House Democrats pass education bill with no funding source, no meaningful reforms and no protections to prevent future lawsuits

Following a spirited debate on the floor of the Washington State House of Representatives, House Democrats passed their long-awaited education bill on a 50-47 party-line vote. House Republicans, who offered seven amendments as alternative solutions, criticized the legislation because it has no funding source, no meaningful reforms and no protections to prevent future lawsuits.

Rep. Paul Harris, ranking Republican on the House Education Committee, said there are many pieces of the proposal that don’t add up, including how House Democrats intend to pay for their new spending.

“We are discussing a bill that would cost billions of dollars, and if the intent is to use taxes to pay for it, then Washington taxpayers deserve to know where the money is going to come from,” said Harris, R-Vancouver. “There has yet to be a vote taken or even scheduled on any legislation that would fund this plan. If the majority party does not have the confidence to bring the funding pieces forward and show us they have the votes to pay for it, then I am confident this is not a meaningful plan.”

While House Democrats have proposed tax-increase legislation, they have not let their own bills advance in the legislative process. Gov. Inslee proposed new taxes on energy, capital income, small businesses, vehicles and bottled water in December.

House Republicans offered seven amendments to House Bill 1843, all but one of them were rejected by House Democrats. The solutions focused on levy reform, K-3 class sizes, career and technical education, accountability and addressing failing schools.

Rep. Matt Manweller, who sponsored two amendments, emphasized the overreliance on local levies to pay for basic education teacher compensation and how the state Supreme Court has said this problem must be addressed.

“This bill does not address the overreliance on local levies. To continue to allow this practice is baffling. It almost guarantees we will back in court in the next few years,” said Manweller, R-Ellensburg. “We introduced an amendment to make sure there are accounting, reporting and enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure local levies are not used for basic education costs. It was rejected.”

Rep. Norma Smith, a member of the Education Funding Task Force, says an overall education-funding plan must be ample, equitable and accountable.

“As we move forward negotiating a final K-12 education funding solution this session, our vision must remain on doing what is right for all children in Washington state. Continuing to rely on a system that perpetuates inequities based on a child’s ZIP code is unconstitutional and unfair to students and teachers,” said Smith, R-Clinton. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in both parties and chambers to arrive at the solution our children deserve.”

On Feb. 1, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus passed its comprehensive education funding plan. Senate Bill 5607, the One Washington Education Equality Act, passed 25-24. You can find a non-partisan comparison of the two bills here.

The House and Senate will now negotiate a final education-funding plan in the upcoming weeks. The legislative session is scheduled to adjourn on April 23.


Washington State House Republican Communications