House and Senate approve bill to address education funding fixes before Legislature adjourns in 2017

Both chambers of the Washington State Legislature approved a bill committing lawmakers to finding a solution to the funding gaps identified in the Washington State Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. Senate Bill 6195 passed in the House with a vote of 66-31 and now heads to the governor for his signature.

This bill would convene a task force of state House and Senate Republicans and Democrats to recommend a solution to the overreliance on local school levies to pay for basic education by the time the Legislature adjourns in 2017. The bill is identical to House Bill 2366, co-sponsored by Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah.

The Education Funding Task Force would continue the work of the governor’s McCleary work group by making recommendations to the Legislature to implementing reforms. Included in the measure is a contract for independent consulting services to collect and analyze data to determine the portion of local levy dollars in each school district being spent towards basic education. Information collected would include the portion of staff compensation that is the state’s responsibility to pay, which varies depending on each district’s collective bargaining agreement.

“Education is a priority for both sides of the aisle in Olympia. This bill is a necessary step forward in identifying those basic education costs the state must pay. We need to keep up our momentum towards completing reforms for staff compensation before the 2018 deadline set by the court,” said Magendanz.

Along with data on teacher compensation, the consultant would provide an analysis and make a recommendation to the task force regarding local labor market adjustments for teachers working and living in rural, remote, or high-crime urban areas.

The Education Funding Task Force would then be given the responsibility of reviewing this final round of reports and making recommendations to the Legislature on how to meet the states’ constitutional obligation to fund basic education in the next budget cycle.

Lawmakers believe putting this plan in place would satisfy the requirements of the McCleary Supreme Court ruling. Magendanz is the co-chair of the Article IX committee responsible for responding to the court’s ruling.  The committee will submit the state’s post-budget report and brief to the court 30 days after the Governor signs the supplemental budget.

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