Thursday, March 03, 2016

Now It Gets Real for Charter Law in Washington State

 Update: What's the torque that the Republicans are going to use to try to do this?

The levy cliff that districts face.

So let's threaten to throw 1M+ traditional school students over a levy cliff to save 1,000 former charter students.

I urge you to write your legislator or Governor Insee (his Twitter handle is @GovInslee)

Again, I know the Supreme Court is watching. 

end of update

There's a great commentary over at the Washington Policy Center over what is going on in the legislature.  I'm not the biggest fans of WPC; I don't have a problem with them taking a stand but sometimes their education voice is not factually correct and overwrought.

But boy, do they get it right in their commentary on some in the legislature trying to weasel in a charter school bill that will likely be many things, among them: unconstitutional, not vetted properly by either legal experts and lacking any public discourse or input.

Now I'm sure those legislators would say, "We are carrying out the will of voters who voted in a charter initiative"  Problem is, the voters did not vote in the bill they are pushing.  There is NO way to say that any charter bill being pushed is today anything like the original initiative.  It has now gotten to near farce and/or the breakdown of our democratic process. 

But let's read what Jason Mercier, the Executive Director at WPC, in his piece, " Do Good End Results on Bills Justify Bad Process?" (bold mine)
With the deadline to save charter schools just a week away, several "title only" bills have been introduced to serve as a "vehicle" in case a last minute deal can be reached by lawmakers. Amazingly, one of those "title only" bills, SB 6670 was actually adopted by a committee today without changes and sent to the Rules Committee as a blank bill. This means the blank bill could potentially be pulled directly to the floor if a deal is reached and voted on without any public comment on the actual details. 

Those who have followed this blog know that we're no fans of "title only" bills. But now that they are being used as a "vehicle" to possibly save charter schools which we are strong supporters of, surely the ends justify the means, right? No.
Reasonably, he understands that some might like the outcome of THIS bill but later on, the tables could be turned.
Though it may seem trivial, following a transparent process for adopting bills is very important. Let's say a different legislature down the road decides to put a blank title only bill "relating to revenue" directly on the floor and then filled it in with various tax increases on the last day of session with no time for public input. This would be a very bad process. 
I'll disagree that how bills get adopted is "trivial."  It's making law - never, ever trivial.  But I concur that this is just no kind of solid process.
Rather than resort to blank bills to save charter schools House leadership should allow SB 6194 to come to the floor. If it fails to receive 50 votes then fall back to Plan B but don't make Plan A be a blank bill rushed to the floor hours before Sine Die the public hasn't seen before.
That's an awkward last sentence but it's true - no bill should be rushed and passed before the public has a chance to even see it.

Bravo WPC and hiss to those that are failing our democratic process.  

22 comments:

No 1240 said...

The Washington State House Republicans have a video pushing charter schools. It is all about the kids!!! Not a single word that there are multiple legal and potential constitutional issues with the bill.

One thing is clear, there will be attempts to hold the levy cliff as part of a deal.

StandForSomething said...

Clearly, the Senate plans on using the levy cliff to hold legislators/students hostage for a charter school fix. There is a group called Washington Paramount Duty and their goal is to fund education. Some don't want to believe that you can't separate charter schools from funding.

It is very odd that the Washington Paramount Duty group has refused to take a position on charter schools- or a mechanism to fund education. They had an opportunity to speak-out, but they preferred to remain mute. Other than funding education, I don't know what they stand for. My hopes for this group has faded.



Melissa Westbrook said...

Stand For Something, did you read the WPD website? Charter schools are not part of the funding issue because they don't exit. Legally, they do not. Find them funding but they still don't exist. Trying to separate out all the other issues that are problematic to charters from funding is something some don't believe.

The Governor is not going to sign this. I just can't believe he will.

Po3 said...

Seems like they are going to get a bill through next week, if the Gov then does not sign then what happens next?

Anonymous said...

What is the levy cliff? I can't remember.

HP

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what is the levy cliff?

Standing for that is standing for something. Adequately fund education and then we can talk about other things.

(Also, "stand for something" is longer than a two-word pseudonym).

zb

Melissa Westbrook said...

The Governor can choose to veto the bill and it's dead. Or, he can simply let it go until the time passes that he can sign it and it goes into law.

That would be the weaselly thing to do and likely hurt his reelection chances greatly.

Levy cliff. (this is truncated from a Senate PDF)
Local school districts relying on levies for basic ed funding is unconstitutional because they are not regular sources that districts know will be there.

Technically, M&O levies (Seattle's Operations levy) are not supposed to be used for basic education but, like most districts that have them, Seattle's is 25% of its budget. Clearly, they use some of it for basic education needs. The biggest issue is its use for teacher/staff salaries.

The Levy Lid Act of 1977 capped funding at 10% of a district's state basic ed allocation. But that got amended several times and expanded that authority.

BUT the current rate that has been lifted to 28% but that will expire in 2018. That's the cliff. When that rate drops, so does the amount districts can raise.

Now if the state just fully-funded public ed, this would not be so worrisome but when will McCleary truly be done? It's hard to say at this point so any change in the levy rate will directly impact districts, big and small.

Anonymous said...

What are the things charter schools want? Not run by the district, get to choose their own staff and textbooks? Unlicensed teachers? Maybe that is good or bad, but same compensation from the state? Shouldn't be too hard to write a constitutional law. Maybe charters don't want do be under all the legislature and OSPI rules, I'm sure the public schools would like to ditch some of those too, so charters can't pick and choose on that.

-NNNCr

Anonymous said...

Levy cliff is a huge issue. Not just for the districts that are currently over the 24% threshold, but because of the levy equalization that would drop from 14% down to 12%.

Decent, quick overview of how that works here: https://www.wasa-oly.org/WASA/4_0_Government_Relations/Current_Issues/Levy_Equalization.aspx

-SDD

Eric B said...

The levy cliff isn't until 2018, so I'm not especially worried about it now. This Legislature can't plan two weeks into the future, let alone two years. The Supremes will also have a much bigger hammer out by then.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Eric, I think you comment is the reason I worry. Will they make things worse?

But, to your point, it's all just bad process so if the levy cliff is this far off, then Chopp or the Governor have no reason to go along with it.

Teacher Greg said...

I must admit I am lost in the details here -- but if I'm on the same side as the WPC you know there must be some shady business indeed.

Here is my confusion -- the Senate passed a charter bill where it then went to the house where it has languished in committee and that particular bill is unlikely to come out of committee (or so it seems) -- is this correct so far?

Next, the senate and house both submit title-only bills with no actual details about charters. Neither bill is voted on, and at least the senate bill is not in compliance with the required timeline for submitting legislation during a legislative session. Am I still getting it?

How then do either of these bills somehow get passed by both the senate and the house if they have never been vetted, didn't meet the timeline and have no actual substance? Someone mentioned it takes a 2/3rds vote to bring a bill not in line with the timeline to the floor -- how on earth will a blank bill get a 2/3rds vote? Two-thirds of the senate didn't approve the first charter bill so it seems unlikely they would approve a blank one.

What am I missing here? Is this something that gets shoehorned into a budget conference committee to reconcile the two budgets even though neither house has passed their respective title only bills?

This makes no sense -- and frankly having to do an end-run around the actual legislative process to cram funding for these 700 (and dropping) students really reflects poorly on those associated with this tactic. It reinforces all the stereotypes about shady accounting, lack of transparency and unequal treatment that charter critics have accused charters of. Are these people that desperate that supporting these scams by any means necessary is acceptable? (That is a rhetorical question...I already know the answer)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Greg, I cannot speak to all the minutia but I think you have it right.

The levy cliff is the lever because every single legislator lives in a school district. (And you are helping fund the charter schools.)

Problem is (and some people are living in denial), the funding is not the only thing wrong with the charter law.

I can almost guarantee the Court will intervene on the McCleary work and that any bill passed for charters will be back in court.

Anonymous said...

"How then do either of these bills somehow get passed by both the senate and the house if they have never been vetted, didn't meet the timeline and have no actual substance?"

TG, as Melissa noted in a different thread, bills necessary to implement the budget (NTIB) are exempt from the constitutional public notification and bill cutoffs/timelines.

And as the WPC noted, 'title only bills' have become a common and regular tool of the legislature. There is a link above from Melissa that shows all of the title only bills for the last two years. It's not just charter school bills that use this tool. Frankly, it appears to be a particular favorite of Rep. Carlyle to raise taxes and close tax loopholes.

--- aka

Anonymous said...

Eric B said...
"The levy cliff isn't until 2018, so I'm not especially worried about it now."

Teacher/staff contracts, curriculum adoption, facilities maintenance, all things that involve multi-year planning. It's already part of the discussion for four-year M&O levies happening now.

Very difficult to make these decisions with uncertainty over both the amount and structure of money that will be available.

-SDD

NO 1240 said...

Teacher Greg,

You are correct. The senate passed a charter bill- SB 6194. The bill got a hearing in the House, but the House would not allow the bill out of committee. Any bill can be resurrected- at any time.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee passed SB 6670- which is a title bill only. SB 6670 is sitting in Rules. Other title only bills to watch are HB 3000 and HB 3002.


"How then do either of these bills somehow get passed by both the senate and the house if they have never been vetted" Magendanz and other Rs don't care that a bill hasn't been vetted and that is the problem. These guys are using "title only' bills to do an end-run around the Constitution.

I don't know how many votes would be needed to bring any of these charter bills to the floor for a vote.

++++

One thought: Seattle recently passed an operations and capital levy for over $1B. I'm interested in the language in this bill and if there is language that would complicate Olympia's plans.

The Rs claim Ds are holding charter school students, but here is what Magendanz had to say in November:


"Chad Magendanz Let me be clear: The biggest political obstacle to wrapping up McCleary right now is a charter school fix. If the Speaker won't allow a vote,

McCleary doesn't have a chance. Is the teachers union willing to risk $3 billion per biennium just so that 1300 at-risk kids have fewer options? "

NO 1240 said...

"Frankly, it appears to be a particular favorite of Rep. Carlyle to raise taxes and close tax loopholes."

aka,

Can you point to a time when Carlyle used a title only bill?

Anonymous said...

NO 1240, following the link Melissa supplied in the post, I found then Rep. Carlyle prime sponsored or co-sponsored the following title only bills: House Bills 2153, 2155, 2157, 2229, 2230, 2231, 2232, 2233, 2234, 2235, 2236, 2237, 2269. --- I may have missed one or two. Most of these in the list he is prime and sole sponsor.

Citizen Kane

Anonymous said...

NO 1241, Citizen Kane beat me to the punch. He missed HB 2136 and 2158.

But in Sen. Carlyle's defense, it's a common tool as I mentioned previously. The chairs of the fiscal committees sponsor most of these --- so, comparatively, Carlyle, Hunter, Dunshee, and Hill have sponsored the most title only bills. Sen. Carlyle, when he was a House member and chair of the House Finance Committee, would have sponsored lots of these bills necessary to implement the budget.

--- aka

NO 1240 said...

Thanks Citizen Kane and aka.

I spent some time researching the issue of title only bills, and learned that both Carlyle and Hunter both sponsored many title only bills.

There are more title only bills related to education this session. I'm feeling a bit alarmed that Litzow and Hill have sponsored these bills. Oddly, Litzow and Chase have sponsored a title only education bill.

I do like transparency. None the less- I have my list of title only ed. bills and I intend on following them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Two wrongs don't make a right. No one should be pulling this kind of undemocratic nonsense.

No on 1240, about the SPS levies. The original 1240 would have school districts having to share levy funding (if the charter was approved before the levy passed and "approved" was a source of discussion at the Charter Commission.) But 6194 had this taken out and I believe because it would have been considered "gifting of public funds" for a district to pay for and run an election that they then "gave" money to a separate district (as each charter under the law is its own district." I remember Magendanz making this point at the WPD Facebook page.

So who knows?

NO 1240 said...

"Two wrongs don't make a right. No one should be pulling this kind of undemocratic nonsense. "

I agree. I like transparency and if you can't take the heat...get out of the kitchen.