November 21, 2016
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Education Funding Task Force zeroes in on cost of final McCleary compliance -- but agreement may be difficult

The bipartisan legislative Education Funding Task Force received a data-heavy report last week from Third Sector Intelligence, a consultant which has spent months researching how much the state will have to pay to cover the full cost of basic education. Currently, local districts pay part of the cost of teacher and school-worker salaries through local property tax levies, but exactly how much has been unclear.

The report says that local school districts spend an average of $14,651 per full-time employee on top of what the state pays to hire teachers and other school employees, And, compared to other states, Washington teacher pay is actually on par, according to the report. However, money from local levies is being spent on items districts categorize as compensation for professional development, activity outside the school day, work on weekends and over the summer, and work that is “deemed done” as part of a teacher’s regular daily responsibilities.

The consultants don't recommend which of those categories should be paid for by the state, or by local districts as supplmental additions. It's up to the Legislature to decide which of those categories qualify as basic education, and thus must be funded by the state rather than local districts. Without that determination, The Seattle Times reports that the consultant's report might not completely clarify just what that cost might be by the start of the legislative session.

“I’m an optimist, but I think that will be tough,” Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said after a meeting of the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, of which he’s a member. “There will be a legitimate effort by both sides to try to reach a consensus. Whether we get there or not, I can’t say.”

The News Tribune writes that the 2012 McCleary school funding case requires the Legislature to cover the actual costs of retaining and recruiting staff, and must end unconstitional reliance on local school district property tax levies to school employees by September 2018.

A commonly mentioned number before publication of the report was a new cost to the state of $3.5 billion each biennium. The data in this report suggests that number could be about $2 billion every two years, said outgoing state Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, who said the state shouldn't be paying for work done outside the school day.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, disagrees, saying that during a teacher shortage, the state needs to pay for work done outside the school day -- grading papers, planning and training over the summer, for example -- if it hopes to recruit and retain quality teachers.

“They’re working during that time period, and the assumption that they’re not is just inappropriate and wrong,” Sullivan said.

The News Tribune took at look at legislative turnover and said a "brain drain" of top budget leaders on both sides of the aisle could complicate negotiations during the upcoming session.

“It’s both an opportunity and a challenge, candidly, because we have a lot of really talented and smart people who are no longer doing this work,” said Chris Korsmo, the CEO of the League of Education Voters, a Seattle-based education advocacy group.

To connect with AWB's education work, contact Amy Anderson, AWB government affairs director for education.

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Focus on Sustainability

Feed Commodities LLC: Giving Unused Bakery Goods a New Life

This Tacoma company helps divert past-its-prime food from the landfill to ranchers, feeding cattle across the Northwest.

From Salem, Ore., to the Canadian border, Feed Commodities, LLC is the Pacific Northwest's premier recycler of bakery byproducts into livestock feeds. The company acquires otherwise unusable raw bakery goods around the Pacific Northwest to process at its Tacoma facility. Each month, the plant repurposes thousands of tons of bakery products that would otherwise end up in landfills, turning it into high-quality livestock feed sold in bulk to ranchers.

The company has also taken the lead in food waste reduction through the development of Normandy Waste Management Systems, a web-based software service designed to help the food production community learn how to track and reduce waste in their daily operations.

Read the full story in Washington Business Magazine
Time to Build Millennium Bulk Terminals

Still waiting for good jobs in Cowlitz County

By Mike Bridges, president of the Longview/Kelso Building and Construction Trades Council

Millennium's $680 million private investment stands to create more than 1,000 union construction jobs over a two-year build-out under a Project Labor Agreement. That's also 135 permanent jobs when the facility is complete and 2,650 direct and indirect construction jobs overall. And that doesn't count the ongoing maintenance work that would employ different trades for years to come. For Cowlitz County, this represents a significant private investment that would have an enormous economic impact on thousands of tradespeople and their families. All told, Millennium would bring in $43.1 million in state and local taxes during construction, and $5.4 million in state and local taxes each year when fully operational.

It would also mean fewer people on the road, working closer to home.

Right now, most of our tradesmen and women work outside of Cowlitz County. Many work out of state, driving home on weekends or once a month for visits. I get so tired of people criticizing these Millennium jobs as "temporary." Anyone in the trades knows our work is always "temporary." And for someone who drives thousands of miles each month to a job in Montana, visiting their kids once a month back home in Kelso, the promise of a local "temporary" job sounds pretty appealing...

Read the full column in The Stand
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