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Legislators lay out plan for education funding

Lawmakers released an education funding plan on Friday that they say will act as a framework as they attempt to fix the state’s overreliance on local levies.

House Bill 2366 and Senate Bill 6195 were signed by all but two members of the bipartisan work group convened to address the Washington Supreme Court’s contempt order against the state.

Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said the plan is a compromise. “We are an absolutely split legislative body right now,” Rolfes said at a legislative preview hosted by the Associated Press on Thursday. “So what we put forward has to necessarily reflect conservative values as well as progressive values.”

The plan directs lawmakers to:

-Gather school district data on how districts use levy funds.

-Commit to eliminating school district dependency on local levies by the end of 2017.

-Collect and analyze K-12 public school staff compensation data, including the source of funding.

-Establish a new task force to continue the work of the governor’s informal work group.

“I anticipate much of the legislative session will be spent discussing education funding,” said Sen. Ann Rivers, R–La Center. “This bill provides the framework that will allow the dialogue to begin in earnest. We are absolutely committed to addressing education issues in our state.”

Gov. Jay Inslee is optimistic about the plan, saying that the priority needs to be Washington students.

“I am pleased to see that the bipartisan group I convened was able to find common ground and develop a good foundation for answering the very difficult questions related to our next steps for financing K-12 education,” Inslee said.

Reps. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington said that the goal wasn’t necessarily to satisfy the courts but to figure out a “pathway forward to figure out the problem.”

“Our highest priory is to trying to find a way so that local levy dollars are not being used for basic ed purposes,” he said.

Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, said the goal is to “really tease out what portions of what districts are spending.”

The bill does not include a dollar amount of how much money is needed to fully fund education. Democrats say the number could be anywhere from $3 to $4 billion. The deadline to fully fund public schools 2018.