Category Archives: What’s New
Dear NEWS members,
Earlier this week, many educators across the state received an invitation from two lawmakers to participate in a survey regarding K-12 funding. NEWS’s concern is that this comes from state lawmakers who are already under a Washington State Supreme Court order to fully fund K-12 public education.
We appreciate WASA’s message – provided below – that reflects these concerns. Of course, your participation in this survey is your choice. However, if you do choose to participate, please consider this message when you respond.
Thank you for your continuing support of NEWS, and best wishes for a very happy holiday season.
Nick Brossoit, Ed.D
President, NEWS Board of Trustees
Superintendent, Edmonds School District #15
This week, Senator Andy Hill, Senate Ways & Means Committee Chair, and Senator Jim Hargrove, Senate Ways & Means Committee Ranking Minority Member, emailed all superintendents and principals soliciting advice on future state budget decisions. Legislators often criticize educators for not participating in the legislative process, and this is a unique opportunity to be involved. If the response rate is poor, they will be free to make decisions on our behalf. For this reason, we encourage you to respond to their short survey. We are concerned, however, that they will receive an inconsistent message. If they receive an overly diverse set of responses, they again will be free to make decisions on our behalf.
The key question of the survey is: “Where would you devote more K‒12 funding and why?” Rather than providing a singular, high-priority program (or even a series of priorities), we encourage you to speak with one voice, reminding legislators that they are under Supreme Court Orders to fully comply with the state’s constitutional paramount duty—providing ample funding to K‒12 education by 2018. The Legislature already has asked and answered the question about where to devote more K‒12 funding. They used Washington Learns (2005‒06) and the Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance (2007‒08) to “study” the education finance system. They then adopted ESHB 2261 (2009) and SHB 2776 (2010) to redefine basic education and develop a new education funding system. The state used the adoption of these two bills—and the Legislature’s intention to fully fund them—as a defense in the McCleary v. State education funding lawsuit.
In terms of specific budget items, ESHB 2261 and SHB 2776 call for significant enhancements in Maintenance, Supplies & Operating Costs (MSOC), Pupil Transportation, K‒3 Class Size Reduction and All-Day Kindergarten. Each of these areas received smaller enhancements in the 2013‒15 Operating Budget than even the Legislature’s own Joint Task Force on Education Funding (2012) recommended.
The second question of the survey is: “Where do you believe K‒12 spending could be made more efficient or pared back and why?” There is not a specific, common response to this question; however, we urge you to use caution in responding to it. Washington’s 295 school districts are unique. You may believe a particular program or funding mechanism is unneeded in your district, yet that same program may be vital to another district. Please be careful not to allow legislators to pit one school district against another.
Again, we encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to advocate; however, we also urge you to use caution in how you respond. Here is the link to participate in the online survey.
Please contact us with any questions.
Bill Keim, Executive Director
Dan Steele, Assistant Executive Director
NEWS on legislative school funding ‘progress’ report: ‘Must elected officials obey the constitution, or are they above it?’
The Legislature is failing to remedy Washington State’s unconstitutional violation of public school children’s right to an amply funded K-12 education and at the current rate of “progress” won’t meet a court-imposed 2018 deadline for full funding until 2028, the coalition that filed the successful McCleary school funding lawsuit said in a legal brief filed today.
In a response to the Legislature’s K-12 school funding report to the Washington State Supreme Court, the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS) called upon the Court to consider issuing “at a minimum… a clear, firm, unequivocal warning to the defendant State that leaves recalcitrant elected officials no doubt that the State’s continued failure to comply with this Court’s Orders will result in a holding of contempt, sanctions, or other appropriate judicial enforcement.”
By the State’s own testimony in the landmark trial, state funding must rise to a minimum of $12,701 per student by 2018 to comply with the Supreme Court’s order.
“The State reports its per pupil funding under the 2013-15 budget will be $7,279 in 2013-14 and $7,646 in 2014-15,” the NEWS brief stated. “At that under $400/year rate of increase… the per pupil finish line will not be crossed until the 2028-29 school year, if there is no inflation or capital needs.”
Contrary to the State’s contention that its appropriation of $982 million in new funds for K-12 education in the 2013-15 budget represents progress, NEWS pointed out that “State budget documents acknowledge that after accounting for that budget’s corresponding ‘savings’ – non-euphemistically known as cuts – the net biennium increase was only $649 million (under $325 million each year).”
NEWS said the Legislature also enacted new mandates that added unfunded cost burdens on local school districts. The State also failed to make “steady, real and measurable” progress regarding teacher salaries, transportation, full-day kindergarten, class size reductions and operational costs.
In addition to asking the Court to “enjoin the State from digging the unconstitutional underfunding hole even deeper by imposing any unfunded mandates on its schools,” NEWS requested a “stern warning” about potential consequences for the State’s continued violation of the Court’s orders to show progress and to produce detailed plans that show how that progress will be achieved.
“To be blunt: the defendant State’s frequent disregard of the Court Orders in this case is contempt. Contempt is sanctionable,” NEWS said. “The State has been given years (in fact, decades) to follow court rulings telling the State that it must amply fund its K-12 public schools. Telling alone clearly does not work. Plaintiffs respectfully submit that in response to the State’s 2013 post-budget filing, this Court must do more than stand on the sidelines and cheer for a better result next year.”
NEWS’s response concluded:
“Is a constitutional right a real right, or just a nice sounding platitude? Must elected officials obey the constitution, or are they above it? Are court orders a mandate, or just a suggestion? And do our courts hold all citizens accountable to obey the law, or just those citizens who don’t have an official government title?
“The Class of 2018 was in 1st grade when this suit was filed. They were in 4th grade when the Final Judgment was entered against the State in this case. They were in 6th grade when this Court issued its January 2012 decision. Another year of State procrastination and delay might not be that important to most adults. But each year is crucial to a child traveling through our State’s public schools today – for to him or her, each year of amply funded education delayed is a year of amply funded education forever lost.”
After an agonizingly long special session, the Legislature finally passed a 2013-2015 biennial budget last week. While public schools will welcome the “down payment” for K-12 funding that is included in the budget, it’s regrettable that these desperately needed funds still fall far short of what the State Supreme Court has deemed as “ample” funding to educate all Washington students.
We appreciate that it was a difficult legislative process. Still, NEWS expects the State to step all the way up to fully meet its Constitutional paramount duty to amply fund K-12 schools and to comply with the Supreme Court order. We also expect — as required by the court — that the State will include reliable, predictable and stable sources of funding for K-12 public schools.
What comes next? The State has 60 days from the date the budget is signed to file its Court-mandated progress report. NEWS then has 30 days to file its own court brief responding to the State’s report. Stay tuned. NEWS continues to work diligently on behalf of every public school student in our state, today and for generations to come, to ensure that the State complies with the landmark McCleary ruling.
NEWS President Nick Brossoit sent a letter to Washington State representatives and senators on May 1, urging them to “do better” when it comes to funding K-12 public education. Read the letter.
Tom Ahearne, lead attorney for NEWS in the McCleary case, spoke to a packed house in Olympia on March 10 for the annual WASA, WSSDA and WASBO legislative conference. View his PowerPoint slides to learn what the Legislature must do to show real, steady and measurable progress toward meeting the McCleary mandate.