Rep. Chad Magendanz, the ranking Republican on the state House education committee, wants to pay teachers based on local market rates and likes the idea of sending a recent class-size initiative back to voters with a price tag — and a proposed source of funding.
Those are among the ideas the Issaquah lawmaker talked about during on a visit to The Seattle Times last week.
State lawmakers, he said, will be hard pressed to find enough money to cover what’s required under the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, as well as the new class-size initiative that voters passed in November. He also pushed for a host of teacher compensation reforms, not just local labor market adjustments but also better raises for teachers earlier in their careers.
Here are Magendanz’s thoughts on some big issues facing Washington education today:
On funding Initiative 1351:
Magendanz thinks voters need to know exactly how much it will cost to hire the roughly 25,000 new teachers and school staff called for in Initiative 1351, which narrowly passed this fall’s election with 51 percent of the vote.
The state Legislature has already agreed to lower class sizes in kindergarten through 3rd grade to an average 17 students by the fall of 2017. I-1351 will take that even further, lowering the average size in grades 4-12 to 25 students. Classes in schools where more than half the families are low-income would be even smaller.
The Legislature could cut all its early learning funding and 75 percent of what it spends on higher education and still not pay for 1351, Magendanz said. He said he doesn’t expect Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget proposal to include funding for 1351, and said that could give the Legislature the political cover it needs to suspend the measure.
Suspending, which requires a two-thirds vote, is an option, Magendanz said, but so is sending the proposition back to voters with a proposed funding source and price tag attached.
“I just want to make sure that people have a good feel for the trade-offs that we make in the Legislature in the budgeting process,” Magendanz said. “Everybody wants something for nothing … but we don’t get that.”
On teacher pay:
Magendanz said Washington needs to change the way it pays teachers to compensate for big differences in the cost-of-living in different parts of the state.
He also suggested more pay for teachers based on how their school as a whole is performing, and said teachers need bigger raises earlier in their careers.
On new high school graduation requirements:
Magendanz supported the Legislature’s latest hike to graduation requirements, which increased the number of credits a student needs to graduate from high school from 20 to 24.
But building in a year or two for implementation — like the waiver Seattle Public Schools recently requested from the state — was a good idea, he said.
“I think it’s important that we set high standards for our kids, and that we have a meaningful diploma,” Magendanz said. “I understand that, particularly (for) large districts, it’s tougher for them to turn on a dime.”