Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2016 Session is underway – considered a “supplemental budget year,” lawmakers are scheduled to be in Olympia for the next 60 days.
Washington is one of the fastest growing states in the nation for increased education spending. We have made a great deal of progress in K-12 education funding over last three years including; smaller class sizes, full day kindergarten, teacher raises, and additional funding for materials, supplies, and operating costs.
With the approval of the 2015-16 operating budget we invested an additional 2.9 billion in K-12 education – this is a 19 percent increase. I'm glad to report the house republicans played a major role in these historic increases.
A plan for McCleary
The most complex challenges of meeting our education funding commitment lay ahead. In 2015 a bicameral, bipartisan group of legislators was given the task of developing a plan to fulfill the McCleary mandate. Members of the McCleary Working Group have introduced House Bill 2366, and Senate Bill 6195 to outline the next steps for K-12 funding reforms.
Critical to this plan is determining the portion of local levy dollars being spent towards the state's program of basic education. Accurate data is needed from school districts on how they use their local levy money so lawmakers can figure out how much is going towards basic education. Also included is:
- A firm commitment to eliminating school district dependency on local levies.
- For teachers in rural and remote districts, there is a plan for local labor market adjustors to help districts struggling to recruit and retain their teaching staff.
- A task force would be assigned to continue the work previously done by the McCleary work group.
While these proposals need to be carefully examined through the legislative process, it is encouraging to see lawmakers working together to meet our education funding obligations.
Last year the Washington Supreme Court struck down the 2012 voter-approved law that created the charter school system. This left 1300 charter school kids and their families wondering where they will go to school next year.
Charter schools are a great option for kids with different learning styles and challenges. Parents and kids deserve choices in our public education system. It's critical we restore public charter schools and keep the promises we made to those families. The courts 6-3 ruling focused on whether they were eligible for public funding. They ruled the citizen's initiative that created charter schools was unconstitutional because the schools were receiving state funds but weren't subject to the oversight of voters. This is similar to the structure of 81 schools OSPI has unaffiliated with any school district – like tribal schools, juvenile detention centers, schools for the deaf, schools for the blind, and skill centers.
HB 2367 has been introduced to keep charter schools free and open to the public. The proposal will allow Charter Schools to operate separately while remaining an alternative to traditional public schools. Charter schools would be funded through the Opportunity Pathways account – this account uses lottery proceeds to fund other programs like the Early Childhood Education, and the Washington State Work Study. The bill has strong bi-partisan support, and more importantly it has the support of over 1300 Charter school kids and their families across the state.
Recently the Washington State Human Rights Commission required public facilities and private businesses to open their restrooms to both men and women. This decision came as a complete surprise to almost everyone. People are understandably concerned and have a lot of questions.
While I appreciate the difficulties encountered by transgender individuals, the rights of everyone need to be considered on this issue. There are expectations of privacy and modesty that kids and parents have when they use gender-designated facilities – such as restrooms, dressing rooms, locker rooms and showers available to the public. They deserve to feel safe.
Concerns over potential abuses of the system, and the possibility of making a large majority of people uncomfortable in order to accommodate a much smaller number of people will need to addressed. Several lawmakers are drafting proposals for a solution, and I expect there will be much more discussion on this during the session.
As always, please feel free to contact me with your questions, concerns and ideas. My Olympia office is open – if you'd like to make an appointment with me or my legislative aide, LJ, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (360) 786-7890.