Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Two Major Issues to Keep on Your Radar - Levy Cliff and Republican McCleary Funding Plan

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.


seattle citizen said...

Caps mine: allow "ANYONE to become a teacher and...get 'GENERAL SUPERVISION BY A CERTIFIED TEACHER'"
Good one.
: )

alex said...

Thanks for the analysis, and good, if depressing, summary Melissa. We need to push back seriously on this awful plan. Anyone can become a teacher? Why not a doctor, then? Teaching is a craft, and it requires education and training. I could go on...

Where are our levers of power? Of course, there will be negotiation and the Governor can always veto, and he would veto much in this plan, I would think, but what can we do to influence this process?

Where is WEA? Where is SCPTSA? Can Wa Paramount Duty organize a meeting, so we can come face to face and discuss a plan of action? I think we may over-rely on emails sometimes...

This plan is awful. We need to perhaps move past the levy cliff fight and start to fight this one tooth & nail.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, for God's sake, even TFA gives 5 weeks of training to become a "teacher." It's a bit nuts and no solution for a teacher shortage except for very specific subjects and people who can teach those subjects.

WEA did testify but as I said, this is quite the document and the analysis to compare it with the Dems and the Governor's is surely going to take a huge amount of work. (But I think the Reps knew that when they wrote it.)

I can ask WPD to organize something; I doubt WSPTSA would. They are a very slow-moving machine.

Anonymous said...

I really wish that the Republican party had more interest in actually solving problems rather than causing them to ram their reactionary agenda down people's throats.


Anonymous said...

Why couldn't the Dems get a bill together? Setting their anchor so high by pointing to the Governor's proposed budget while doing nothing is unacceptable. They should have drafted a proposal in the form of a bill that was negotiable. Now they have to fight tooth and nail to negotiate for more funding, while letting so much crap through on this dirty senate bill. Teachers should leave this state! Clearly they're not appreciated.

Fix AL

Melissa Westbrook said...

The Dems do have a bill but what gets sent to the floor for a vote is what gets done.

alex said...

Can you elaborate please, Melissa, on the process? If the crazy R bill passes in the Senate, which it will, won't there be a negotiation b/w the senate bill & the house bill, with input from the Gov re. what he will sign & what he won't?

Tali said...

Alex --

WPD would be happy to host a meeting to discuss organizing a collective response -- ideal would be to have two meetings, in North and South Seattle.

We are a lean shop of volunteer parents and would be happy to show up, fired up, with advocacy materials, lots of good info and context, and have a community forum on education funding and what the legislature is up to. We would need help with logistics (location, timing, getting the word out, etc.) to make it all happen -- please email me so we can discuss -- tali@paramountduty.org.
We could also work to invite some legislators to get the inside scoop on what's happening in Olympia.

Thanks for your advocacy interest!
Tali Rausch
Washington's Paramount Duty

Melissa Westbrook said...

If the crazy R bill passes in the Senate, which it will, won't there be a negotiation b/w the senate bill & the house bill, with input from the Gov re. what he will sign & what he won't?

Yes, that is my understanding of the situation. And clearly, it will not get done in a timely manner. From watching today's meeting:

Senator Conway said that the superintendent of his SD had said yesterday they all needed more time to look at this bill. He also said this is "not an education funding bill" but that it will change how we provide education - it's almost a "deregulation" education bill. He said they should be asking SDs if this bill does the job.

Then Senator Ranker says that out of 1.1M students in WA state, the non-partisan staff analysis says that 591,000 of them would see fewer dollars going into their schools. The point is to "get more money out to our kids."

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Would those of us already paying for private school get $10,000 per child to augment our fees? It will only put a dent in our bill, but I understand many Charter supporters are under the misapprehension that they will be able to sail into charter or public schools on this money.

~ Deep Sigh

Anonymous said...

I meant "private" not "public".

~ Deep Sigh

Anonymous said...

Alex, The bill may get amended in the Senate on 2nd reading or passed as is. Either way once passed, the bill goes to the House. If it is passed without amendments in the House (highly unlikely) it goes to the Governor. If on the other hand the bill works its way through the House with House amendments, the Senate must approve those changes, dispute the changes and the second chamber must recede, or there could be a conference committee to resolve issues. Given how far apart Dems and Repubs are on funding strategies, this bill is likely to change substantially over the session, so keep an eye on it. You can sign up for email notifications for when any action is taken on the bill. Committee meetings and floor debate are available on TVW and are archived within a few hours.


Watching said...

Any chance SB 5607 is a mechanism to get Teach for America, charters and vouchers in through the back door?

Watching said...

Am I correct in saying the House could have passed the bill to delay the levy cliff- except Mullet didn't show-up for the vote?

Anonymous said...

@watching--yes. It was a huge disappointment to see them miss an opportunity to save teachers from getting pink slips. Now the fight for AMPLE funding will drag on and districts without any buffer will be hurt.

Coulda shoulda

Anonymous said...

If you look up Senator Mullet, who left early last Friday thereby ruining the Dems opportunity to get a vote on extending the levy cliff, you will see he is from Issaquah and was preceded by Dino Rossi. Coincidence?

Coulda shoulda

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, the issue is that Mullet had some family issue to get to. The way it was explained to me is that he thought they had plenty of time to get this done BUT Lt. Gov took 5 hours to decide what he would do. Mullet had to leave and then did go back but not in time.

The person to ask questions to is the Lt Gov. I can get why he said no but the length of time he took to get to that decision is troubling.

Anonymous said...

Also worth noting, it was was the Lt. Gov's third week on the job.


Watching said...

"If you look up Senator Mullet, who left early last Friday thereby ruining the Dems opportunity to get a vote on extending the levy cliff, you will see he is from Issaquah and was preceded by Dino Rossi. Coincidence?"

Please explain. Where can I found the vote count?