March 4, 2019
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Legislative update: midpoint of session approaches as school funding takes the spotlight



It hasn't been a year since the Legislature pumped almost $1 billion into the state's K-12 educational system, but that jolt of money led to quick financial decisions that are now leaving local school districts warning of layoffs and budget cuts.

The Seattle Times looks into the issue in a story that says many school districts are forecasting multi-million dollar shortfalls for years to come unless the Legislature makes changes that either send more money or roll back parts of the state's McCleary education response.

The Times reports that 191 of the state's 295 school districts are already in the red.

“Without legislative action, valued K-12 programs and staff positions will be cut, class sizes will go up and some districts may be insolvent,” said Steve Webb, superintendent of Vancouver Public Schools, in an open letter to lawmakers warning them of a "McCleary mess."

Lawmakers, meanwhile, point to double-digit pay increases that school districts agreed to with teacher unions last summer.

“That’s part of the problem, no question,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington.

The Washington Policy Center took a look at the numbers in one district, noting that the Tacoma School District plans to lay off teachers despite receiving record-high funding from the state.

Sen. John Braun, ranking member of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, gives a brief history and economics lesson about the issue and about the steep costs of one proposed solution. Senate Bill 5313 would raise local K-12 property tax authority by $2.5 billion a year and return to the days of funding "haves and have nots" in richer and poorer districts.

Friday was fiscal cut-off in the 2019 legislative session and the pace of activity remains high in the Capitol as the session rolls toward this week's midpoint.

For the employer community, especially small businesses, this has been a challenging session. Between the employment law proposals (independent contractor rules, restrictive scheduling, etc.) and a variety of tax proposals, there are many issues that would make it harder for small businesses to compete and grow.

Among the proposals is a 67 percent business and occupation tax increase on service-sector businesses. A new AWB Amplified video takes a deeper look at that issue. An earlier video addresses the capital gains tax proposal also under consideration in the Legislature.

Contact Clay Hill, AWB government affairs director for tax and fiscal policy, or Amy Anderson, government affairs director for education, to learn more.



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