As the Legislature begins its second special session, OSPI offers a new K–12 plan

Yesterday the Legislature began the second special session of the year, because the Legislature has not come to an agreement on an operating budget or an education plan to comply with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

As the Seattle Times reports, Gov. Inslee said yesterday that neither the property tax levy swap in the Senate plan nor the capital gains tax in the House plan “will have the support necessary to pass in both chambers as-is.” Instead, Gov. Inslee suggested increasing revenues by collecting sales taxes from internet purchases and imposing the real estate excise tax at a graduated rate. (The House-passed budget proposed these taxes, and we wrote about economic nexus issues here.)

Today Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal released a “long-term vision for K–12 education and framework for meeting the state Supreme Court’s decision in McCleary v. Washington.” The plan includes things like universal pre-K for three and four year olds, longer school days and a longer school year.

As to the McCleary-related aspects of the plan, it suggests simplifying the current teacher salary schedule, but it also says the schedule should provide incentives for advanced degrees in subject areas, ability to speak another language, instructional leadership and mentorship, and National Board Certification. The plan would adjust salaries by inflation and rebase them every four years. It suggests that the state should spend an additional $2 billion to compensate school employees, and that the beginning teacher salary should be $45,100. Reykdal would continue using the staff-mix model “to drive dollars to districts based on who they hire.”

Currently school funding is provided on a prototypical school basis—the House education plan keeps that method, but the Senate plan would move to a per-pupil model. Reykdal would combine them: “The Superintendent believes the base funding should remain prototypical with layered on per-student funding for very specific populations that need intensive resources, and then those dollars will be driven out categorically.”

Reykdal argues that Washington should really be spending an additional $4 billion per year on schools (based on education spending per gross domestic product in Washington compared to other states). He notes, “Current McCleary funding solutions address about half of this need.” 

The plan is light on details as to where this money should come from. It does note, though, that “we can no longer rely solely on revenue sources that grow more slowly than the overall economy.” Reykdal also writes, “Our state Constitution requires the state to amply and fully fund basic education, but that does not mean local communities cannot offer additional resources to support their schools and address local issues that go beyond our statewide commitment to basic education.”

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) provides an Excel spreadsheet through which you can see the funding impacts of Reykdal’s proposal compared to the Senate and House proposals and maintenance level, by school district. It notably does not include the impacts of I-1351 (class size reductions). (Reykdal’s plan is silent on I-1351, but the Senate would repeal it and the House would suspend it.)

The spreadsheet shows that statewide, in SY 2018–19, compared to maintenance level, state and local spending would increase by $999.0 million ($890 per pupil) under the Senate plan, $1.632 billion ($1,454 per pupil) under the House plan, and $2.969 billion ($2,838 per pupil) under the OSPI plan. (The House and OSPI numbers assume that local M&O levies would be about $180 million higher than maintenance level, and the Senate numbers assume they would be about $1.1 billion lower.)

There are a lot of differences from district to district. For example, for the Yakima School District, the per-pupil increase over maintenance level would be $1,317 in the Senate plan, $1,379 in the House plan, and $2,898 in the OSPI plan. For the West Valley School District in Yakima, the per-pupil increase over maintenance level would be $1,458 in the Senate plan, $1,234 in the House plan, and $2,682 in the OSPI plan. (For more on the Senate and House plans, see our side-by-side comparison.)

Meanwhile, according to the Columbian, Sen. Ann Rivers said that the legislators negotiating the K–12 funding package are “very close.” It’s nice to see some optimism; as Neal Morton of the Seattle Times writes today, “McCleary fatigue may be taking hold.”

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