Wednesday, March 12, 2014

McCleary Decision Budgeting Looming Large

From my old fav, (welcome back, Goldy):

The indisputable mathematical truth is that we simply cannot meet McCleary and maintain existing government services at constant levels, without raising new revenue. It can’t be done! And anybody who tells you otherwise is either a liar or an idiot. Washington state has a structural revenue deficit. There is absolutely no way we can magically fund McCleary through economic growth alone. The math doesn’t work. Which means there is no way the state doesn’t eventually find itself in contempt of court.

It is going to happen. It is inevitable. Barring a farfetched pro-tax Democratic sweep in this November’s legislative elections, the state will not meet the McCleary mandate.

So how will the court react? Legislators enjoy immunity, so the court can’t throw them in jail on contempt charges, as much as they might deserve it. And the court lacks the authority to levy taxes itself. So the only remedy really available to the justices would be to order drastic across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending in order to repurpose those funds to our public schools.

Which is exactly what the Republicans want!

With a warning:

Washington State is headed toward a constitutional crisis. There is no avoiding it. And Democrats better start preparing themselves to handle this McCleary crisis a helluva lot better than they handled the McCleary opportunity.

I think he may be right.  The Court is not going to like being dissed if the Legislature doesn't pony up but when the conservatives slash and burn the rest of the budget ("we had to"), then watch the fur fly.

We need an income tax.  Just sayin'.


Charlie Mas said...

This is little different from the analogous situation in Washington, D.C., where the impasse over the budget (or the debt ceiling, or Obamacare, or whatever crisis is manufactured) is "solved" with a doomsday pact that gives the conservatives exactly what they want.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Goldy. Without new funding streams social services will be slashed in favor of education funding. Then the socio-economic supports needed ALONGSIDE education dollars for successful learning opportunities will be undermined, and we'll be right back in the same boat with the challenges of educating huge swaths of our children.

With the added bonus that many of those with social service cuts will become bitter toward public education.

On top of all that, I have a feeling there will be legislative weasely moves to reduce the definition of "basic ed" to try to reduce the monies being directed to public ed via McCleary.

I ran into yet another (usually) smart, prominent Seattleite in the education world last night who blithely believes that our school budget problems will be solved because McCleary will magically produce these dollars. It's not going to go down that way. There is no flood of money for public schools right around the corner.

There is NO WAY to solve this problem through tax loopholes. We will need new funding streams. And frankly neither Inslee nor Gregoire seem(ed) to have the delicate leadership skills to get us to the funding place we need to be. Don't get me started on the legislature - the Republicans are a roadblock but Democrats, including those from the Seattle metro area, are certainly part of the problem too.

I agree that a state income tax would be a less regressive means of state taxation and would be the single best way to fund public ed. But having followed the dysfunctionality in Olympia, the term When Pigs Fly applies.


Melissa Westbrook said...

In addition to no "flood" of money from McCleary will be the question of WHAT the money will be spent on. Districts will probably have different ideas than teachers and parents.

As Director Peaslee asked and was told, even with McCleary, Washington State will move to the bottom third of the middle of the pack for state funding per pupil.

Better than being near the bottom but not exactly in Ritchie Rich territory.

Anonymous said...

Tax the rich.Simple solution.

Lori said...

I posted this on this blog back in November but it's still relevant to the discussion. The court *does* have remedies to use. I say they go nuclear and shut the schools down if that's what it takes to make everyone pay attention.

From November: I recently heard Tom Ahearne, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the McCleary case, talk about where we are today with making "steady, real, and measurable" progress toward "ample funding" by 2018, per the ruling.

Basically, we are nowhere near following the court's ruling, and he is urging the court to issue a firm warning to Olympia now.

Some of things we are supposed to be working toward are full-day Kindergarten for all, K-3 class sizes of 17 (!), and full funding for highly capable programs by the 2017-2018 school year. Think about that for a minute. We don't have enough classrooms NOW and we have up to 30 kids/class in them. How many new buildings would be needed to have 17 kids/class for K-3, district wide?!

I couldn't find a video of the talk I heard, but here is a similar talk Mr. Ahearne gave to the WEA in May 2013 on this topic:

And here is a written response to the 2013 budget, showing the many ways the state is failing to live up to McCleary:

I find the list of possible remedies quite interesting (see pages 44-46). I like this one in particular: prohibit any funding of an unconstitutional education system (put bluntly: shut down the school system unless the constitutional violation is stopped)

A few people I've mentioned that to have scoffed, but we're engaged in outrageous brinkmanship politics at the federal level, so why not? Who'd have thought the Republicans would shut down the government over health care a few years ago? But they did. Maybe the threat of shutting down the state's schools and making legislators explain that to parents will get their attention.

Anonymous said...

If the 'job creators' want a qualified work force, why are they dodging taxes that pay for that?



Joe Wolf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Wolf said...

Re: Facilities impact of K-3, 17:1 class size reduction in SPS

Flip had my staff and I run this analysis when he & the Sup. started meeting with the Seattle legislative delegation. With *this year's enrollment* - which of course is lower than it will be in the future - we would need 346 more classrooms. It parses out to 5-8 per school generally.

I then started thinking of standard-designed built-in mass-quantities classroom/restroom "pods" that we could drop onto sites (except those where we are running up against maximum lot coverage per the city zoning code, more each year. But that's another story.).

Denver Public Schools call these "cottages"l sort of a middle ground between portables and a permanent new classroom/core space addition. They get great use from them. Two descriptive links below.

Lori said...

Joe Wolf, WOW! Thank you for adding to the conversation. That's an amazing number of new classrooms, and new teachers we'd have to hire.

Given that all districts in the state would also need to add classrooms and teachers, I can't help but wonder: if we ever do fully fund per McCleary, will there be enough qualified teachers to fill these positions? That's sort of rhetorical but something else to consider nonetheless.