Update: Just to note, there is NO budget with this bill from the Republicans and, as of yesterday, no fiscal note. They are trying to ram this thing thru and I urge you to push back (see new thread on WPD ask.)
end of update
I attended the legislative hearing at the State Senate yesterday on the levy cliff bill and the Republicans' long-awaited "plan" for McCleary. There were many parents (with children), community members, school board members and superintendents from many Puget Sound districts there to testify in support of a one-year extension for the levy cliff.
One very telling moment came when words of the one lone person against the levy cliff - Washington Policy Center's Liv Finne who wagged her finger at districts for knowing this was coming and they didn't plan so, too bad - came out in a question by the Chair, Republican John Braun. He asked one superintendent how long her district had known about the levy cliff and she said it was just about as long as the Legislature had known about the McCleary ruling. Good girl.
Director Geary testified in support of the levy cliff bill and Deputy Superintendent Nielsen spoke about the Republican plan.
Chairman Braun must of thought he was being clever when the order of the discussion, which had been levy cliff first, got switched. So all those parents and kids had to sit through an hour and half of discussion with the threat that perhaps they wouldn't take testimony on the levy cliff bill. Good thing he thought better of that one.
On the Republican "plan" for fulfilling McCleary. Here are the basics (because a thorough analysis of a plan that got dropped late Saturday could not adequately be done by yesterday by anyone):
- it is NOT just a plan for funding - it is a loopapalooza overhaul of the public education system and very overreaching. What the Republicans want to do is (partial):
- 10K funding per pupil with a weighted pupil formula (small schools would be held harmless) - it appears that the money would follow the student anywhere (meaning to charter schools.)
- create a state levy for education funding (with a referendum to voters to boot), the Local Effort Levy
- allow anyone to become a teacher and yet not provide PD for said people (who would get "general supervision by a certified teacher)
- allow some districts to not have to be under the umbrella of state regs a la charter schools
- one senator called this a "levy swipe" rather than "swap" because more wealthy areas would pay much more in property taxes and get fewer ed dollars. Seattle residents would pay a lot more in property taxes and get fewer state ed dollars.
- no more state money for board-certification for teachers and yet they want to find more and better teachers (reps from school districts, in their testimony, explained - person after person - how they have a very hard time finding teachers. One district is having trouble finding even PE teachers and bus drivers.)
- districts could NOT spend more than 80% of their money on salaries.
- it does not appear that all the money that is needed for all this has been found
- School boards would take over firing teachers (over a 3-year period of supports for a teacher)
Naturally, it's a hot mess and I suspect the Republicans threw in everything and the kitchen sink, both to see what might stick and also to sow confusion.
I don't know when/if the Senate will vote on the levy cliff. I testified that it should be allowed to come to a vote. There is NO way the McCleary funding can get done in time for districts to avoid massive budget cuts if the levy cliff extension is not passed.