Seattle Times: McCleary fix? Senate GOP wants to change teacher pay, how schools are funded

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January 27, 2017

Washington state Senate Republicans on Friday released a broad education-funding plan that would change how K-12 teachers are paid and how schools are funded. The proposal is intended to satisfy the state Supreme Court’s education funding order known as the McCleary decision.

OLYMPIA — Senate Republicans on Friday released a broad education-funding plan that would change how state K-12 teachers are paid and how schools are funded…

…Under the Republican plan, the state would collect new, local property-tax levies for schools, which would be set at a uniform rate statewide and not be subject to voter approval. The state also would add $1.4 billion per two-year budget cycle to supplement education funding…

…Sen. John Braun, of Centralia, the chief GOP budget writer, said he intends to find the $1.4 billion in the budget without raising taxes.

“This is an enormous change in how we tax our citizens,” Braun said.

The plan includes a referendum clause, so voters would have to approve it.

Among other things, the proposal would get rid of the school-funding allocation model and move Washington to a per-student model for school funding.

Both the changes to the levy system and the per-student allocation model are generally based on the school-funding system used by Massachusetts, according to Braun.

Under the per-student funding model, at least $12,500 would be allocated for each student, Braun said. Additional money would be provided for low-income students, special-education students and others.

The proposal would boost beginning teacher pay to $45,000 from $35,700 annually, provide bonuses to top teachers and create a new housing allowance of up to $10,000 for teachers and staff in areas with a high cost of living.

The plan would dump the current teacher pay scale, allow school districts to reward teachers on performance and make it easier to fire them. It also would bar teachers from going on strike…

…In a statement, state Schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal said the proposal shows “Republicans are serious about solving the funding problem and that it understands additional resources will be needed.”

Ben Rarick of the state Board of Education said in a statement that his organization, which has historically opposed levy plans that reduce some local funding, is still reviewing the plan. But, taken together, the GOP plan and the previously released proposal by Democratic lawmakers have elements “that we can build on in a compromise,” said Rarick, the board’s executive director.

The GOP plan comes as lawmakers and Inslee buckle down in an attempt to finally resolve the court’s 2012 McCleary order, which ruled that the state was underfunding K-12 public schools in violation of the state constitution…

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