With a mandate from the state Supreme Court to adequately fund schools, the Legislature had to address the difficult issues of levy reform, class size, and student assessments in order to develop a budget and plan going forward that would satisfy the McCleary decision and the Supreme Court’s continued oversight. The final $1.3 billion increase — equating to 19 percent — provided for all- day kindergarten, smaller class sizes in grades K-3, a teacher mentoring program, and a cost-of-living adjustment for teachers.
Early learning and post-secondary education were also given boosts in the budget. Lawmakers passed the first- ever cut to college tuition — a 15 percent tuition reduction for the University of Washington and Washington State University; a 20 percent tuition reduction at regional universities; and a 5 percent tuition drop at community and technical colleges. The state made a $134 million investment in early learning to expand preschool, fund the Early Start Act, and provide changes to child care eligibility.
The end of the third special session was marked by an agreement to delay the requirements of Initiative 1351, the voter-approved class-size reduction measure, and to provide a reprieve to 2,000 graduating high school students who had not passed the state biology assessment test.
Still left up in the air is the issue of public charter schools. The state Supreme Court doubled down on it’s September ruling that the voter-approved schools were unconstitutional on Nov. 19. Now, it’s up to the Legislature to craft a fix in 2016 to keep the schools, serving more than 1,200 students, open. The winter Washington Business magazine has an in-depth look at this issue.
Details on 2015 education and workforce legislation can be found in the annual Legislative Review. For more information on these and other issues that may arise in 2016, contact Director of Government Affairs Amy Anderson.
« Back to Main