.

The per-student funding level would be higher, and the state’s contribution would increase accordingly, to cover additional services for children who have special needs, or are homeless, or are not native English speakers.

The benefits of the Education Equality Act, Braun explained, include a consistent state investment in each Washington student regardless of ZIP Code, and an end to wild swings in local school-levy rates – caused by varying property values between districts – which are inequitable to taxpayers and contribute to disparities in teacher pay.

In addition, the MCC proposes ending the statewide pay grid that limits teacher compensation based on service years and education and does not account for the local cost of living. This would allow districts more flexibility and control when it comes to recruiting and retaining teachers.

“The governor and others talk about brand new taxes to pay for schools, even though revenue from an energy tax or a tax on certain forms of income can’t possibly qualify as the ‘regular and dependable’ source the Supreme Court expects,” Braun said. “Our plan relies on a traditional funding source that meets the ‘regular and dependable’ standard set by the Supreme Court, and is familiar to families and employers in our state.

“Making up for decades of inattention and the resulting inequities isn’t easy, but this approach checks all the boxes. It’s sweeping, it’s straightforward, and it’s sensible.”

More praise for the Senate Majority’s education plan

By Laudan Espinoza | Published on January 29, 2017

“The Campaign for Student Success applauds the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus for introducing the Education Equality Act to address McCleary and focusing on student-focused solutions for all students, attracting and retaining great educators and accountability and support for our schools. Student-based funding is a step in the right direction to meet our fundamental challenge of ensuring that our education system gives all students a great education. We’re encouraged that the Senate leadership is focusing on the standards of Funding & Fairness, Talent and Accountability put forth by our campaign. We commend this proposal for driving real legislative progress, and we look forward to working with both sides of the aisle to ensure that solutions meet the need for a long-term, equitable outcome for all students. McCleary presents us with a unique opportunity to change the future for Washington’s kids and we must take action now.”

– Campaign for Student Success

 

“I am very pleased to see this latest legislative plan to address the requirements of the Supreme Court and to continue the Legislature’s progress toward equitable and ample funding for our public schools. This is a creative approach and I now look forward to all parties coming together to work out their differences on behalf of all Washingtonians. We all want our kids and grandkids to have the best education possible. I hope this proposal leads to a productive session that satisfies the McCleary mandates so we can move on to higher education issues.”

– Rich Cummins, Ph.D., President of Columbia Basin College

State School Superintendent Reykdal: Senate Plan Shows Comprehensive Thinking on Education Funding

By Laudan Espinoza | Published on January 27, 2017

The Senate Republican Caucus released details about its Education Equality Act. Below is a statement from State Superintendent Chris Reykdal on the proposal.

Olympia – Jan. 27, 2017 – We’re at a crossroad on education funding. The state Supreme Court has said the state isn’t meeting its Constitutional duty to amply fund basic education. We need solutions to this problem – big, bold solutions.

The Caucus’s proposal shows that Republicans are serious about solving the funding problem and that it understands additional resources will be needed.

The proposal itself is very comprehensive. It would create a guaranteed funding level for each and every student. The level would be enhanced for students in special programs, such as English learners or students in special education or those who are low-income or homeless, recognizing those students’ additional needs. That funding level would be paid for, in part, by a state property tax capped at $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed value.

I appreciate the emphasis on accountability and on providing additional support for underachieving students. Our graduation rates are inching upward. That pace must quicken, though, and paying teachers supplemental contracts for their work with struggling students is one way to achieve that.

I also appreciate the emphasis on teacher recruitment and retention. We have a critical teacher shortage caused, in part, because all teachers need market pay.

In the coming weeks and months we will work with the House and Senate to create a bipartisan solution that improves student achievement, empowers educators and maximizes local control.

Senators: Thank you for your service

By Laudan Espinoza | Published on January 03, 2017

Legislators leave office for a variety of reasons, and the when and how of their exits generally dictates our options for saying farewell. Sometimes an announcement comes during a session, which allows us to respond in person; otherwise it happens later in the year, and that opportunity is lost. We learned during the 2016 session that a few members of our Majority Coalition Caucus would not be with us in 2017, and that number doubled after the Legislature adjourned. Each of them deserves a public tip of the hat.

  • Senator Don Benton’s close re-election victory in 2012 may not have been the biggest factor in creating the Majority Coalition Caucus, but it was the last piece we needed. His work on protecting property rights and controlling the growth of taxes are well-known; other accomplishments, particularly his efforts on behalf of the homeless and veterans, didn’t get enough recognition. Don served 20 years in the Senate after a term in the House. He had no equal when it came to knowing Senate rules and parliamentary procedure, and that may be what I, as leader, will miss most.
  • Although Senator Bruce Dammeier was in our caucus for just one four-year term, following two terms in the House, his work on K-12 education did much to put the Legislature on track to comply with the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. Bruce also had a gift for translating complex education-policy issues into plain language, and that will be not be easy for us to replace. His leadership potential was evident, and I’m not surprised the people of Pierce County decided to make Bruce their county executive starting today. He will serve them well.
  • Elected in 2000, Senator Mike Hewitt became Senate Republican leader right after the 2006 election reduced us to 17 seats – a low not seen since 1965. During the next seven years, as the Democratic majority ran up state spending during the real-estate boom and then ran up taxes when the boom went bust, the number of Republican senators steadily climbed until it reached 23 and allowed the formation of the MCC in late 2012. Mike set the leadership bar high, and I appreciated his counsel greatly after succeeding him as Republican leader. Good fishing, my friend.
  • One of the biggest benefits of forming the MCC was that it enabled Senator Steve Litzow to become chair of the Senate committee on early learning and K-12 education. He was no one’s puppet, which meant education-policy reformers finally had an even chance of having their views considered. The 41st Legislative District has become a “swing” district if there ever was one, and Steve’s loss in the 2016 general election is no reflection on his six years as a senator. Washington’s students and parents should hope the Legislature continues to follow the course he helped to set.
  • Leading legislative-caucus meetings isn’t easy, with so many personalities in one room, but Senator Linda Evans Parlette did so with grace for 10 straight years, as the Senate Republican Caucus evolved into the MCC. To her, being caucus chair meant looking out for staff as well as members, and made it feel even more like one big family. Linda was a strong voice on health care and natural-resources issues and had enough energy to continue serving much longer – but after 20 years as a legislator (16 in the Senate) her desire to spend more time with her real family won out. Is there a better reason to leave?
  • Her 2014 re-election to a record seventh term made Senator Pam Roach the longest-serving female senator in Washington history. She will be remembered for many things, and they should include her work on behalf of children and families, and public safety, and defense of the people’s right to initiatives and referenda. As an outdoorsman I appreciated her efforts to introduce legislators to the shooting sports. Anyone familiar with Senator Roach’s devotion to her family knows that while being elected to the Pierce County Council meant giving up the 31st District Senate seat, it offered another chance to serve alongside her son Dan (a former state representative who became a council member in 2011). A fair trade, I think.

Thanks to them all!