State Tries to Avoid Compliance

The legislature has tried everything possible to avoid paying the actual cost of basic education.

 During the McCleary trial, the legislature tried to shrink the definition of basic education

During the McCleary trial, the legislature pointed to wording in the ESHB 2261 education reform law that, to put it bluntly, asserted that Basic Education is fully funded when the legislature says it is fully funded. But, the Supreme Court dismissed the State’s argument as a tautology that, in any event, does not remove the judiciary’s responsibility to ensure that the state has complied with its constitutional duty.

Superior Court Final Judgement, Feb. 24, 2010, Findings 179 and 180. https://waschoolexcellence.org/wp-content/uploads/news-final-judgment.pdf

Supreme Court Ruling in the McCleary Appeal by State, Jan. 5, 2012 p.60. http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/843627.opn.pdf

The state enacted legislation that underfunded and ignored important cost categories for basic education.

With passage of ESHB 2261 (2009), the legislature installed a new cost structure (the prototypical models for elementary, middle and high schools) for funding basic education, but did not identify specific staffing ratios or resource dollars for the new cost categories. Instead, ESHB 2261 commissioned the Quality Education Council (QEC) to develop evidence-based staff ratios and cost figures for the new cost structure. In addition, “the legislature declared its intent to implement the details of ESHB 2261 through a phased-in approach as recommended by the QEC, with full implementation by 2018.” Supreme Court Ruling in the McCleary Appeal by State, Jan. 5, 2012 p.32. http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/843627.opn.pdf

Since 2009, the QEC has recommended staffing ratios and compensations, and resource levels for fully-funded prototypical school models. However, the QEC recommendations were mostly ignored.

Yes, the legislature passed SHB 2776 in 2010 which increased state funding for transportation, materials, supplies & operating costs, all-day kindergarten, and reduced class sizes in K-3. The current budget bills, SSB 5883 and EHB 2242, increase the compensation for certificated instructional staff, certificated administrative staff, and classified staff and increase the staffing ratios for a few selected staff types. Other bills have also increased the funding in other basic education cost categories.

Yet with these budget increases and despite QEC’s full funding recommendations, many cost categories remain under funded or not funded at all. In particular, no state funding has been provided for reduced class sizes in high-poverty middle and high schools or family involvement coordinators at middle and high schools, or professional development coaches. The underfunded cost categories include guidance counselors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and office support staff.

Unfortunately, schools in our state are grossly understaffed. The schools are not being staffed according to the state’s prototypical school funding model.

See tables that compare the staffing ratios and resource levels used in the three funding plans: Current FY 2017, State Budget FY 2019, QEC Fully-Funded FY 2019.

The legislature quietly eliminated the QEC in 2015

As the QEC work groups reported their findings, legislators grew increasingly concerned about the large and growing cost of their recommendations.

In June 2016, the legislature quietly eliminated the QEC with passage of HB 2360.

Opportunities for the public to weigh in on the bill to eliminate the QEC were limited.

In their public hearings of HB 2360 and several other bills, both the Senate Early Learning & Education Committee (February 8, 2016) and the Senate Ways & Means Committee (February 29, 2016) voted to waive Senate Rule 45 which requires the public to be notified five days in advance of a hearing.

No one testified at the February 8 hearing. See the TVW video of the hearing at: www.tvw.org/watch/?clientID=9375922947&eventID=2016021235&eventID=2016021235&autoStartStream=true

Only one person testified with regards to HB2360 at the February 29 hearing, and she favored the elimination of the QEC. www.tvw.org/watch/?clientID=9375922947&eventID=2016021409&eventID=2016021409&autoStartStream=true

The House Bill Report on HB 2360 showed that:

Only two individuals testified at the House Committee of Education’s public hearing held on January 25, 2016.  Randy Dorn, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Jack Archer, State Board of Education, testified against HB 2360, favoring the continuation of the QEC; and
Only one person testified at the House Committee of Appropriations’ public hearing held on February 4, 2016.   One of the bill’s sponsors testified in favor of the bill to eliminate the QEC.

Governor Inslee signed HB 2360 into law on April 1, 2016. http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=2360&Year=2016

The state seeks to remove from the definition of basic education the reduced class sizes called for by both the QEC and Initiative 1351.

As explained in a June 2017 Senate handout on the 2017-19 biennial budget,

“The staffing enrichments provided in the prototypical funding formula under Initiative 1351 are removed from the basic education chapter and re-codified in a different chapter, with language stating that the enhanced staffing units are an enrichment to basic education. However, if an additional staffing unit is funded by specific reference in the operating budget than those units become part of basic education.”

SUBSTITUTE SENATE BILL 5883 Operating Budget Sec. 502 (2) (a). http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2017-18/Pdf/Bills/Session%20Laws/Senate/5883-S.SL.pdf

Engrossed House Bill 2242 Basic Education Sec. 904 http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2017-18/Pdf/Bills/House%20Passed%20Legislature/2242.PL.pdf

Initiative Measure 1351 was passed in 2014 and called for the kinds and levels of staffing in prototypical schools that are nearly identical to those recommended by the QEC for full funding in 2018.

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