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    State Senate unveils a budget: Sorry, Teachers

    The Senate appears united around on a small increase in school spending with no cost-of-living raise for teachers. Gov. Jay Inslee still wants to give teachers a boost in pay.
    Sen. Andy Hill's new bill attempts to help the state's homeless and soothe ruffled feathers in Olympia.

    Sen. Andy Hill's new bill attempts to help the state's homeless and soothe ruffled feathers in Olympia. John Stang

    Sen. Jim Hargrove

    Sen. Jim Hargrove John Stang

    Two key numbers were unveiled Monday: $38.3 million for court-ordered school improvements. Zero dollars for teacher cost-of-living raises.

    Those figures are from the Senate's proposed supplemental budget for 2014, which the Republican and Democrat budget writers from the upper house of the Legislature announced Monday. The proposal call for $38.3 million for technology upgrades in schools to help the state comply with a 2012 Washington Supreme Court ruling that Washington lags in its constitutional obligation to provide a basic education for students.

    These are figures that Gov. Jay Inslee believes are not good enough. The House's lead budget writer, Rep Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said he has not had a chance yet to study the Senate's proposal.

    The supplemental budget is a measure to fix glitches in the middle of a two-year state operating budget. July 1, 2014, begins the second year of the 2013-2015 biennium. A recent flat state revenue forecast has translated to no major budget challenges expected for 2013-2015, except for the work to deal with the state Supreme Court's McCleary ruling.

    Overall, the Senate proposal would add $96 million — minimal in Olympia's terms — to the state government's current $33.6 billion operating budget for 2013-2015. "This is not a second bite at the apple," said the Senate Majority Coalition Caucuses lead budget writer Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, dismissing the idea of larger mid-term changes in the 2013-2015 budget. 

    The McCleary ruling calls for $4 billion to $4.5 billion in extra money from 2013 to mid-2019 for educational upgrades, with the biggest chunk targeting reductions in teacher-student ratios in grades K-3. That translates to roughly $1.3 to $1.5 billion each in the 2013-2015, 2015-2017 and 2017-2019 budget biennia. So far, the Legislature has allocated $982 million for 2013-2015. The $38.3 million for technology upgrades is for preparations to improve teacher-student ratios. And it would bump up the 2013-2015 McCleary allocation to $1.02 billion.

    That would then translate to a need for an additional $1.5 billion to $1.75 billion in extra money each of the following biennia, 2015-2017 and 2017-2019.

    Inslee wants $200 million to $400 million in the supplemental budget — $200 million for routine budget adjustments, and up to another $200 million for teacher cost-of-living raises and McCleary improvements, with the Supreme Court work taking about two-thirds of that total. "I urge the House to make a more substantial investment in education — one that does more to provide our students with the classroom tools they need and restores cost-of-living raises for our teachers," Inslee said in a written statement.

    The Senate and House alternate being first on unveiling budgets, and it is the Senate's turn this year. The House proposal could come at any time.

    Inslee wants to provide 1.3 percent cost-of-living raises for the state's teachers, and a bill is in motion in the House to do so. Washington's voters passed an initiative several years ago to require that cost-of-living increases be given to teachers annually, based on a formula using inflation. However, recent legislatures have routinely suspended that cost-of-living raises as a budget-balancing measure. Restoring the cost-of-living raise would be expected to cost up to $70 million in 2014-2015 -- an obligation for which no specific funding sources have been identified.

    The House has one bill in motion with an education-funding-targeted closure of a tax break --  $41 million for five state oil refineries. The Senate majority coalition of 24 Republicans and two Democrats plus the House Republicans have wanted to keep this tax break on the books. Closing this tax break is not in the Senate's supplemental budget proposal. At a Saturday town hall meeting in Redmond, Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said he personally supports closing that tax break, but also indicated that is not a priority for him this session. Tom has been reluctant to go against the majority positions within the coalition that he leads.

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    Posted Tue, Feb 25, 7:05 a.m. Inappropriate

    The Majority Coalition in the state Senate has made it very plain: they value targeted tax breaks for patron business interests over children's educations, over compliance with the state constitution, and over rulings by the state supreme court.

    I can only presume their constituents share this high value on tax breaks for contributors.


    Posted Tue, Feb 25, 7:36 a.m. Inappropriate

    We have the nation's only zero-percentage tribal gambling compact. Negotiated courtesy of the Democrat Party. I can only presume their constituents share this high value on tax breaks for contributors.



    Posted Tue, Feb 25, 7:22 a.m. Inappropriate

    I'm all for balancing the state budget, since it's in our State Constitution and everything, but voters approved COLA increases for teachers a few years ago and the Legislature annually ignores it. Why vote on anything when a cadre of elected officials (and judges, for that matter) determine to run the state as their personal fiefdom?

    I am absolutely no fan of the WEA or NEA. However, when voters statewide approved pay hikes for teachers, that should have settled it. We gave our word, but these bozos in Olympia keep reneging on our behalf while giving Boeing billions in tax breaks. I'm fed up with this enough that come November, I'm voting against every incumbent at the national, state and local level regardless of party affiliation. It's the only recourse voters have against politicians who refuse to do what we've told them to do.

    Posted Tue, Feb 25, 11:18 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yes, sorry teachers, no COLAs again, we just don't have the money. Oh, also sorry that we are not making a payment again to your pension fund...we just don't have the money.

    Oh, but I guess we do have the money to fund tax cuts, oops I mean "preferences" to the tune of nearly $100 billion, yes billion with a "B", this biennia....guess we have the money for tax cuts...but COLAs or pensions...not so much.

    This is Stewardship? C'mon Good grief...


    Posted Tue, Feb 25, 11:21 a.m. Inappropriate

    Rodney Tom is an absolute freeking liar. He should be tarred and feathered and run out on a rail.


    Posted Tue, Feb 25, 7:46 p.m. Inappropriate

    Teachers are getting raises from various different sources; in fact, since 2006-07, average teacher pay has increased by $9,000, or by more than 16%. See this: http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/blog/post/average-teacher-pay-increases-every-year.


    Posted Sat, Mar 1, 10:49 a.m. Inappropriate

    Come on Liv,

    This is like citing the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC) to find out where good educational policies should be derived.

    Posted Tue, Feb 25, 8:46 p.m. Inappropriate

    The above link for the source of teacher pay raises comes from Washington Policy Center. Most teachers reach the top of their annual step raises and any added pay based on more endorsements or credentials within eight years of teaching. Many teachers due to inflation and no other source of raises, are actually earning less than they did in 2008. The 'source' here is actually a beard for a right-wing coalition dedicated to privatizing education. The center also denies climate change.

    "The Washington Policy Center does not disclose its donors. However, according to Media Transparency, $387,500 has been donated cumulatively to the WPC, WIF, and WIPS. The largest donor is The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Inc., which has provided the WPC with just under half its funding--$178,500.

    The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is considered the "largest and most influential right-wing foundation" in the United States. As of 2005, the Bradley Foundation had $706 million in assets, and was giving away more than $34 million a year to organizations and institutions. The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Inc. states its mission is "to support limited, competent government; a dynamic marketplace for economic, intellectual, and cultural activity; and a vigorous defense of American ideas and institutions." http://www.desmogblog.com/washington-policy-center-background-and-history


    Posted Wed, Feb 26, 10:16 a.m. Inappropriate

    Hyddyr is one of those people who enjoy attacking others from behind a veil of anonymity. Asserting false information about the messenger is a common way to try to keep people from considering the facts of an issue, while the attacker stays hidden.

    The good news here is that teachers receive pay in a number of ways from local school districts, and often annual pay increases are built into the state’s compensation system. Most school teachers work hard. It’s good to know local districts provide regular increases to compensation, and that teachers don’t have to rely solely on state lawmakers to get a raise.

    To learn more about the rise in teacher pay since 2006 go the Superintendent of Public Instruction site at https://www.k12.wa.us/SAFS/default.asp#. See Publications/Personnel Summary Reports.

    To learn more about Washington Policy Center go to http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/pages/frequently-asked-questions

    I don’t know where to recommend finding out more about Hyddyr...he or she is keeping that secret.


    Posted Wed, Feb 26, 12:20 p.m. Inappropriate

    Seems like all state workers wages and the state minimum wage should be adjusted annually for inflation. It seems like having an equitable and stabile system in place would save time for the legislature.

    If the base wages are too high or too low, that is another issue which could be carefully changed by the legislature. All state jobs need to be weighed against one another for relative compensation rates, and that is the legislature's job.

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