If the legislative session were the Super Bowl, Lady Gaga would be pretending to drop through a hole in the Capitol roof – it’s halftime! Sort of. Whatever time it is, you can always catch up on the action with our bill tracker. You might also check out our podcast series, including the newest one with Senator Hans Zeiger, Chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. Let’s take a look at how things are going.
Progress: That wind storm that rocked the western half of Washington may have been caused by the collective exhale of school district officials upon the news that the legislature passed an extension of the so-called Levy Cliff. With expanded levy capacity set to expire at the end of the year and levies to drop, districts were scrambling to figure out how to avoid sending out pink slips to staff. Now the legislature can settle in to resolve the rest of the K-12 funding situation – including a reprisal of sorts of the McCleary task force, an 8-member group tasked with drawing up a final plan. While much of the discussion so far has focused on the State’s obligation under the McCleary ruling, there’s been good movement in thinking about how to get more resources to kids who need more – how to ensure that money allocated to close gaps and accelerate results for struggling students. We aren’t the only state trying to unleash the potential that this moment holds. However we go about it, we’d like to see more of this. And this.
Regress: Even as the Legislature buckles down on the funding issues, we can feel the slow shifting of the ground – ground we thought we’d already covered – underneath us. Bills to reduce graduation requirements and undo the State Board of Education continue to be debated. In case you missed it, the Washington Round Table issued a report showing both the heightened expectations for our workforce of tomorrow and the underwhelming way in which we prepare our kids for those opportunities. Backward is how you get out of a driveway. Not how progress is made.
- Turns out parents really can be influential.
- That hour of sleep you’re about to lose this weekend? It’s not good for you.
- Principals, the oft ignored solution…
- Purple goes the way of analog. Legislative and Congressional districts aren’t the only places where politics are undivided.
- There’s an algorithm for that.
That’s all for now, kids! I’ve got to get my hands mani on before the PTA auction tonight. Can’t raise a paddle with claws like this, now can we? As always, thank you for all you do on behalf of our kids! And keep it up! Halfway isn’t all the way, but it’s a good start.
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Well, that didn’t take long.
If you like your politics the same way you like your food – not to touch under any circumstances – then this was your week. Even as we’re going to press, the Senate Democrats are pursuing a floor takeover through parliamentary procedures. The podium grab is possible because the Senate Republicans are down a few men – you may have heard that the Senator Dansel has moved on to the Department of Agriculture and Senator Erickson is advising the EPA (apparently, he won’t be publishing studies on the website, or blogging about the effects of global warming). Dansel has left office, leaving an open seat, while Erickson is holding down two jobs for the time being and racking up frequent flyer miles. Should they prevail and are actually able to take action on the floor, the Senate Dems are looking to pass the levy cliff extension bill – a measure that passed the House earlier this week. The bill was also put on the Senate Ways and Means calendar for this coming Monday – a show of good faith or a pre-emptive maneuver to blunt the necessity of the take over? Oh, cynics. Stop it. (Little known fact about how I think about the word pre-emptive: think Carrie Underwood)
Meanwhile, progress is being made. Earlier this afternoon, Senate Republicans unveiled their education plan. The proposal could be heard early next week and includes a change to the way we allocate funds – from a focus on salaries and staffing to a student-centered approach – and doubles the resources into Career and Technical Education, among other things. There’s much to appreciate in this plan, which includes a bump in pay for starting teachers. You can find a side-by-side of the Senate proposal with Governor Inslee’s on our website here. Which, by the way is where you can find our bill tracker.
Theme of the week: there are quite a few bills that either change, eliminate or de-link our assessment requirements for high school graduation. Coupled with moves to reduce the high school graduation requirements, it raises concerns that we’re watering down our preparation and expectation of our kids at exactly the wrong time.
In other news:
Have a wonderful weekend. And happy Lunar New Year. Thanks for all you do for Washington’s kids.
By Jake Vela, LEV Senior Policy Analyst
- How big is the budget shortfall for the 2017-18 school year?
- Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has recently announced that they have an expected budget shortfall of $74 million for the 2017-18 school year. The $74 million shortfall would be about 10% of the $790 million budget recommendation adopted by Seattle Public Schools in 2016-17.
- Why is Seattle Public Schools expecting a $74 million budget deficit in 2017-18?
- The expiring of a temporary increase in how much the state allows Seattle to raise through local levies (levy lid) accounts for $30 million of the shortfall. The other $44 million is because the staffing levels agreed to by the district and the unions in the most recent contracts exceeded the funding levels they knew would be available in the 2017-18 school year.
- Why is the state levy lid being reduced starting January 2018?
- In 2010 the legislature temporarily increased the amount of money school districts could raise through local levies (levy lid). This increase was intended to be a band aid to allow districts, who were able to pass additional levies, to make-up for the reduction in state funding for education due to the economic recession. This temporary increase is set to expire at the end of calendar year 2017 as specified in the original legislation in 2010.
- Is SPS expecting a budget deficit in 2016-17?
- Yes, the 2016-17 budget adopted by SPS expected to spend $35 million more than they anticipated to get from the federal, state, and local sources. SPS was able to do this because they spent $35 million in reserves they had remaining from previous years.
- Is this approach to budgeting by SPS sustainable?
- The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction recommends that districts end each school year with reserves equaling at least 5% of their annual budget to be able to address unexpected changes in costs or funding support from local, state, or federal funding sources. To meet the 5% goal SPS would need to maintain a reserve of $39.5 million to remain in good financial health. According to the 2016-17 adopted budget Seattle is expected to end the School year with an ending fund balance of $39.9 million which would be just enough to meet the 5% reserve fund goal.
- How has the level of state funding changed since the beginning of the recession in 2008?
- Adjusted for inflation the state is contributing 14% more per-student for K-12 education in fiscal year 2017 than they did in fiscal year 2009.
- When did Seattle Public School agree to the salary and staffing levels that created this budget deficit?
- Seattle Public Schools agreed to their most recent collective bargaining agreement in September 2015 after the state had passed their most recent budget in July 2015. The district agreed to this budget following the strike at the start of the 2015-16 school year. The recent and future salary increases and staffing levels agreed to by SPS and the unions in their 2015 Collective Bargaining Agreements set district staffing levels and salary increases through the 2017-18 school year
- How much of a school district’s budget is dedicated to staffing costs?
- Over 80% of the average school district’s budget is from staffing costs.
- What is a reduction in force (RIF) notice?
- It is the notice a district sends out to existing staff that may need to be laid off if the district will not have sufficient funds in the following school year. Receiving a RIF notice does not mean an employee will be losing their job, but it does mean they will be in a pool of employees that may be laid off.
- What determines who will receive a RIF notice?
- The district will send out RIF notices to teachers, support staff, and other staff positions based on the district’s plan to cope with the budget shortfall.
- What determines which employees do or do not receive a RIF notice?
- Who does and does not receive a RIF notice is tied to the level of experience an employee has, so teachers with less experience will be more likely to receive a RIF notice than more experienced employees. New and beginning teachers are more often found in schools with higher levels of low-income students. Teachers, staff, and students in these schools will experience more uncertainty in their school building than other schools.
- Will the budget deficit be solved before the district would need to send out RIF notices?
- The legislature is expected to invest more money in basic education in the 2017 legislative session, but a final budget isn’t expected to be completed before the district completes their budget preparations for the 2017-18 school year.
- How much does $74 million mean on a per-student basis?
- $74 million translates to a budget shortfall of $1,407 per SPS student. The state would need to increase education funding by approximately $1.5 billion for the 2017-18 school year, one-year before the court mandated deadline of 2018-19, for Washington to experience a funding increase of $1,400 per-student statewide.
- Are other districts experiencing similar budget shortfalls?
- In the future other districts may communicate to their communities that they are expecting a budget shortfall because of the levy cliff or other budgeting challenges, but as of December 15, 2016 we are not aware of other districts publically stating they expect to have a budget shortfall in the 2017-18 school year.
Three bills concerning the Levy Cliff have been proposed in the state Senate and House. Here’s a comparison of Levy Cliff Proposals 6183 (McAuliffe D-1), 6353 (Rivers R-18) and 2698 (Lytton D-40).
For all the bills proposed this session, check out our 2016 Bill Tracker.