I’m not sure you can put all the blame on Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” for the ruination of the word “special.” I mean, anybody else remember the ABC After School Specials of the 1970s? The first “entertainment specials” aimed at teen and tween angst on television were often anything but. Which brings me to the state of our legislative session(s). Wrapping up the first week of the second “special session” makes me long for the bad-hair-’70s nightmare that was “My Dad’s Wife” starring… Kristy McNichol. Now, those were good times. Our legislative sessions… not so much.
With a (partial) government shutdown looming at the end of the month, budget negotiators have been called to the office—the Governor’s office—to resume talks after the first really super special session resulted in nada. Well, not nada, exactly. Overall budget proposals seemed to have resulted in myriad teacher walkouts to protest a variety of issues—something we can expect to see more of, even though the budget will likely result in record investments in education. More on this in a moment.
The House Democrat budget included $1.5 billion in new taxes. The Senate Republican budget relied on increased revenue from a growing economy. The new House budget reduced the request for new taxes by nearly 2/3, but still seeks a capital gains tax that Senate Republicans say is unnecessary. The change in the Democrats’ approach was the result of a dreamy revenue forecast that put several hundred million dollars of unexpected money into state coffers. The two sides entered this set of negotiations with a smaller delta, but a delta, nonetheless.
Optimism? Pessimism? Politicism? Remember that the long sessions are for budget debates, the short sessions are to tee up an election cycle. Oops. I mean, to address non-budget-related policy matters.
Speaking of the Supreme Court and McCleary, looks like we might get another chance to see just how serious the Supremes are about their landmark school funding decision. Because despite the record amounts of green money all sides are pouring into education, none of the budget proposals address two intertwined elements of the Court’s decision; School districts’ over-reliance on local levies to pay for basic education and the state’s unwillingness to fully pay for compensation of the personnel it takes to run schools. The Court also expects a report on the State plan to fully fund basic education—a report that doesn’t seem to have an author yet.
One additional element to remind us about quickly here is the class-size initiative, 1351, which passed with a narrow margin in 2014. No one funds it. While the Legislature made additional investments in class-size reduction from kindergarten through third grade, the rest of the initiative remains unfunded. Not without reason—it’s expensive—and research only shows an academic benefit in reducing classes in the early grades. Meanwhile, a lawsuit looking to overturn the initiative based on a technical issue was filed in Kittitas.
That’s the pertinent state budget news. There’s always a lot more going on, though, and you can find a lot of it on our site. Here, for your reflection, a little not-so-light equity reading:
- When school boards don’t represent the kids the schools serve.
- Closing the tech divide isn’t a silver bullet.
- Kids who arguably need college most don’t finish at the rates we hope. And they need.
- Kati Haycock is p.o.’ed.
That’s all for this extra special week. As always, thanks for all you do on behalf of Washington’s students.
Chris (and Team LEV)
Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup is emailed to subscribers weekly and posted on our blog on Fridays during the 2015 legislative session. Sign up to receive Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup via email.