The Senate Ways and Means Committee heard public testimony this week on the Senate’s education funding plan, which has a later deadline than a House funding plan to fix the state’s problem with an overreliance on school levies.
Nearly all those who testified were opposed to Senate Bill 6195, which requires legislative action to be taken by 2018 to “reform” school district levies. That’s in contrast to the House education funding plan, which calls for eliminating reliance on levies by 2017.
Ben Rarick of the State Board of Education testified in opposition to the bill, saying it doesn’t strengthen an education funding plan that was already “pretty weak to begin with.” He said at this point, it may not matter if the bill is passed or not.
“When the court imposed $100,000-per-day fines and found the Legislature in contempt, we thought that that would generate a sense of urgency coming into the short session,” he said. “At this point, we would urge you to not pass the bill, or to go back and pass something that truly is a robust response to what we know are the needs of our system.”
Care Maree Harper, president of Endeavour Elementary School Parent Teacher Student Association in Issaquah, commended lawmakers for “working toward a solution.”
But she still spoke in opposition to the bill, saying schools need the funding now. She said her son’s school relies on outside funding for basic items.
“This year alone, our PTSA has given over $35,000 to our school for items that should be part of basic education funding,” she said. “And that includes over $17,000 for an early reading and intervention program.”
She said those items should be part of the state’s basic education funding, but instead they came out of the “pockets of the parents.”
Charlie Brown with the Puget Sound Schools Alliance testified as “other” at the hearing. He told members if they adopt this bill, they should also adopt a another bill that delays a decrease in the levy lid by another year.
“We would ask you to move the levy cliff by that one year so it’s consistent with the work that you all will be doing as you move forward on trying to resolve the McCleary decision,” he said.
He said failure to act on the so-called “levy cliff” will impact districts across Washington to the “tune of about $92 million.”