House Republicans unveil Fund Education First budget
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House Republicans unveil Fund Education First budget
Washington House Republicans unveiled their Fund Education First budget in a news conference at the Capitol today. The stand-alone, K-12 education budget would: meet the expectations of the state constitution and state Supreme Court's McCleary decision; focus on high standards, innovation and accountability with flexibility; and protect taxpayers by not raising taxes.
Fund Education First is a solution first introduced by House Republicans in 2006. It would elevate K-12 education to the highest level in the budget process and ensure it is properly funded every budget cycle.
“The argument we keep hearing from the other side is how this would not work. But we've continually shown exactly how it would work. It's the old way that's not working – to the point that the state Supreme Court had to intervene. Our Fund Education First budget would raise K-12 education to its proper place in the budget process and ensure it is adequately funded every year,” said Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, and ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. “This is step one. Step two is outlining our priorities and showing how we would serve our most vulnerable populations and protect public safety. This is a common-sense process that every family and employer in the state has had to do at some point over the last few years. It would allow us the opportunity to reform, resize and reduce state government instead of proposing tax increases on those who can least afford it.”
PSHB 1057 would increase K-12 education funding by $903 million for the 2013-15 budget cycle, with $817 million based on the McCleary decision and $86 million dedicated to other policy enhancements. It would include: $302 million for K-3 class-size reduction; $229 million to expand full-day kindergarten to 61 percent of school districts in the 2013-14 school year, prioritizing high-poverty school districts, and to all school districts in the 2014-15 school year; $158 million for full implementation of increased instructional hours for grades 7-12 by the 2014-15 school year; and $128 million for a 29 percent increase in materials, supplies and operating costs (MSOC).
The Fund Education First budget would also provide funding for I-1240 (charter schools), increased levy equalization funding, a longitudinal data system, health benefit rate adjustments, and a Career and Technical Education correction.
“While much of the public discussion around the McCleary decision has focused on how much money should be spent, I believe it is vital that we simultaneously focus on how money is spent in the education system. This budget recognizes that we can't continue to feed a system that is failing so many of our children,” said Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, R-Enumclaw, and ranking Republican on the House Education Committee. “Our plan directs dollars to the classroom first – where we know we will see the best return on investment in student outcomes. Fund Education First meets the expectations of the state Supreme Court and constitution, but more importantly the needs of children. After years of one-party rule in Olympia pitting our students against new and growing state agencies, our budget brings the dialogue back to how we ensure every child is offered an opportunity at educational success.”
The Fund Education First budget includes bills that focus on high standards, innovation and accountability with flexibility:
- House Bill 1134 would authorize state-tribal education compact schools.
- House Bill 1424 would enhance the state's K-12 dropout prevention, intervention and reengagement system.
- Senate Bill 5237 would implement strategies to improve literacy skills for K-4 students.
- Senate Bill 5243 would establish policies to support academic acceleration for high school students.
- Senate Bill 5329 would create a state-funded required action process for the state's ten persistently lowest-performing schools.
- Senate Bill 5587 would modify the statewide assessment system to transition to higher-quality exams.
PSHB 1057 would dedicate $15.1 billion to K-12 education in the 2013-15 budget cycle. The amount for 2011-13 is $13.6 billion. It would also increase the percentage of the operating budget allocated to K-12 education from 44 percent in the 2011-13 budget cycle to 46 percent for 2013-15.
House Republicans also believe their approach focuses on better student outcomes and real actions to close the achievement gap.
“Fund Education First balances the needs of our children with the protection of taxpayers. It's time to focus on the children in our education system,” said Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, and assistant ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. “There are two very different approaches forming for the budget this year. House Republicans believe education should be fully funded first, and the rest of the budget can be prioritized in a way that does not require tax increases. The other side believes more taxes are needed and feel emboldened now that the taxpayer protection initiative has been thrown out. As special interests make their case, we are lobbying for the taxpayer.”
In its McCleary decision in January 2012, the state Supreme Court said the Legislature has not complied with its constitutional duty to make ample provision for the education of all children. It also said reforms enacted by the Legislature, House Bill 2261 in 2009 and House Bill 2776 in 2010, would remedy state funding deficiencies if fully funded, and it would retain jurisdiction over the case to monitor implementation of these bills.
House Republicans are working closely on the operating budget with the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, which has also said – along with Governor Jay Inslee – that tax increases are not needed to balance the operating budget.
###Washington State House Republican Communications