School funding still on the drafting table | Jerry Cornfield

Eight lawmakers entrusted with drafting a school funding plan in line with the tenets of the state constitution and dictates of the Supreme Court won’t complete their task this year.

Eight lawmakers entrusted with drafting a school funding plan in line with the tenets of the state constitution and dictates of the Supreme Court won’t complete their task this year.

The contingent of Democratic and Republican lawmakers met for a final time in 2015 on Monday, adjourning without agreement on the contours or content of a proposal to put forth in the 2016 session.

They plan to gather again Jan. 4 one week before the session begins with hope but uncertainty of reaching an accord.

“We’re still negotiating. We’re taking our task very seriously,” said Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, who is one of the lawmakers involved in the work group. “What we’re trying to do is craft something that can be well-received in the Legislature.”

What this means is the Legislature will begin 2016 just as it did in 2015: in contempt of a Supreme Court order demanding a blueprint for amply funding public schools by the 2018 deadline set in the McCleary case.

In addition, a $100,000-a-day fine levied by justices in August continues to pile up. Thursday will mark the 127th day of sanctions which amounts to $12.7 million.

Any notion those sanctions will push lawmakers toward a more rapid conciliation hasn’t occurred as some lawmakers, including a couple members of the McCleary 8, think the Supreme Court exceeded its authority. There is resistance to any action perceived as placating justices.

“Our focus has been on doing the right thing for the education system not on responding to the Supreme Court,” said Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah. “The fines are not really a fine. No one will drop a bill to pay the fine.”

Though the group is not “fixated on the fine issue, there are members, and I am one of them, that would like us to be out of contempt,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island.

To recap, the McCleary decision dealt with the entire tab for the basic education of a million students.

Lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee figured out how to spend billions of additional dollars on things like supplies, all-day kindergarten, smaller class sizes and buses in the last two state budgets.

But they are still wrestling with how to end the reliance on local property tax dollars to pay teachers, principals and staff. It will require a new method of compensating school employees with state funds. That will cost money and could see some residents paying new or higher taxes.

The Democrat-controlled House and Republican-run Senate couldn’t find a solution in this year’s record-setting 176 days of session. And their leaders don’t plan on finding one in 2016 an election year session either.

Since September, the work group, with help from two of Inslee’s top aides, is deciding what information must be gathered next year so lawmakers are able to take some tough votes in 2017.

They are not negotiating levy rates and salaries but a timeline for collecting data, explained House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, who is in the group.

“If we could agree on a plan we could act early in session,” he predicted. “It shouldn’t be that hard.”

But it has been so far.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos

 

More in Opinion

Shakespeare and sex jokes, Act II

How exactly did you think he became popular with the masses back in the time of the Plague?

Thank you for, Mount Peak Historical Fire Lookout Association supporters

Keep a lookout for future information during this fundraising phase.

An all-American Rockwell scene

I’m not a farmer — I suspect you already know that — but I live on three acres and, given the price of hay trucked from Yakima, there are farmers in the Krain area willing to cut and bale my field.

Freedom of religions doesn’t mean imposing your beliefs on the public

To then allow any person or group to inflict its particular religious beliefs upon others would clearly deny our right to freely worship and follow our own beliefs

Real life, like Risk, requires great self-discipline

My grandkids were fascinated and played with intensity. Two of them formed an alliance against me for a time to keep me from conquering the world. I, of course, took advantage of all the “teachable moments.”

Businesses should serve the public equally

Many a war has started over “deeply held beliefs’ and religious convictions.

Editor failed to be a fair moderator

Instead of framing the issues and allowing the readers to “form their own opinions on the matters at hand,” the editor chose to apply superfluous labels.

“Deeply held beliefs” no excuse for discrimination

Is it not time that we recognize that “deeply held beliefs,” sometimes are simply wrong?

Perception becomes reality, both nationally and individually

China’s problems can teach us all a lesson about the need for humility.

Most Read