State lawmakers have approved their annual compliance update to the state Supreme Court on public education. The update highlights the fact that the state government will spend 33 percent more on the average student over the next fiscal year than it did before the court’s McCleary decision ruling. Legislators maintain that the budget makes critical steps to comply with the ruling. The News Tribune reports,
“To comply with those laws, the two-year budget Gov. Jay Inslee signed June 30 includes money to cover the cost of school supplies by this fall and all-day kindergarten for all participating schools by the 2016-2017 school year.
“It reduces class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, although most schools will have to wait until the next budget and the 2017-18 school year before classes in those grades drop to 17 students as promised. Lawmakers didn’t find the money to shrink class sizes in all grades as required by a 2014 voter initiative.
“Outside of those laws, the Legislature increased school employees’ salaries by 3 percent this year and 1.8 percent next year — a portion of which is temporary — after six years of no across-the-board increases in the state share of their salaries.
“The result is planned state school spending of $18.2 billion, $4.8 billion more than before the 2012 court decision and 48 percent of the state’s main budget, a share not seen in decades.”
The issue of how school districts use local tax levies remains a sticking point. Currently, many school districts fund a portion of teacher salaries using local property taxes. The McCleary decision demands lawmakers figure out how the state can assume the full funding of teacher salaries.
During a legislative work session on the matter in February, GOP state Senator Bruce Dammeier asked how local levies are being used for basic education when it is against state law. A state official admitted that there is a statue that states school districts cannot use local levies for basic education. However, over time, that statue has been “widely cast aside” by auditors, etc. You can check out the question and answer here.
If the state Supreme Court finds that the state is not in compliance with the McCleary decision, sanctions could be imposed. What those sanctions could be remains unknown. Certainly, imposing sanctions would be a ridiculous move by the court considering the unprecedented level of spending that the state Legislature has pumped into basic education.