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Lawmakers move toward setting education fixes in stone

A committee Saturday approved a bill that would legally codify recommendations from the state Supreme Court, which has ruled Washington isn't fully funding K-12 education.

With little debate, the Washington House Appropriations Committee voted 18-13 along party lines Saturday to recommend approval of a bill that would convert the Washington Supreme Court's McCleary requirements into a state law. Among other things, the measure would require that lawmakers fund the transition to smaller K-3 class sizes with three equal annual appropriations and that both teacher and non-teaching staffer salaries would be increased every two years. That bill now goes to the full House.

In a Saturday hearing, educators and others testified unanimously in support of the bill.

"This is a giant step forward," said Charlie Brown of the School Alliance.

The so-called McCleary ruling is a 2012 Supreme Court decision that declared Washington is not meeting its constitutional obligation to provide basic K-12 education. Using a 2009 state law as a template, the court ordered that teacher-student ratios in Grades K-3 be improved from one-to-25 now to one-to-17 by mid 2019 and that required credits for graduation and annual high school hours of instruction be increased slightly — all by the 2018-2019 school year. Other improvements were also included in the court order.

The price tag to implement these improvements will fall between $4 billion and $4.5 billion — a number that does not include the long-dormant cost-of-living raises for teachers that Democrats have been trying to revive this session. (Republicans remain opposed to cost-of-living raises.) Even without cost-of-living raises, lawmakers will still need to find $1.5 billion to $1.75 billion in the 2015-2017 and 2017-2019 budgets.

In January, the Supreme Court declared that the Legislature lags far behind on keeping up with its McCleary obligations, and ordered legislators to come up with a catch-up plan by April 30.

In response, House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, introduced the bill — the subject of Saturday's hearing — to convert the court order into law. "I believe we need to put this into a statute so we have a clear path forward," he said.

"This will make significant progress in meeting the state's obligations," said Julie Salvi of the Washington Education Assocation.

John Stang covers state government for Crosscut. He can be reached by writing editor@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Sun, Mar 2, 9:26 a.m. Inappropriate

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, introduced the bill — the subject of Saturday's hearing — to convert the court order into law. "I believe we need to put this into a statute so we have a clear path forward," he said.

Wow.

I'll bet a few lawyers or judges read Crosscut. Let's discuss what the justices did in the McCleary opinion, and why they did it.

I'll start, on the "why" prong. The McCleary opinion was purchased by the WEA via its six-figure independent expenditure spending during both the 2006 and 2012 re-election campaigns of justices.

Anyone disagree? Anyone want to elaborate?

crossrip

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 10:30 a.m. Inappropriate

Um, yeah, that drama sounds really cool and would make a wonderful after-school special about the dangers of... whatever, but there is always the alternative explanation that, you know, the state constitution required it.

coolpapa

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 11:12 a.m. Inappropriate

Go ahead, try backing up your "alternative explanation" with some facts. Identify when any other state's supreme court ordered that state's legislature to make some public employee union immeasurably richer and more powerful. Just one example like the McCleary opinion . . . that's all you have to provide.

Let me guess . . . you don't know anything about constitutional law -- isn't that correct? You're wrapping yourself here in the warm, fuzzy cloak of ignorance of the law. In fact, you proudly present yourself as oblivious when it comes to how courts in this country are supposed to operate and what types of remedies they order in lawsuits implicating constitutional issues, right?

You are doing what all the propagandists in this state do -- reveling in faux ignorance of legal issues.

crossrip

Posted Sun, Mar 2, 10:05 a.m. Inappropriate

From this article "In January, the Supreme Court declared that the Legislature lags far behind on keeping up with its McCleary obligations, and ordered legislators to come up with a catch-up plan by April 30."

Don't you wish that the teeth in this declaration would be the termination by April 30th of all our state legislators? New legislators could be chosen by drawing legally qualified names out of a hat.

Posted Sun, Mar 2, 11:38 a.m. Inappropriate

If passed this legislation would have some similarity to the Federal debt ceiling law that has been so effective at the national level. Future legislatures could amend it and, if ignored, it would provide gainful employment for an army of lawyers. It's theater.

Senator Tom has observed that the Democrats had control of both houses and the legislature for at least a decade before the 2012 session. Was education funded appropriately during that time? I don't think so, McCleary or no McCleary... but given the opportunity to grandstand for the public (and relieved of the burden of actually finding the money) the Democrats are doing what they can. It reminds me of Republicans at the national level who are so worried about deficit spending now that a Democrat is in the White House…. did they balance the budget when they had both houses and the Presidency? well no, that would be governing; they'd rather playact.

kieth

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 6:30 a.m. Inappropriate

First off, the state and federal government are not the same. The federal government can run a deficit and keep on functioning. The state has no such power and has to balance its budget all the time. Though I do wonder where the Tea Party was during the Bush administration's overspending bought.

As for Tom's comment; it has no bearing on the present since education was actually defined for the first time (since 1889) in 2009. So whatever happened from 2000 to 2009 has nothing to do with anything, though I admit education was never amply funded at any time in the state's history. Your correct in asserting that the Republicans are grandstanding at the present moment though. They call for reforms to what was defined in 2009 (in an attempt to knock down the cost as much as they can) but not to improve educational output. Only to make more money available for tax exemptions to corporations.

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 10:10 a.m. Inappropriate

OK, by your account, how about between 2009 and 2012? education fully funded? Democrats controlled both houses of the legislature and the Governor's office. Restoring a tax on bottled water that was removed by initiative in 2010 is puzzling; it would lead to the anomalous situation where bottled water would be taxed but, as I understand it, Coke and Pepsi would remain untaxed. I this a serious proposal? if Republicans had made this part of their budget they'd be ridiculed.

kieth

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 4:24 p.m. Inappropriate

Yeah, I'm not saying the Democrats have a great record either. However, if you take into account that 2009-2012 the recession was going on and since 2013 the Republicans have held control of the Senate (via two renegade Democrats) then there isn't too much to pin on the Democrats lately.

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 4:38 p.m. Inappropriate

The point is that when the Democrats had the votes they did not come up with the education budget. The Supreme Court did not make an exception for recessions.

kieth

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 4:45 p.m. Inappropriate

That's why I agreed with you that they don't have a great record either.

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 10:53 p.m. Inappropriate

History brave: "education was never amply funded at any time in the state's history."

Not true, I can testify that it was certainly ample back when my barely working-class parents bought a Wa state public college education for three off-spring concurrently after each received an ample Wa state public K-12 education‚—all to die for these days.
Economists refer to the current preference as opportunity cost: the more spent on all other things, the less to spend on public ed).

http://www.deirdremccloskey.com/docs/price.pdf

Today's WSJ complains of students taking out low-interest "student" loans to live as opposed to attending higher ed. How is this possible? Same as the uneducated optimism behind the current bust—no credit check needed. All rather amazing.

afreeman

Posted Tue, Mar 4, 6:10 a.m. Inappropriate

As for my earlier entry, I was referring to k-12 not higher ed. But since you broached college, I will go there as well. In the mid 80s when I was attending college, tuition and fees were reasonable but still a strain financially. In order to attend college at CWU I had to not only rely on my GI Bill, but also had to work full time. Student loans were always a last ditched option since I would have to pay them back later and on a teacher's salary (at the time), would be hard pressed to do so. Washington State public colleges were funded amply 30 years ago due in part to an emphasis on doing so by the legislature. Lately however, I don't believe this to be true. My wife currently works for a university here in Eastern Washington. Tuition and fees have gone through the roof and made it harder to not only enter into a college but stay there as well. Often, around town, I run into my former students who elected not to go to a four year institution due to the cost. Instead they stay home since their parents can support them going to a community college until they graduate so that they will only have two years of debt to pay back. Much of this cost is the recent trend of taking away from colleges to combat short falls in revenue. Like k-12, college funds are taken away by the state who say they need to do their fair share without the promise that the funding will be returned when the economy recovers.

Posted Sun, Mar 2, 12:54 p.m. Inappropriate

The court equates money with educational quality. You could pay all teachers a million dollars a year, and not change their ability to teach. And you could spend billions on school buildings and facilities and not significantly change the demographic problems now existent, nor create better better achieving students.

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 10:40 a.m. Inappropriate

No, unsustainability, only you (and the similarly deluded) equate money with educational quality. It's not about paying the teachers more or building palatial school buildings. How can you comment so frequently on this topic and still have so little knowledge or understanding of the issues? Or are you being intentionally misleading? There are ways that spending money can improve outcomes for students. Among them: reduced class sizes, funding for interventions, funding for extended school days, weeks, and years, funding for additional class periods in high school, funding for summer school and credit recovery, more instructional assistants, and, yes, granting teachers a cost of living adjustment.

I wonder if Unsustainability also believes that paying corporate executives more won't change their ability to manage?

coolpapa

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 6:10 a.m. Inappropriate

I'll start, on the "why" prong. The McCleary opinion was purchased by the WEA via the six-figure independent expenditures during the 2006 and 2012 re-election campaigns of justices.

Anyone disagree? Anyone want to elaborate? - crossrip

Sure, I'll take a stab at it. The McCleary decision was based on the fact that when the legislature defined education during their 2009 session, the legislature also put a price tag on how much it would cost. Since the bill became law, the legislature has (due to the recession) taken out 2 billion and then put 1 billion back in to how much they allocate. It is pretty easy to see, using common sense, that if you say your going to pay for something you pay for it. Especially if what your paying for is the first thing your suppose to pay for before paying for anything else. The State Constitution says that education is the paramount duty of the legislature. Not the, they get anything left over, duty.

I find it amazing that the justices are the only people in Olympia that seem to know how to read.

The court equates money with educational quality. You could pay all teachers a million dollars a year, and not change their ability to teach. And you could spend billions on school buildings and facilities and not significantly change the demographic problems now existent, nor create better better achieving students.— Unsustainability

Though your comment on the states' demographics deserves consideration, the comment regarding that the court equates money with education quality is way off base. In truth,the legislature defined the amount that was necessary to amply fund education in Washington State in 2009. Then it passed on 20% of the cost to local district throughout the state. As for the assertion that teachers could make a million dollars per year and not perform better is absurd. It has nothing to do with the situation nor is it asked for by any party. That's like saying the members of the legislature could be paid a million dollars a year and get a session completed on time. I-732 (the COLA bill)was passed by over 60% of the voters in 2000. Since then, the legislature has suspended it several times. The media keeps lauding that we need to attract the best and brightest young people to the education field yet, in this state we pay teachers the least amount of salary on the west coast and wonder why many young adults go to other states or don't go into education at all. Seems pretty simple to me.

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 9:47 a.m. Inappropriate

I think it has been suggested, maybe by some members of the Senate coalition, that the education budget be funded first (it is the only mandated expenditure) and divide the remaining budget among transportation, DSHS, etc. Well, why not? why is this not mentioned as an option? well, for one thing, it would put some DSHS expenditures (fastest growing state budget item) in the spotlight. I don't think the Democrats want to talk about that. Surprisingly, if there is a sacrifice to be made it must be made in the education budget. This makes no sense and I think, if it were publicly debated, education would win the argument.

kieth

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 4:49 p.m. Inappropriate

Actually at a town meeting I attended in Richland in late January, members of the House (Republicans) mentioned that too. "Education should be paid with our first dollar, not our last dime." I think is the gist of what they said. I told them that I had to agree with their logic.

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 12:13 p.m. Inappropriate

The court equates money with educational quality. You could pay all teachers a million dollars a year, and not change their ability to teach. And you could spend billions on school buildings and facilities and not significantly change the demographic problems now existent, nor create better better achieving students.

The old "throwing more money at the problem" theory, really? Again?

Washington State doesn't even fund to the national average so please, don't tell the rest of us the money is enough.

- we have the 5th highest class sizes in the country
- we have massive technology needs based on all the outsized testing and data gathering (both wrong) that is supposed to happen
- better facilities DO matter, both for technology (see above) AND because science (remember how big STEM is?) needs adequate facilities to teach it in

Don't put more demands/mandates on teachers and schools and then give them not enough money. Don't expect fewer dropouts and higher high school grad rates when the money is not there to provide the supports for high-need, at-risk students.

Money DOES matter.

westello

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 8:29 p.m. Inappropriate

Money DOES matter. But so does an intelligent State Legislature.

We don't have that either.

Is it because of underfunded schools? Or stupid voters?

Or, because normal, intelligent people will not run?

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 1:11 p.m. Inappropriate

Mediocre teachers will still be mediocre regardless of class size. Average teachers will still be average whether there are 40 students or 12 in the class. I suppose that could be an un-welcome advantage of smaller classes, the damage inflicted on students is somewhat limited by the class size. The few quality teachers in the system will produce great results while the rest continue down the same road of rotten results.

Great teachers are a blessing, to bad there are so few of them, because that's the critical need--quality teachers. This is one place where money really does matter, better pay for better results. Instead we'll spend tons of money building new classrooms and hiring more mediocre and average teachers instead of focusing on the what we really want to achieve, educated students.

http://www.salon.com/2011/08/06/good_school_excerpt/
http://www.greatschools.org/find-a-school/defining-your-ideal/174-class-size.gs?page=all

Djinn

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 3:31 p.m. Inappropriate

Interesting that the two articles you posted both conclude that there are advantages to smaller class size, but that we should not just stop there.

I have a teacher in the family and volunteer at a K-8. I guarantee that if you ask any teacher there if they would want to reduce their 32-33 student class room to 20 or below (suggested common definition of small class) and their eyes would widen with bliss at the thought. The reason why one teacher per 32 is so stretched is the wide range of abilities in public schools, the disparity among parent involvement, and a significant, and growing percentage of special needs kids.

Smaller classes would allow for more attention to the kids who need it. The state legislature needs to pull us up from the low ranking of several education indicators - seriously, we can do better than Mississippi.

Oh - and the myth of the Supreme Court decision and payoff to the WEA - a delightful unicorn and rainbow tale.

Treker

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 3:40 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh - and the myth of the Supreme Court decision and payoff to the WEA - a delightful unicorn and rainbow tale.

Big fan of the justices are you? They are inveterate liars when rich public sector interest groups come before them. The WEA is one of those. The justices put other special interests that get rich off of state and local taxing programs above the law as well.

Note how the poster above doesn't try explaining why the WEA in 2010 laundered six figures through two PACs in order to buy character-disparaging ads to run against an incumbent justice. The reason that poster didn't try explaining it as some kind of benign example of freedom of speech is that it was a blatant attempt to buy an outcome in the pending McCleary case. The justices are a known quantity: they're corrupt. That can be seen in any number of cases, and the WEA's leadership is well aware of all the examples. It knew it could buy the results it wanted by disparaging the character of a justice up for reelection.

The WEA wanted a particular outcome so it spent the money in 2010. In early 2012 the justices gave it the McCleary opinion. There was no pending lawsuit that could have made the WEA richer by spending on the 2012 races, so it spent no money then. Likewise, there is no pending lawsuit important to that union this year so the WEA won't be spending big money in the three races this year. The pattern is obvious.

The poster above suggests the justices saw spending was less than a level the legislature established in 2009, and therefore the court had to order the legislature to spend more on education now. The problem with that "analysis" is that McCleary does not say that and other states' highest courts never order state legislatures to spend more to enrich public sector unions.

Here's a posting about one of the opinions where the justices acted dishonestly to suck up to the public sector interests getting rich off Sound Transit's excessive regressive taxing and spending -- the second Kemper Freeman writ action appeal:

http://freeman2lawsuit.webs.com/

That post describes how Kemper Freeman brought some intentionally-lame claims to try to get political cover for WSDOT's plan to transfer vast amounts of I-90 corridor highway infrastructure to Sound Transit. The justices got the case, played stupid about the law, and handed WSDOT exactly the “cover” it desired.

Disagree with anything in that post? Explain your position. Let's see if you want to try arguing the justices acted ethically and honestly when that bogus proceeding reached them.

Want to try explaining why the justices lied there about the nature of the infrastructure interests that would be transferred by WSDOT? Care to speculate about why Barbara Madsen misrepresents that the handover already had been completed? Want to try explaining why the majority failed to cite in the opinion to the second subsection of that surplus property statute, the one that precludes its use when the leasehold would not be subject to local zoning and other land use restrictions? Go for it.

Every lawyer in this state knows the justices are dirty. That's why they don't face real opposition when they run for re-election. Pretending you are ignorant about that reality shows you know it's true.

crossrip

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 4:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Funny, I didn't see any mention of the WEA in the URL you cited. How can you point in one direction and apply it to another?

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 4:52 p.m. Inappropriate

ditto - are you even reading the links you are providing? Doesn't say anything about WEA.

And I think Historybrave's straightforward analysis above hit the nail on the head, especially in light of the grassy knoll conspiracy theory presented by crossrip. Get a grip already buddy.

Treker

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 4:58 p.m. Inappropriate

I have absolutely no idea why you imply that the majority of the teachers in this state are poor or mediocre. In truth, most are pretty good. I believe the poor teachers count in the minority and nobody will dispute that they need to go.

What exactly are the results you are eluding to? Graduation rates are at an all time high (historically). In some districts, the graduation rates exceed 90%. SAT results are usually at the top of national statistics. AP numbers are ever increasing and test results on AP exams are rising. A majority of students pass the HSPE at the level they are tested and all the while, behavioral and socio-economic challenges are impacting the classroom more significantly.

Posted Wed, Mar 5, 3:46 p.m. Inappropriate

Then explain the need for remedial classes for incoming freshman at our state colleges. Graduation doesn't mean that the student in question is college ready. The concept is simple, drop kick the kids through the system. It keeps the parents, students, and administration happy. If you graduated from a high school in this state you saw it in action. I saw it in the 60's when I was in school and when my kids got to high school in the 90's, it was still a common practice.

http://www.sbctc.ctc.edu/college/_e-assesscollegereadiness.aspx
http://www.erdc.wa.gov/indicators/pdf/10_remedial.pdf

Business leaders recognize it.

http://www.nafsa.org/Explore_International_Education/Advocacy_And_Public_Policy/State_Level_Initiatives/Report__International_Education_is_Essential_to_Washington_State_s_Global_Economy/

I like this essay about the current education system, which I believe describes the situation fairly accurately.

http://steam-notstem.com/articles/our-education-system-is-not-so-much-broken-as-it-is-totally-outdated/

Djinn

Posted Wed, Mar 5, 5:41 p.m. Inappropriate

Hey, I'm not saying the system is perfect, I'm saying that the kids that graduated met their graduation requirements. As for kids having to take remedial classes in order to get into college, I'm not surprised at that either. More often than not, I spend a good month getting the kids back to where they were prior to the summer vacation. Many kids check out mentally when they go on holiday every year for 12 years. Why would we expect that they not do it when they become college aged?

I also believe that there is a misconception that everyone should be ready for college after graduating from high school. The fact, from my experience has been, that there are many kids that falsely believe they have the study skills and work ethic to make it at that level when in fact, many kids made it through high school because of a strong support system. Once you enter into college, your pretty much on your own unless you are identified as disabled. Maturity has a lot to do with it also. I know that based on where I was after high school I would not have made it in college. After 4 years in the military, I had matured to the point where graduating from college was realistic. Many kids also don't test well. In order to enter into a community college and begin normal course work, one must pass the compass test. Though it may be easy for some, others that may in fact have the skills often fail the test. Everyone is different.

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 3:07 p.m. Inappropriate

The few quality teachers in the system will produce great results while the rest continue down the same road of rotten results.

Wait,what? First of all, there are "average" workers in EVERY profession. Those "average" teachers do decent to good work every single day, not "rotten results."

And those rotten results? Well, despite being 44th in per pupil spending and 5th largest class size, Washington State is slightly average the national average for high school graduation. Our SAT scores? For the past several years, at the top of the nation. SAT participation - across all minorities - climbing at a higher rate than most other states.

We struggle - as all states do - with low-income students. Teachers can neither change who comes into their classrooms nor provide extra supports on their own.

westello

Posted Mon, Mar 3, 8:23 p.m. Inappropriate

Historybrave, you say "Graduation rates are at an all time high (historically). In some districts, the graduation rates exceed 90%.

90% would be admirable, but it's a tiny number of districts that can brag about this stat.

According to this report by Randy Dorn, State Superintendent
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, for 2012-2013, the adjusted 4-year cohort graduation rate was only 76%.

http://www.k12.wa.us/dataadmin/pubdocs/GradDropout/12-13/2012-13GraduationAndDropoutStatisticsAnnualReport.pdf

Perhaps 100 years ago 76% was a knockout graduation percentage, but frankly, that's a pathetic percentage in my 58 years experience.

Posted Tue, Mar 4, 5:55 a.m. Inappropriate

I don't dispute your numbers since I know them to be accurate. However, 76% is still higher then it has ever been in Washington. As for whether or not it is enough, I agree with you that it isn't. Remember though that historically speaking, education to the 8th grade was considered a good education for a time. Also, there was a time, before compulsory education, where kids worked in factories or on the farm instead of attending school until they were 18. During the Great Depression, teenagers took to the road to find employment because their family was struggling. The 92% I mentioned earlier was in my district last year and considering our demographics here in Eastern Washington, this number is even more significant. This is because of our area being a fairly stable environment. Many resources are allocated to working with struggling families and in interventions with kids at early ages which helps greatly. In our schools, we work very hard to get as many kids through their education as possible and to keep kids from dropping out.

Posted Tue, Mar 4, 1:09 p.m. Inappropriate

CommonSense, please understand that the near 80% graduation rate (both nationally and in WA State) is about as good as it has ever been in the U.S. There are a lot of reasons for that but among them, we are a large and heterogeneous country who tries to educate ALL students.

I also think that rate will climb IF McCleary is fully-enacted and the supports that those 20-25% need are given to them.

I also think that Hispanic students - whose rate of graduation and college attendance are steadily rising - may do both things in even larger numbers with the passage of the Dream Act.

westello

Posted Sun, Mar 9, 6:25 a.m. Inappropriate

ANYTHING INVOLVING A STATE SUPREME COURT DECISION SHOULD BE ASSUMMED TO BE A BUSINESS TRANSACTION AND THEREFORE TAXABLE...the wea should have lost all it's preferential tax considerations long ago..the very same moment it decided membership out weighed ability..there is no clearer example of the difference between morals and ethics then this issue..and this decision..12/09/07-12/28/07 look it up

Posted Sun, Mar 9, 2:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Did you dip into some recently legalized pot? Why don't you run to become a justice of the Supreme Court and you can push your idea. Until the, realize that the State Supreme Court has the power of judicial review. They are not making any commercial statement with their rulings other than directing the legislature on matters regarding what their constitutional obligations are. Period!

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