Thursday, June 13, 2013

Seattle Schools and the Legislative Stand-Off

 Update from Duggan Harmon, Assistant Superintendent, Business and Finance, and his budget update (partial):

"While the level of increased K-12 funding is relatively similar in both the proposed House and Senate budgets, the two bodies differ significantly on strategies to fund these increases. In simple terms, the House wants to close tax loopholes to fund K-12 enhancements while the Senate proposes to do so through cuts in other areas of State spending.

Failure to adopt a budget by July 1 would result in at least a partial shutdown of State government. Given that this has never happened before, it is difficult to say exactly what such a shutdown would mean, but it is likely that government offices would close, apportionment payments to school districts would not be made, State bond ratings would suffer and other obligations, such as capital program construction match, would not be paid as scheduled.

I’m confident a state budget will eventually be passed and it will have increased revenue levels over last year. Until we know how much revenue we will receive, it is difficult to pass our operating budget. For this reason, I have pulled the introduction of the budget from the June 19 School Board agenda and instead am hoping to introduce on July 3, with Board action scheduled for Aug. 21. The schedule could, of course, shift pending legislative action.

 Finally, I want to let people know that even though we don’t yet have a budget from the legislature, we do not expect to have any new lay-offs, furloughs, displacements etc. Should the final revenue be less than our current planning assumptions, it is possible that some projects or initiatives scheduled for 2013-14 would have to be delayed or cancelled. For right now, this is a remote possibility.

As always, if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions for solutions, please let me know."

End of new update.

From Crosscut, an article over what happens if our state doesn't have a budget by July 1.  The article susses out what would be considered "legally required activities"  which the state would continue to fund.

One question is how the Washington Supreme Court's ruling that the state must improve K-12 education will shield schools from the effects of any shutdown.

In a memo to state department heads and elected officials, David Schumacher, director of the state's Office of Financial Management, offered this on the education question: "Expenditures for K-12 education may also be included in this narrow band of legally required activities. Given the state Supreme Court's continuing jurisdiction in McCleary v. State, the failure to appropriate any funds for basic education may call the question of what remedies the Court may entertain to enforce the constitutional obligation."

Meanwhile, over at Publicola, they point out the obvious about the stand-off over the budget:  the Dems have dropped policy bills close to their hearts like the DREAM act, a gun control bill and a pro-choice bill.

However, the Republicans are holding fast to five policy bills including the so-called (but not true) mutual consent bill that would allow principals to say no to any teacher they don't want in their building.
The Republicans object to the accusation that they're holding the budget hostage and say the Democrats can simply pass the MCC budget—which the Democrats don't like because it cuts $338 million from government services such as assistance to needy families, food banks, and early learning—and go home, no reform bills necessary.


But this raises a basic question: If the MCC's reform bills aren't an urgent priority, that is, they aren't necessary to pass a budget, why are the Republicans threatening to shut down state government over them (the existing state budget runs out on July 1)?

And then they ask the most obvious question - two budget bills have been passed, one in the House and one in the Senate.  Why not sit down and hash out the compromises for those rather than muck around with policy bills?

Apparently the Republicans want their budget at any cost and if the House passes it, according to Senator Doug Erickson (R-Ferndale), "we're done and we go home.  And, essentially, those reform bills go away, and we can deal with them next year."  

So pass our budget or we just keep fighting.  We won't compromise one inch on it or even consider the Dems' budget.

Not so helpful.  Where's the work towards compromise and consensus?

At yesterday's Executive Committee meeting, Duggan Harmon gave a legislative update to the committee and superintendent.

He pointed out that the House budget puts increased money into full-day K which is good for parents but doesn't help the district's budget.  He also said that the budget increased spending for K-3 class size reduction but that it wouldn't help the district because they can't use IAs for that help, only certificated teachers (and the money might not be enough for that).   He said that they might be able to use those K-3 dollars for something else BUT that the Board would have to justify doing that.  (How hard could it be?  They did it for years when they did have I-728 dollars.  We never saw class size reductions from that initiative and many of us thought that was just what we were voting for.)

President Smith-Blum, on the topic of the proposal to move timber money from school capital uses into the state General Fund, said that in the history of those revenues, it had never been used for operations.  Harmon said something about the use of school construction dollars and the worry for some legislators that the district would use it to pay for the JSCEE rather than Cedar Park or Arbor Heights. 

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