Legislature Explores New Ways to Delay Complying With Constitution
OLYMPIA — January 19, 2016 — Staff from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) testified yesterday on Senate Bill 6195 (SB 6195), known as the "plan to plan" bill, and SB 6183, which will delay a decrease, currently set for 2018, in the amount school districts can raise in local levies.
“SB 6195 and SB 6183 would delay progress toward our constitutional requirement to fully fund basic education,” State Superintendent Randy Dorn said. “In fact, both bills make the situation worse.”
We have studied education funding over and over again:
- Early 2000s: The bipartisan Fromhold/Cox committee produced a study.
- 2006: Washington Learns produced a study.
- 2007: The Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance produced a study.
- 2009: The Quality Education Council produced a study.
- 2011: Compensation Technical Working Group produced a study.
- 2012: The Joint Task Force on Education Funding produced a study.
They’ve all concluded the same thing: Our state is not fulfilling its paramount constitutional duty to fund basic education. SB 6195 is another stall tactic. It’s time to act.
School districts are understandably concerned about a reduction in the amount they can raise in local levies, slated to occur in 2018, unless the State passes a bill like SB 6183. If the State isn’t fully funding their expenses related to basic education, they are left to make up the difference using local money. They simply cannot afford a reduction.
For example, the State pays only a fraction of what it costs to employ teachers and staff. In Bellingham, the State pays an average of $53,700 per certificated teacher, but the school district actually pays an average salary of $69,071, leaving the district to pay the $15,371 difference out of local levy dollars.
This is wrong. The State must figure out a way fully fund those salaries, along with the rest of their basic education obligations. Passing SB 6183 and allowing some school districts to maintain very high levies enables the state to continue to kick this can down the road.
Paying for the salaries of those who provide basic education services is not the purpose of levies. Levies were created so districts could provide students with enrichment beyond basic education, according to priorities of the local community.
What the State has created is a situation in which some school districts can afford to provide their students with a 21st-century education and some districts cannot, because of a lack of local property taxes. This is clearly a violation of civil rights because districts with a high number of poor and minority students are disproportionately affected.
The House takes up these two issues tomorrow in House Bill 2366 (HB 2366) and HB 2361. OSPI will testify at these hearings as well and will come out strongly on the side of students.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.
OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at (360) 725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.
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