Monday, July 03, 2017

McCleary and Funding Updates

There was a very good discussion at KUOW today between Daniel Zavala, director of policy and government relations with the League of Education Voters and Summer Stinson of Washington's Paramount Duty about the Legislature's funding of public education.

Zavala says the Legislature made "significant moves toward structural inequities" across the state and says this budget provides  $7.3M in "additional funds."  I don't even need Summer to chime in before I call BS on that one.  We had a recession, remember?  So districts had to make deep cuts and those cuts have only been slowly backfilled.  How is that new money?

But take it away, Summer.
She says that some those funds are just replacing dollars from local levies (already approved).  She added that the plaintiffs lawyer puts the real cost of fulfilling McCleary at $5B per year.  She cites the Legislature's own number of $1.15B this budget just to enact the K-3 class size reductions (which are part of McCleary and which the Legislature could not ignore as they did 1351).

Zavala says the ruling said the funding streams had to be "regular and dependable" (as levies are not).  That's a fine point except that Senator Jamie Pedersen says this method of funding via a state property tax will be capped at 1% around 2020.  Meaning, it won't be keeping up with inflation and, he believes, will place the Legislature where they were at the start of this session in just a couple of years, having to figure out how to fund schools.

There is also a great op-ed by former legislator, Larry Seaquist, in The News Tribune. (bold mine)
We’ll need some time to fully map the consequences of the back-room deals hidden inside the new budgets. But make no mistake: way before legislators teed up a final budget this week, their delay and drama had already inflicted major damage to our state.

Each year around 24% of our high school students drop out. A recent study by our state’s major business leaders calculated that in this year alone, some 8,300 seniors quit before June graduation. Our legislators could have cut that in half had they fully staffed our state’s public high schools with the teachers, text books, computers and counselors required by the legislature’s own yardsticks. 

Our teachers are dropping out, too. Radically underpaid, treated as pawns, not professionals, many thousands of our dedicated educators hang it up every year. Result: a full scale, state-wide teacher shortage. Every day our legislators were paying themselves per diem to go to work nearly every school district in the state was scrambling to fill empty teacher slots. 

If education is the main engine of our state’s economy, we’re getting many “check engine” warning lights. No one thrives when we leave so many kids behind or trap so many college students so deep in debt. No one thrives when our teachers abandon their calling.

But rather than strategizing how to expand and update our whole system of public schools—especially including our colleges and advanced skill centers—our legislators preoccupy themselves with miniaturizing “McCleary,” hunting for the smallest possible school budget with the smallest possible increase in taxes to pay for it.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/article159188909.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/article159188909.html#storylink=cpy
"miniaturizing McCleary" - I love that phrase.
McCleary will never really be fixed until it is fixed in public. If our state is to continue as one of the world’s leading high tech, high skills economies, if all our youth are to have an opportunity to share that future, then today’s voters need to be let back into the decisions about our schools.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/article159188909.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/article159188909.html#storylink=

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/article159188909.html#storylink=cpy
The Times is reported that "a last minute tax cut to help Washington manufacturers" got little notice.  WPD says the number of tax breaks to companies now numbers over 700.

WPD's tweet on Sped funding: the State has a moral obligation to fund Sped. SPS pays $60M special ed. WA will only cover $16M. SPS shortfall=$44M

Stinson explains to KUOW that there was a cap on Sped funding (awful in itself) but they raised that cap BUT also said no funding of Sped from levies so that funding source is now cut off.  Hence that shortfall.   Ditto on ELL.  Ditto on transportation.  She says that SPS will have to make hard choices.

Zavala admits this budget may not be the "final answer" and there is still work to do.  But while districts slog thru that work, what happens and who will bear the brunt of these fixes? 

10 comments:

Wondering said...

The legislature capped teacher salaries at $90K. What happens to teachers that are making in excess of this amount? Legislation does not allow levy dollars to be used for teacher salaries.

OV Mom said...

If it doesn't fund special ed sufficiently and it forbids local levy funds from backfilling what the state doesn't provide in terms of special ed funding and special ed has to be funded based on federal law... what happens then?

Kate (Belltown) said...

This was a really helpful discussion, and thanks to Summer Stinson for clarifying the effects that this plan will really cause. It seems that this will put the district into even greater crisis. Less funding overall, all funds encumbered, and limits on levies.

I am still stunned that all of this was negotiated in secret, and with not one single Seattle legislator involved. The Supreme Court simply cannot approve this plan.

Outsider said...

Such a sticky situation. Let's see if I understand:

1) King County and certain cities therein have pursued policies that drove their cost of living to the moon, which had the effect of increasing the cost of public education in those places.

2) Some very progressive Seattle people obtained a brilliant and very progressive Supreme Court decision that public education must be funded entirely at the state level. So Seattle can no longer tax itself to cover the education costs generated by its own growth policies.

3) Oops. That sets up an eternal legislative battle regarding how much excess school funding places like Seattle will get from the state based on high cost of living, and whether state-collected taxes will on balance flow into our out of places like Seattle. A cynic might wonder whether in retrospect the McCleary decision was a giant mistake, and having a local component in education funding to reflect local policies and preferences was actually more sensible.

4) Now the Supreme Court has to decide whether to double down on its approach of overriding democratic process, or recognize that maybe it's done enough damage already.

Time for creative solutions. Perhaps King County could just secede and become the new state of Progressia, and be back in control of its own taxing and spending choices. Or perhaps the legislature could use property values as a proxy for cost of living as it affects education, and develop a formula which conveniently distributes all property taxes back to the source jurisdiction, which creates the appearance of schools being funded from the state level when it's effectively local. Or perhaps the Supreme Court could decide that the state constitution requires it to abolish the legislature and rule by decree. Just thinking outside the box.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Outsider, that's quite the twisted version of events but if that's how you see it, okay.

However, the cost of living does not really increase the cost of public education. It influences who lives where and PTA funding (with concentrated wealth but how that increases the costs of education is unclear to me.

The Court didn't say local money couldn't be used in education but that it was the job of the state to fund basic education. I'm not sure how that's unfair given that rural areas could not raise the money that Seattle can. (Although they also don't pass their levies at any amount but that may be another issues.)

What an interesting take on the 4th of July.

Outsider said...

High cost of living increases the requirements for teacher and administrator salaries that would attract and retain qualified staff. High cost of living also potentially increases homelessness and stress on families, reducing their ability to support their kids and transferring some of that role to the schools. I am amazed that you would say high cost of living does not affect school expenses. It seems huge.

I was partly noting the irony in Kate's comment. It was considered such a great, progressive step to transfer budgetary control of education to the state, and now Seattle residents note with alarm that the state operates in the dark with no Seattle legislators present. Seattle sent control to Olympia, and is now shocked that it lost control. I guess I am twisted, but that strikes me as ironic.

"The Court didn't say local money couldn't be used in education but that it was the job of the state to fund basic education." This I honestly don't understand. It seems that the big problem others have mentioned in Seattle (for example, the lost special ed funds formerly supplied by local levy) is that local money now can't be used in education.

Of course, it makes more sense if you view McCleary as being fundamentally designed to force a state income tax, and any interim stages (with their associated inconveniences) are viewed as temporary periods of political struggle.

A further irony I would note: the 4th of July was originally associated with independence, local control, and matching taxation with representation. Has it now been twisted into an event celebrating loyalty to distant capitals and the status quo?

Anonymous said...

What policies can a city pursue that lower cost of living? Do you just mean taxes? Or should the city be getting rid of zoning restrictions? Capping median salaries at high end employers? This is a very unusual point of view.

-sleeper

Outsider said...

Regarding cost of living, that horse left the barn already. What I meant was, once mega-growth policies are in place, Seattle would benefit from the flexibility to increase school funding to compensate. Local taxpayer will seems to exist. But there was this effort called McCleary to reduce or eliminate local budgetary control and put most or all funding decisions in Olympia.

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Kate (Belltown) said...

Outsider, I don't think that the Court, in the McCleary decision, directed the legislature to "eliminate local budgetary control." The legislature was directed to meet its constitutional requirement to amply fund K-12 public education. There's a big difference between the two. The fact is that the Democrats caved. Also, see today's Westneat.

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/blue-state-seattle-gets-rolled-in-olympia-tax-deal/