Wednesday, January 27, 2016

McCleary? Anybody? It's Crickets at the Legislature

WA GOP gut bipartisan education legislation
RELEASE: Jan. 27, 2016  (this came via Senator John McCoy but I'm not sure of its origins)

Senate Republicans gut bipartisan McCleary bill

OLYMPIA – A cornerstone bill to address Washington state’s education funding obligations is at risk of being made irrelevant by amendments that will be proposed by Senate Republicans in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 8:00 a.m.

SB 6195 is the result of months long negotiations between both parties in the Senate and House as well as the governor’s office. Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County and Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, were the lead negotiators for Senate Democrats.

“It is extremely disappointing that Senate Republicans will turn a bipartisan agreement into a partisan plan,” said Rolfes. “They commit only to addressing local levies, without a commitment to the state paying its fair share – which is the reason the state was sued in the first place. People following this issue thought the plan couldn’t get weaker. Unbelievably, the Senate Republicans have lowered the bar.”

“I’m disappointed that after participating in a productive bipartisan workgroup, the Senate Republicans have decided to abandon our agreement,” said Billig. “It is our constitutional duty to fully fund education and it’s frustrating that the Republicans don’t see this as an urgent issue, because our more than one million public school kids and their families surely do.”
  • Only commits to addressing local funding
  • Removes the only commitment in the bill to increase state funding
  • Pushes timeline from 2017 to 2018, a non-budget year
  • Removes any reference to capital considerations for K-3 class size reductions
end of press release
Story at Crosscut from Monday, Jan. 25th details involvement of Senator Litzow who was not part of the Governor's work group.
According to Rep. Kristine Lytton, head of the House finance committee and a member of the task force, the remarks came as part of a conference call on Friday afternoon when Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, spoke up. Litzow, Lytton recalled, said the measure “would get zero votes out of the Republican caucus in the Senate” unless two provisions were removed. One of those sets a timeline for further additions to the state’s spending on education, and it’s widely regarded as a major element of the measure.

Although he is chair of the Senate’s education committee, Litzow was not a part of task force, and it was unclear why he was on the conference call with the group. Asked about the remarks Monday afternoon, Litzow confirmed he had been on the call, and didn’t deny he had said the measure would get no votes.
Asked about the remarks, Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader Joe Fain and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said they hadn’t spoken with Litzow directly about it, or directed him to make the call. But as head of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education committee, Litzow retains significant ability to squash bills through bureaucratic maneuvers — and even bills with significant numerical advantages in votes have died in committee before.
This is getting a bit nuts, kids.  Apparently not ONE lick of McCleary work to fully fund Washington State schools will come out of this session.

And then there's the curious case of Governor Inslee who has been a staunch opponent of charter schools.  Guess who visited a former charter school last week (and tweeted about it)?  That would be the Governor.  When asked about what he would do if a charter bill reached his desk, his office said this:
The governor has not taken a position on the specific bills, but has said his principles are ensuring continued expansion of innovation in our schools and public accountability for public dollars. Numerous legislators have ideas about how to handle this and we’ll evaluate whatever they send to his desk based on those principles.
You can't get much more mush-mouthed than that.  And you'll note he says nothing about the constitution which he has sworn to uphold.

It's been suggested to me that the Governor is playing it bland because of his campaign to get re-elected and he's hoping a bill doesn't make it to his desk (and that's entirely possible, given the hoops that would have to happen.)   Making a trip to a charter school AND playing it close to the vest allows him to look good all around.  Except that's not really leadership.

As well, the state charter school folks have gone very, very quiet.   They had been sending all those mailers and hauling kids out of school to visit the Capitol and giving away more cookies than Taraji P. Henson.  (Now this does not include the national ed reformers like The 74 who had a piece on the whole Washington state charter school issue and got several things wrong and referred to the south end as the "southside."  Maybe they mean Chicago.)

The Washington State Charter Schools Association?  Nothing since Jan. 20th which is a long time for a group fighting for its life.

Their faux group, Act Now for Washington State Students?  Nothing on their Facebook page since the 9th.  That would be December 9th. 

But like the Governor, there are a lot of legislators running for office and I suspect the work of charter school supporters has swung to the "donations" phase of their campaign.  

Time will tell but in the meantime, who is doing anything to support McCleary for the 1M+ students in public schools in Washington State? 


Charlie Mas said...

This is how it has gone every year so far. Before the legislative session, the legislature promises to deal with McCleary in the session. During the session they do nothing. After the session they claim they made progress (despite the absence of progress), make excuses for why they couldn't do the job, and then promise that they will deal with McCleary in the next session.

This is the next session. This is the third session in a row when they promised the Court and the public that they would address McCleary. Here we are, early in the session, and they have already given up.

I can only hope that the Court comes down hard on them with some meaningful penalty that causes them personal distress. Jail would be best, but I would be satisfied with a decree that the legislature has to stay in session until they come to a resolution. This would keep them away from their homes and businesses and, since it is illegal for them to fundraise for their campaigns while the legislature is in session, it would threaten their re-election. There is also the possibility that, given sufficient time and opportunity, they would work it out.

Ms206 said...

I really wonder about why Republicans in the legislature are so opposed to increasing funding. It is hard for me to grasp their mindset. My understanding of the Republican mindset is that education is a state issue (not federal). And yet, when it is time to pass state legislation about education, Republicans still have a problem. The state's paramount duty is public education, not cutting taxes and not charter schools! So what is the problem? Could it be that Republicans do not want to educate "other people's children"? Perhaps they dislike the educator's unions. But still, it is the legislature's paramount duty to fund public education! Shaking my head, I don't get it!

Ms206 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

the republicans SHOULD do this! all they care about is that the rich control everything, and, as the last 6 or 8 or ... legislative sessions have shown, all they have to do is play hardball and all the whimpy I-Have-The-Sniffles Democrats stand around whining and sniveling, and then cave into extreme anti community demands. It.Works.Every.Time


Melissa Westbrook said...

WhyQuit, excellent point.

"Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society."
Oliver Wendall Holmes

Anonymous said...

Here's what I don't get. Are both legislative houses and both political parties truly not worrying about the court? I guess I'm asking, have all the politicians Inslee included, come to the consensus behind the scenes that it's too hard to deal with McCleary this year and that they are comfortable with that? It seems that all parties went into this session in agreement that not much would happen. Is everyone just betting that the WA court is all bark no bite?

Maybe things operate differently in Olympia than in most households. I have to think that most families with a court order on their backs would get done whatever it was that the court said to do. I am honestly perplexed as to why the politicians don't seem to have that same sense of need to comply.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Savvy, I believe the GOP is trying to provoke the Court. Why?

1) it will put the heat on the Court "how dare they tell the legislature what to do?
2) it will allow the Reps (some running for re-election) to look like tough guys
3) it will allow some in the legislature to strike back by either lowering the number of justices and/or their budget

I think, overall, nobody really wants to tackle McCleary but the REAL reason is no one wants to address how our state funds EVERYTHING (which is what should really happen.)

In the meantime, nothing gets done.

I think the Court will act and that maybe some in the legislature have truly not thought this thru.

(I'll just add that I have no seen on person who testified for charter schools stand up for McCleary even though if charters survive, they will benefit from it.)

Benjamin Leis said...

@Ms206 - Ultimately It comes down to cost. Fiscal conservatives believe (and this is a perfectly rational position) that the tax burden in the state is already high and that adding significant taxes will either affect growth enough to endanger the future economy and/or have significant personal budgetary effects on middle class families. Remember: this is a state that has repeatedly shown it will vote down (much smaller) taxes if given the chance via initiatives.

That's coupled with a distrust of large bureaucracies and a fear that increased budgets will not be spent efficiently. That's a concern that folks here constantly discuss i.e. admin costs.

There's also always a hope that by holding budgets in line, people will make hard choices and spend what they have more wisely.

I'll add that division of powers between the judiciary, executive and legislative bodies is pretty murky. Our system mostly works by having each branch not test the limits. I suspect if pushed to the supreme court level (and that could definitely happen here) that the whole McCleary decision could be thrown out.

If you're hoping for a more positive resolution, you're best bet is the legislature coming to a compromise on its own and even that probably requires changing the composition of at least the State Senate.

Anonymous said...

KUOW reports the state Senate has passed a bill saying legislature will finish the funding work by 2018, but the House has passed a different bill saying work will finish by 2017. Of course the groups do not agree as they are dominated by different political parties. If anyone has the bill numbers it would be interesting to read the specifics. There are always hidden 'gems' within the greater issues and will be interesting to see what each party is pushing.


Anonymous said...

Benjamin Leis says:

"I suspect if pushed to the supreme court level (and that could definitely happen here) that the whole McCleary decision could be thrown out. "
This will definitely NOT happen, no matter how fervently some people might wish it. No federal court, including the Supreme Court of the United States, has jurisdiction in what is strictly a state matter, based solely on an interpretation of the state Constitution. I don't now why people keep bringing this up, as if it had any chance of happening.

-- Ivan Weiss

Anonymous said...

Another item to consider in Republican reticence to perform their sworn duty is that McCleary funds teachers and teachers are generally Democrats at this point. So why would they vote to increase the reach, influence, and voice of a union they have sworn to destroy?

They gave a 7.5% raise to the Highway Patrol which is majority white male and conservative.

Teachers? Primarily female and liberal.

It makes plenty of sense politically to not fund it as long as they can. Otherwise this is a massive jobs bill for rural and small town Washington that is an economic no brainer.

-No Brainer

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have a model of what full funding looks like? I don't but would be interested in seeing on, with and without state income tax. As long as the political will is non-existent if not hostile, nothing will happen. Inslee can't be pondering anything higher than his "retirement" as governor, so he has time to devote to the issue. (Bertha isn't going anywhere.)

If the governor had the will he could present a model and start pushing it. Let people know what the true options are. The people we send to the legislature can respond. We vote on things that are of little importance i.e. Costco wanted the liquor business, they got it. Is fully funded ed such a small thing?


Charlie Mas said...

I think the root of the Republican party resistance to addressing McCleary is two-fold.

1. It cannot be done without increasing taxes and they are the anti-tax party. It's their brand, so they are going against their brand if they allow it. Despite claims to the contrary, Washington is NOT a high tax state - not by any stretch - and especially not for the wealthy.

2. What is really needed is a complete overhaul of the state tax system because it is so horribly, horribly regressive. This regressive structure can't be pushed any further without reaching a point of ridiculousness. Any such overhaul would make the tax structure more progressive which would mean shifting tax burden onto the wealthier members of our society which, of course, are the real Republican constituency. So they for sure aren't going to support that.

Patrick said...

And even the Democratic legislators, most of them, see the margin by which Eymans' anti-tax measures pass and the state income tax failed.

Anonymous said...

Since they are incapable, is there a remedy via an initiative to the Legislature (which would force them to pass it or send it to the people)? I know this would have to be done for next session, but it seems forcing their hand would make them take a position one way or another.

The problem is that an initiative can only spell out one issue, right?

I realize this is a minefield and not going to happen, but initiatives are the main way we get anything done in this state (other than Boeing tax breaks). I'm just wondering what kind of scenarios exist to make the electorate decide instead of these unwilling fools.

--Just Thinkin'

Math Matters said...

The state claims to have provided funding to lower class size. They claim they have provided funding for a teacher student ration of 1:17. However, being the state only pays for a portion of teacher salaries- and levy dollars fill in the gaps- the state is actually providing funding for a teacher: student ratio of 1:26. In essence, by the state demanding to lower class size, the state is costing the district dollars.

As well, the state seeks to lower the levy inflator from 4% to 1%. This means a loss of $6.1M to Seattle Public Schools.

The state of Washington has a tremendous teacher and substitute shortage. Teach for America has spead across the state. Worth noting that the starting teacher salary is $35K per year.

Have we become Wisconsin?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Has TFA spread? I haven't see evidence of that.

But Math Matters, much of what you say was pretty much what Budget Director Linda Sebring said at last night's Work Session on the budget for 2016-2017.

Math Matters said...

Chad Magendanz and Steve Litzow are up for re-election, and I strongly suspect that they have drawn opponents. The only effective way to deal with Olympia is to get both of these individuals out of office.

Math Counts said...

Teach For Americas web page indicates that they are in Tacoma, Federal Way, Olympia, Kent and beyond. Interesting that Teach for America has a relationship with Seattle's Southeast Education Coalition.

Anonymous said...

Magendanz is not running for re-election to his House seat. He is challenging "Democrat" Mark Mullet for Mullet's Senate seat. Mullet's positions on education are indistinguishable from Magendanz' positions, and he is not worth supporting either.

-- Ivan Weiss

Outsider said...

The whole issue is somewhat murky. What does it mean, in dollar terms, to "fully fund" education -- is there a certain dollar figure per student or benchmark? How much money is missing? How is it decided what constitutes full funding by the state? Does anyone have a link to an external source that explains it all?

p.s. probably the foot dragging happens just because it's hard to do without an income tax, and no politician wants his fingerprints on an income tax, and the voters also don't want an income tax (even though they want generous funding of education.) Voters don't have to be rational.

Charlie Mas said...

Outsider, the issue isn't murky at all. The state legislature defined basic education in 2012. The Court is requiring them to fund schools to that definition. The amount of money that's missing is about $3.5 billion. There are lots of excellent resources for people who want to educate themselves. I regret that after all these years people are getting tired of spoon-feeding the readily accessible information to folks who show up late and ask about it.

Outsider said...

I'll put on my dunce cap and sit in the corner. I read this blog since the teachers' strike, and never once saw any reference to a definition of basic education or the basis of McCleary requirements.

Is that $3.5 billion of totally new money into the education system, or $3.5 billion new on the state's tab, but partly replacing local levy funds? $3.5 billion implies a 10% increase in state tax collection.

ItIsGettingOld said...

The Republican activists have their talking points down.

I'll make the list and save some trouble:

1. Levy reform should be used to support McCleary. Seattle is rich and they
should pay for education.
2. Reforms before funding.
3. We need charter schools.
4. Charter schools provide for innovation.
5. The teachers union is bad.
6. We don't want to pay teachers.
7. We need more studies.

Lynn said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link Lynn.

Outsider, just so you don't have to read through all those documents in Lynn's link, it is page 7 of that has the $3.5 billion number.

Basic education in WA was defined in 1977 and has been amended several times since then


Anonymous said...

In 2776, the legislature:

• Set forth the details of the new prototypical school model;
• Outlined staffing ratios;
• Adopted enhancements to funding levels;
• Detailed the materials, supplies, and operating costs (MSOCs) on a per-student basis, and required increased funding for MSOCs to achieve full funding by the 2015-16 school year;
• Mandated that reductions in K-3 class sizes begin during the 2011-13 biennium, with class sizes to be reduced to 17 students per classroom by the 2017-18 school year;
• Identified a new transportation funding formula to be phased in beginning in the 2011-13 biennium; and
• Required the legislature to continue phasing in full-day kindergarten to reach statewide implementation by the 2017-18 school year.

Summer Stinson

Anonymous said...

My first post didn't seem to stay up. I'll try again.

The Washington legislature has most recently defined basic education in two laws: (1) Engrossed Substitute House Bill (ESHB) 2261 (2009), and (2) Substitute House Bill (SHB) 2776 (2010), and the Supreme Court interpreted these bills in McCleary v. State, 173 Wn.2d 447, 269 P.3d 227 (2012).

Summer Stinson

Anonymous said...

In 2261, the legislature:
• Preserved the historically recognized basic education offerings, including remediation assistance programs, transitional bilingual education, special education, and education for juveniles in detention.
• Outlined the learning standards and guidelines for the arts, English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, educational technology, health and fitness, integrated environment and sustainability, and world languages;
• Added full-day kindergarten;
• Adopted a new transportation funding formula;
• Provided support for the highly capable programs;
• Increased yearly instructional hours from 1,000 to 1,080 for grades 7-12, to allow for the new high school graduation requirement to 24 course credits;
• Instituted new requirements for teacher certification and development geared toward improving student learning;
• Adopted the prototypical school model;
• Intended to enhance the salary allocation model;
• Created two funding work groups, including a compensation work group and local funding work group; and
• Created a new data system intended to measure the cost effectiveness of programs by linking program expenditures with student performance data.

Summer Stinson

Melissa Westbrook said...

Summer, those dates?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my posts got posted in a funny order because one continually wouldn't post. The first post references bill 2776, which was passed in 2010. The third post references bill 2261, which was passed in 2009.


Watching said...

"• Identified a new transportation funding formula to be phased in beginning in the 2011-13 biennium; and"


Are you able to provide details related to transportation and state funding?

Lynn said...


The change in transportation funding mentioned was a change from the old method to the method currently in place.

You can read about it here.

Transportation was discussed in the McCleary case - specifically the fact that the state's transportation formula does not reimburse districts for the actual cost of transportation - which is included in the definition of basic education.

Anonymous said...

What's the resistance to a state property tax to pay for education? I assume it would shift taxes from areas with a high property base per student ratio to areas with a low property base per student ratio. For example, draw money from San Juan Island property owners to pay for the education of students in Yakima.

Looks like a progressive tax to me. What, rich democratic districts start acting like republicans when they have to bear the burden of progressive taxes?


Outsider said...

As for the dollar figures, this seems to be the original source:

So it seems that the state legislature "beefed up" education with a pair of laws in 2009-2010, but didn't fund the new requirements; and the numbers floating around the McCleary case relate specifically to covering the extra expenses of those two laws.

I'm not giving up "murky" though -- does that mean the state would have hypothetically been in compliance with the McCleary judgement as of 2008, before the stricter policies? Given the history and text of the supreme court decision, it seems like the legislature isn't forced actually to spend any new money; they could instead repeal chunks of those laws and redefine basic education in a more miserly way. No such proposal has been mentioned, so it's probably not a popular option.

It seems that education policy is largely centralized at the state level, and education funding is supposed to be also. State legislatures find it more pleasant, politically, to impose unfunded mandates on the local districts. They like to be pro-education and anti-tax at the same time, and who wouldn't?

Since the missing money is stated as a biennial amount, the yearly amount seems to be half that much, peaking at $2.3 billion per year once the new policies are fully funded. That is about 13% of the state's current tax collections of around 18 billion per year.

Lynn said...

Redefining a basic education to make it cheaper is not a popular option because the Supreme Court has addressed this scheme already. In its 2012 ruling the Court said:

The legislature generally enjoys broad discretion in selecting the means of discharging its duty under article IX, section 1, including deciding which programs are necessary to deliver the constitutionally required “education.” See Seattle Sch. Dist., 90 Wn.2d at 520. But to ensure that the legislature exercises its authority within constitutionally prescribed bounds, any reduction of programs or offerings from the basic education program must be accompanied by an educational policy rationale. That is, the legislature may not eliminate an offering from the basic education program for reasons unrelated to educational policy, such as fiscal crisis or mere expediency. Rather, the legislature must show that a program it once considered central to providing basic education no longer serves the same educational purpose or should be replaced with a superior program or offering.

Anonymous said...

I suppose in theory, the way they have it set up is Basic Education is a performance defined system. If the state is meeting its performance target, however that is measured, SBAC, average score per grade? 1080 hours is just a prescriptive starting point to meet that target. If they meet the target, reduce the hours and cost of basic education. If they don't meet the target, then they have to add more hours, and more money until they hit the performance target.

What are the average scores, cut scores, and percentages which define Basic Ed? The devil is in the details.

Personally I think a performance system is so convoluted, non-objective, and subjectively manipulated by the powers that be, to be a poor choice, but that is in the RCW as it now stands.

A prescripive system of 180 days, with 5.5 hours of instruction for 990 hours should be the bible, and do away with days of wasted SBAC.


Outsider said...

Not to say that I would advocate any change, but if the supreme court thinks it has installed a policy ratchet, whereby any education program once enacted can never be removed without the court's approval, it has clearly overstepped its own constitutional bounds.

On the other hand, I wonder how tight the straitjacket really is. If the legislature increased class size or did away with "Career and College Readiness" simply with a rationale that they have changed their minds and come to doubt the benefits; or that these programs were aspirational nice-to-have but not essential and should be eliminated because it turns out that the public won't pay for them; is the supreme court going to make itself a House of Lords and dictate policy?

Anonymous said...

"but has said his principles are ensuring continued expansion of innovation in our schools"

Unfortunately a lot of the innovation is untested or has a track record showing poor results.

Why does Gov. Inslee equate "innovation" with "improvement"?

Vendor profits are up, National HS grad rate is up, NAEP scores are down, ACT SAT are not rising. Inslee seems to believe in vendor propaganda.

-- Dan Dempsey