You practically need a flow chart these days to keep track of what's happening on McCleary (the 2012 state Supreme Court ruling - which the Legislature is in the midst of complying with - that said the state is unconstitutionally not paying the full cost of basic education).
The big remaining task of the state is to fully fund school-employee salaries for basic education. Legislation moving through the House and Senate would, in a nutshell:
- Appropriate a total of $500,000 for the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to - among other things - identify how much each school district is paying for teacher salaries, as they relate to basic education, from local funds. This analysis will tell lawmakers what the exact cost of full state funding for basic-education salaries will be.
- Set up an "Education Funding Task Force" to finish the work of the governor's 2015 McCleary workgroup and make recommendations on:
- How to pay for full state funding
- What a new system for teacher compensation would look like, including "a system for future salary adjustments" and "a local labor market adjustment formula" to consider salary levels in districts with high costs of living, hard-to-staff schools, and economically distressed areas
- Teacher shortages
- Local levies
- Local collective bargaining
- Distinguishing between basic education and extra education that goes beyond that
- How to fund school employee health benefits
3. Require legislative action on school district levy reform.
There's fairly broad agreement on most parts of this legislation - except for the matter of timing. The House-passed version of the bill says the Legislature must act on levy reform by the end of 2017, while the Senate version simply says by 2018, which is the deadline the court gave for compliance.
In the Senate K-12 and Early Learning Committee yesterday, Democrats expressed dismay at the change, saying it weakened the bill, while Republicans said the Legislature is on track to meet its deadline. The Senate version passed the committee on a 5-4 party-line vote; the House version passed on the floor Monday by 64-34.
The Senate version will next be considered by the Ways & Means Committee. If it is approved there and then by the full Senate, lawmakers will try to hash out their differences and vote on a final bill.
As always, we'll keep you updated.