Many of you have contacted me about education — thank you for taking the time to make your voice heard. I'd like to give you an update on education funding negotiations in the state Legislature, as well as an overview of the four different plans that have been proposed. I'm sharing the same information provided to me as a legislator which I hope will help you stay up to date as negotiations move forward.
Whatever the final budget looks like, we will be making historic investments in our K-12 education system. Between the plans proposed by Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, we're looking at about an 18 percent increase in funding over the last budget cycle. It will be the biggest spending boost in decades.
I hope you find this information useful. Please don't hesitate to contact me with your questions, concerns and ideas. As always, it is an honor to serve you.
McCleary funding plans
To satisfy the state Supreme Court's 2012 McCleary ruling – which found that the state was failing in its constitutional paramount duty to provide for the funding of all children – the Legislature and governor must agree on a plan for the state to fully fund K-12 education, including compensation.
Non-partisan House staff have prepared a summary of the four funding plans that have been proposed (SB 6103 and SB 6104 from Senate Democrats, SB 6109 from Senate Republicans, HB 2239 from Rep. Ross Hunter of the House Democrats). You may click here to read the full summary of these plans.
Education funding will be a significant part of the state budget this year. Budget negotiations are ongoing in Olympia. I will keep you updated as progress is made.
School construction funding
As we focus on reducing K-3 class sizes, funding for school construction becomes a key component. As the assistant ranking member on the House Capital Budget Committee, I am involved in negotiations between the House and Senate on the state capital budget, which oversees construction.
In the 2015-17 capital budget, we will be making significant investments in school construction, modernization and/or replacement to reduce class sizes in K-3, where research shows it will have the greatest impact. We are also prioritizing all-day kindergarten.
Our negotiations have been very productive, and I am confident we will end up with a final capital budget that puts us on the path to making the investments in classrooms needed to address essential educational needs of our children across the state.
Teacher compensation, legislator salaries
There have been quite a few questions about teacher pay raises in the various education funding proposals, and about the proposed 11.2 percent pay raise for legislators recommended by a Washington citizens' commission.
First, let's start with teacher salaries. Every proposal being negotiated includes a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for teachers. During the Great Recession, COLAs for teachers were suspended. Budget negotiators are also considering improvements – some of them recommended by the state Compensation Technical Working Group – to teacher compensation to help us attract and retain the highest quality teachers.
As for legislative salaries, recently, the Washington Citizens' Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials voted 10 to 5 in favor of an 11.2 percent pay increase for state legislators, as well as pay increases for other elected officials. The commission was created by a vote of the people in 1986 to amend the state constitution and put citizens in charge of pay raises for state-level officials. The state Legislature does not have a say in setting members' salaries.
I began my service in the Legislature in January 2008. Since September 2008, I have received the same annual salary of $42,106 plus per diem when in session to cover the additional costs of being away from home. When the Great Recession hit, I took a temporary voluntary 3 percent pay cut, which has since been restored. Our salary will increase to $46,839 by September 2016 unless a referendum is filed by the people.
To read a Seattle Times article on the pay raises, click here.
Again, thank you for your commitment to the children of Washington state.