In the continuing saga of legislation to address the state Supreme Court's McCleary ruling on K-12 basic education funding, the Senate Ways & Means Committee on Tuesday took action, approving its version - but not without changes, or controversy.
- A working group convened by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and made up of various school finance, management and administrative professionals must, by Sept. 1, 2016, submit to the legislative education funding task force recommendations for "requiring school districts to provide separate accounting of state, federal, and local revenue expenditures and also separate accounting of basic education and nonbasic education expenditures."
- The state auditor must, by June 1, 2016, make recommendations "on how adjustments can be made to the internal practices of both the auditor and the school districts to ensure that school districts are not using local levy funds for basic education."
- As the Associated Press reports, "Before classes begin in fall 2017, districts would be required to start paying teachers and other instructional staff separately for anything that doesn't qualify as basic education, such as arts education or after school programs. Although teacher pay would not be cut, everything above what is paid for by state dollars would need to fit in certain categories."
- The deadline for reforming school district levies is moved from 2018 to Dec. 31, 2017.
- The $500,000 appropriation for the bill is removed.
Republicans on the committee supported the changes; Democrats did not.
Sen. Bruce Dammeier (R-Puyallup) said the changes would "strengthen" the bill, "set our task force up for success, [and] give [members] the information they need to come up with a very strong and comprehensive solution" on McCleary.
Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) argued that the new version lacks "a commitment to funding [school employee] salaries" and did not have bipartisan input. Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane) added that the original bill said "legislative action shall be taken by the end of the 2017 session to eliminate school district dependency on local levies" and that he would vote no because the new version doesn't include that requirement.
(Watch committee debate on the bill here, starting at 1:38:05.)
The legislation's next stop is debate on the Senate floor for a full vote. We'll provide updates as we get more information.