2019 Washington Legislative Session Wrapup

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

The 2019 legislative session came to a fast and furious close on April 28, with rumors swirling about a special session right until the very end. There were a record number of bills introduced, and almost 500 passed by sine die.

League of Education Voters prioritized five areas this session: sufficient and effective special education funding, supportive and safe schools, fair local K-12 funding, high-quality early childhood education, and access to postsecondary opportunities. Ultimately, progress was made in all of our priority areas, some more than others, and we are grateful for all of the robust debate and work of the legislature over the past four months. We prioritize working in partnership with community-based organizations and enjoyed strategizing with partners to ensure that student and family voices and experiences were represented in Olympia. Read More

Washington State Revenue Forecast Update

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

On March 20, Washington’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released their updated projections. The council expects the state to take in an additional $307 million in general fund revenue collections during the 2017-19 biennium than was projected when the biennial budget was adopted. Additionally, revenues are projected to be about $550 million higher for the general fund in the 2019-21 biennium than was previously projected. In total, an additional $850 million in expected to be available for the upcoming budget process than previously thought. Read More

Podcast – Governor Jay Inslee

Governor Jay Inslee - League of Education Voters
Governor Jay Inslee

In our podcast, we interview policymakers, partners, and thought leaders to spotlight education policies, research, and practices so that together we can create a brighter future for every Washington student.

In this episode, League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman asks Governor Jay Inslee what he sees as the biggest challenges and opportunities in education from pre-K through higher ed and how he addresses them in his 2019-2021 budget proposal, what he hopes to achieve with special education funding changes, why focusing on student well-being is important, and why he chose to dedicate funding toward student supports in higher education.

 

 

Listen:

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Governor Inslee’s 2019-2021 Budget Proposal

By Jacob Vela, League of Education Voters Senior Policy Analyst

Governor Jay Inslee - League of Education VotersGovernor Jay Inslee released his 2019-21 budget proposal today. The Governor’s proposal is a start to the budget conversation that will get underway in earnest on January 14, 2019 when the new legislature convenes to begin hearing legislative proposals for their 105 days of the scheduled regular legislative session that extends through mid-April.

The proposed budget includes around $1billion in funding increases across the education continuum from pre-school through higher education. The governor recommends $173 million more for early learning, including serving 2,385 more students through the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP).

An increased focus is brought to student mental health with $155 million in additional investments for school nurses, psychologists, social workers, and guidance counselors for elementary and middle schools. Funding will be rolled out over several years with a priority given to low-income districts. Read More

2018 Washington Legislative Session Wrap-Up

Daniel ZavalaBy Daniel Zavala, League of Education Voters Director of Policy and Government Relations

Remember that time last year when I went over everything “You Need to Know about the McCleary School Funding Agreement?” Well, it’s time for a refresh. The 2018 legislative session was all about McCleary 2.0, or what we can call, what to do when the Supreme Court says you’re still not quite there yet.

Many of us were expecting a quiet session where little would be addressed in education due to budget constraints. Two major events occurred: The Supreme Court’s November Order saying the legislature was still out of compliance and a Revenue Forecast that far exceeded most predictions regarding unanticipated future revenue collections. The end result: Another year of legislators in the 11th hour hanging ornaments (i.e. piecemeal policies) on an omnibus policy tree (i.e. Senate Bill 6362) that likely created more questions than answers. My prediction: we will be back next year sweeping up the broken ornaments. And while we may fixate on the 11th hour scrambling, it is important to reflect on the successes we saw this year in expanded eligibility with early learning and college financial aid, increased funds for special education and the State Need Grant, and raised awareness of social emotional and mental health needs.

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What You Need to Know about the McCleary School Funding Agreement

By Daniel Zavala, LEV Director of Policy and Government Relations

In what was quite literally years in the making, the Legislature has at long last presented and passed a K-12 funding solution. And, perhaps surprisingly in today’s political climate, it was passed with strong bipartisan support. Before I get into the details of the solution, let me spend some time talking about how we got to where we are… and it starts with a 2007 lawsuit called McCleary. The lawsuit was largely based on the inequities across districts resulting from disproportionate use and allocation of local levy money. Basically, the plaintiffs argued the state was not amply paying for basic education, something that is a paramount duty of the state. Fast forward to 2012… and the Washington Supreme Court agreed. Forward another few years, a couple of court orders, imposed sanctions on the legislature, and we arrive at the 2017 Legislative Session – the last regular session to address the court order to address the McCleary decision. What was left after the last 5 years was the need to continue progress on funding K-3 class size reduction and teacher compensation.

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A Higher Ed Perspective on the House Budget Proposal

By Juliette Schindler Kelly, Director of Government Relations and Advocacy at the College Success Foundation
Guest Blogger

On March 27th, the Washington state House Democrats released their operating budget proposal for the 2017-19 biennium, SHB1067. Generally it was received favorably by the higher education community as supporting our priorities, and as a necessary improvement upon the Senate’s postsecondary funding approach. Additionally, many representing postsecondary in the education advocacy space emphasize the need to support the entire education continuum, from the formative preschool years to post-high school additional credential or degree. The House budget demonstrated an understanding of moving beyond the McCleary mandate to provide genuine learning opportunities for Washington’s youth.

The House budget expands higher ed pathway opportunities, with a focus on preparing Washington students for today’s labor market. Affordability and pathways are key components, although there is still room for enhancements. The approach to addressing the cost barrier for students pursuing postsecondary study is a combination of a tuition freeze (with backfill for the public institutions of higher education so that the loss of funds is not detrimental), with need-based financial aid in the form of bolstering the State Need Grant. Investing in the State Need Grant to give more low-income students access to postsecondary education is a critical component to increasing access for Washington students. Unlike the Senate budget, the House proposal opens the door for 6,000 more of our students to receive a State Need Grant. The goal should be for all 24,000 deserving but unserved students to not have to struggle to find a way to afford college, but this step moves us closer to the goal post.

The budget also displayed an understanding that obstacles exist beyond financial need.  Many students need assistance in the transition to, and persistence within, their postsecondary experience. Low-income, first generation students often need extra navigational assistance in this foreign environment. Many students from diverse and economically-challenged populations attend community and technical colleges, and benefit greatly from student advising and supports. Therefore, it is gratifying to see the proposed increase for community and technical colleges (CTCs) to use Guided Pathways, or a similar model designed to improve student success, to better serve students in this system.

Breaking down barriers to postsecondary opportunities is for naught if the basic needs of a low-income individual prevents him from pursuing further education. The Senate budget proposal diverts Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Work First dollars to support the State Need Grant program, which is counterproductive. The House budget writers are wise to include increased funding to address homelessness and augment the TANF, State Family Assistance, and Refugee Cash Assistance Program grant amounts. These programs help stabilize the families of the very students we seek to provide a greater opportunity for focused learning.

Budgets reflect priorities, and although there is more work to be done, we applaud the House for targeting many of the essential priorities that will help move our state forward, advance our economy and close opportunity gaps. In this spirit, let us all support greater investment in our education system from early learning through higher education so that increased attainment will reap greater prosperity for all Washingtonians.

Education Funding Proposal Side-By-Side

Washington state Capitol - League of Education VotersHouse Democrats and the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) have released bills to address the McCleary education funding lawsuit.

The House plan, HB 1843, would set a minimum salary of $45,500 for new teachers, and would slow the decrease of maximum local school tax levies from 28 percent of total state and federal funding, to 24 percent by 2021, instead of by next year as under current law. The basis for the calculations is changed, as well; and HB 1843 seeks to lower teacher-student ratios.

The Senate plan, SB 5607, sets a similar minimum starting teacher salary of $45,000, and the state would collect local property tax levies for schools, adding $1.4 billion per biennium to supplement education funding. Local districts could still raise additional money with voter approval, but the amount would be capped and could only pay for extras, not basic education.

See our side-by-side comparing fiscal elements of the House Democratic plan and the Senate MCC plan with the current funding system and Governor Inslee’s budget plan here.