By Jene Jones, Government Relations
There is general bi-partisan agreement on 2 things: 60 days to adjournment, in order to raise money and campaign for elections starting on day 61, and there will be budget adjustments for wildfire costs last summer and some caseload increases for social services this year. Beyond that, priorities differ.
The Senate is coming out strong saying there will be a Charter patch that funds the existing Charter schools which converted to ALE, Private, and Homeschool models mid this year, in order for them to continue to serve students who started in those schools in the fall. The family voice has been loud; students have been telling their stories of how their learning needs are being met, they feel like they belong, have choice, and are succeeding at their public Charter schools.
There is a McCleary bill that will obligate the state to fully take on compensation for staff at the state level by the end of the 2017 session. In order to show progress toward the court deadlines, the bill will probably pass this session. The funding for this however, is not a part of the prescribed plan. With 60% of voters telling the legislature they want 2/3 votes in both the House and the Senate to raise taxes through Eyman’s initiative 1366 which passed in November, even in the Legislative districts of 20 Democrat members in the House, tax increases for McCleary will be a tough vote to bring to the floor. In addition, if lawmakers do nothing with I-1366 (asking for a 2/3rds vote in House & Senate to raise taxes), starting on April 15, 2016 sales tax will lower by 1%, and the state will lose a billion dollars every year to the general fund, which funds education. (I-1366 is being legally challenged.) As perspective: The transportation package which passed last year did not have 2/3 vote in the House. 2/3rds votes are hard in a legislature with: 73 Rs, 73 Ds, and one D that caucuses with the Rs.
Policy for education will include other robust discussions in 2016: 1. Individualizing student pathways and addressing the Skills Gap through Career Tech coursework in Junior High and High Schools, and 2. Assessment and if it should remain linked to graduation requirements (HB 2214). For schools: How do you use the assessment results to meet the learning needs of your students, and assure all graduates are career/college ready?
Let’s focus 2016 on students. Student needs. Student outcomes. Student choice.