Sunday, May 22, 2016

Times Kicks Some Ass on Education Funding

Section by section, little corners of hell are freezing over as I find myself agreeing with the Times on issues of public education.  (Although, sometimes it's like following a bouncing ball - I never know how I think they will come out on various education issues.)

Case in point - their Sunday editorial, Election time, so get serious on education funding. 
Candidates filed to run for the jobs of lawmaker and governor last week. When they show up on your doorstep in coming months, be ready to grill them about the state’s failure on its most important issue:

What are you going to do to fully fund education?
Great idea.
Legislative leaders recently gave justices the same line they’ve been plying since January. Their report trumpets a promise to come up with a plan to fully pay educators salaries … next year.
The “plan for a plan” approach was a bad idea during the legislative session, and now that it is put on paper, and put before the Supreme Court, it looks worse.
They don't just call out the legislature; they go after the Governor and his challenger.
Gov. Jay Inslee has been missing in action on solutions for the teacher compensation gap.  His leading Republican challenger, Bill Bryant, also has not offered a solution.
The only person they like?  Randy Dorn.  And, they agree with him on what the Supreme Court could do (giving options that are huge.)
Dorn urged the Supreme Court to impose “even tougher sanctions, possibly against specific lawmakers, to coerce them once and for all to come up with the plan the Court ordered.”
Dorn is right. The Supreme Court needs to up the ante. The fines haven’t worked; the Legislature ignored them. If the court is truly going to shake the tree in Olympia, it could prohibit school from starting, as courts in other states have. Or it could take an eraser to the state tax code, as Justice Charles Johnson speculated in open court.
They end thusly:
When candidates show up at your door, remind them that the Supreme Court mandated a constitutionally adequate education financing system in 2012.

Kindergartners that year are now getting ready for middle school
One, bravo to the Times.

Two, I believe that both sides - Republican and Democrat will have to give to get this done.  No sacred cows (see income tax and unions.)  The Republicans must come to grips with the fact that there HAS to be new money and the Dems have to tell the union that there must be something to give on as well.  Nothing should be off the table except making cuts to health/social/public safety items in order to meet the Supreme Court mandate.  

Three, here are my comments at the Times:

To note, the money that they have put into education for Mccleary is NOT all new money. We had a recession, remember? There were big cuts in budgets in districts across the state. Some of that money is putting back money to fill those cuts. Some members of the legislature like Chad Magendanz love to say how much they have put in without acknowledging the realities.

I also agree with the Times that people on both sides of the aisle should understand that something has to give and yes, there will need to be changes if we want to fully fund education.

Where I differ with the Times is wondering where they were when they were pushing charter schools. Because there were some in the legislature who did very little on McCleary and spend a huge amount of time on charter school legislation. During public committee meetings, they even went so far as to wear t-shirts and scarves as members of the public came to them - in good faith -believing that they would listen impartially to citizens who came to Olympia to testify.

I hope that lackluster focus on McCleary and that laser focus on charter schools is something the Supreme Court considers given they have been fining the legislature for months on McCleary and struck down the charter law in the fall. I submit that the Court might find that lack of action on McCleary and forceful action on charter schools somewhat offensive.


Anonymous said...

Just wondering, Melissa: What precisely do you expect the unions to give up, and why?

-- Ivan Weiss

Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't expect anyone to give anything up. But if pensions or salaries are an issue (for those on the right), it's worth listening to any and all alternatives. If the alternatives are irrational, sure, say no. But it's worth listening to at least say you did try instead of saying certain things are off the table.

Ramona H said...

Local vs statewide bargaining is the big concession. I am not pro or con, but when salaries are negotiated locally they are in a sense negotiating different costs for basic education (salaries and benefits make up about 80 percent of operating costs of K12). The argument is if the state is going to cover the full costs of basic education, then the state has to set the salary scale. And it has done just that, but then locally unions bargain a different salary, raising the costs of basic education. I suppose a counter argument is local raises wouldn't be necessary if the state aligned it's salary scale with market rate. In any case, the concessions referred to are who decides salaries and how do we set them so we don't end up right back at this point (state pays for basic education, but funding always comes up short because locally districts are paying higher salaries.) A technical working group came up with recommendations a few years back, but the price tag for covering actual pay and benefits scared everyone. And the delay continued. Paying for K12 means talking revenue, revising taxes, or gutting things like higher education or social services.

Anonymous said...

I am just one voter, but my position is, and will continue to be, that if we are to attract the best teachers we can, and make Washington a desirable place to work for the best teachers in the world, then those teachers need to be able to bargain their salaries, benefits, and working conditions district by district.

I am very wary of technocratic solutions like statewide bargaining, and the beancounters who push them.

-- Ivan Weiss

Anonymous said...

How can the state align its salary scale with market rate when the markets are so different? The cost of living varies significantly throughout the state, so why shouldn't the cost of basic education also vary? Statewide salary scales for educators mean we'll either be underpaying some or overpaying some.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, isn't it possible for the state to say, "This is the base salary for teachers statewide but from that point, we use Scale X for where they are teaching/living."

Anonymous said...

We need a state income tax. Higher property taxes in Seattle as well to help pay for better police and the increase in neighborhood property crimes. I have lived on the East coast with high taxes. The public schools are like private schools in Seattle. There is also visible patrolling in areas with high property crimes.

Ann D said...

FYI, the GSA sets per deim rates go travel expense allowances based on locale. It's not unheard of that there might be accounting for different cost of living expenses around th country. Why not the state as well?

In example:

Melissa Westbrook said...

MJ, Seattle Public Schools are many things but "like private schools?" Me and a lot of parents would disagree with that statement but I guess it would depend on the private school you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

Or is MJ suggesting the public schools on the East Coast are like Seattle's private schools, because of better funding from income taxes?

-grammar girl