In what has become unfortunately common in Washington, the 2013 legislative session went into overtime. An agreement on a two-year budget was reached with less than 24 hours to spare to avoid a shutdown of state government. While significant hurdles remain as we strive to ensure our public education system is amply, equitably and sustainably funded, measurable progress was made during the extended 2013 session.
The legislature and the Governor were faced with competing requirements and political trends. Our state’s constitution required increased investment in K-12 education. And while I-1053 was ultimately ruled unconstitutional, the voters of Washington state have consistently sent a strong message that any tax increases must have 2/3 majority support in the legislature. The legislators were charged with increasing investment in K12, without broad based revenue increases, and avoiding cuts to other areas of education or essential social services.
On that score you have to say the session was a mild success. As a state, we expanded investment in early learning, brought a modicum of stability to the Working Connections Child Care program, increased investment in K-12 with an intense focus on the opportunity gap, and stopped the crippling cuts to higher education. We did all of this without cannibalizing essential social services. While it took longer than was needed, the outcome reflected the values of the voters who sent the legislators to Olympia to represent them.
In addition to the budget items, significant bipartisan efforts on education policy were passed (See LEV 2013 legislative accomplishments). Legislation related to addressing customer service issues in child care, supports for persistently failing schools, literacy, STEM education, gathering and reporting of discipline data, and assessment reforms all passed with significant bipartisan support.
As we move forward, LEV will continue to work with parents, members of both parties, and members of the education community to address the continuing challenge of providing ample, equitable and stable funding and ensuring those dollars are invested effectively to ensure that every student in Washington state receives an excellent public education that provides the opportunity for success.