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December 16, 2014 at 12:04 PM

Inslee promises $2.3B more for schools, but does he go far enough?

Corrected version.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday night presented a $2.3 billion proposal on education spending for the next two years.

The announcement is part of the governor’s multi-day rollout this week of his budget priorities. His decision to announce different parts of his plan on separate days and wait until Thursday to provide funding details makes it harder to put his numbers into context.

Inslee said his education plan would fulfill the McCleary obligation — a state Supreme Court decision mandating the state to fully fund basic education — a year early. It also would provide more funding for early education and higher education. The governor’s plan calls for $1.3 billion toward McCleary in 2015-17 and $2.4 billion more to be spent in 2017-19.

Not everyone agrees on the cost of McCleary. The state Office of Financial Management has projected that fulfilling the mandate would cost the state about $5.7 billion during the next four years.

Gov. Jay Inslee.

Gov. Jay Inslee

“The Governor’s proposal is far short of the complete plan the Court has ordered, and will, in my opinion, lead to sanctions by the Supreme Court if adopted,” said Randy Dorn, State Superintendent of Public Schools, in a statement.

Inslee’s spending package also doesn’t include funding for Initiative 1351, a measure voters approved in November that limits class size from kindergarten through high school and calls for adding 25,000 new staff to public schools.

The initiative was drafted without a funding source, leaving it up to the Legislature and governor to figure out how to pay for the hefty cost – estimated at about $4.7 billion over the next four years.

State lawmakers like Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, have repeatedly said the state just doesn’t have the money to pay for it on top of meeting the McCleary obligation.

Lawmakers, however, will likely not have an easy time ignoring Initiative 1351 without a fight.

“It’s the law — he can’t propose not to fund it,” said Jonathan Knapp, president of the Seattle Education Association, a major supporter of 1351, in a Seattle Times news story by education reporter Katherine Long.

Overall, the governor’s package, which he called “new investments” in a statement, includes some juicy bits such as:

  • $156.3 million for early education
  • $144.8 million for special education
  • $386 million for teacher raises
  • $125.5 million for college scholarship programs
  • A promise to continue freezing college tuition at state schools

Inslee’s plan would make education spending 47 percent of the state general fund. That’s up from 39 percent in 2007 and up from 45 percent in the most recent budget cycle.

Still, it’s unclear at this point how education spending fits into the rest of Inslee’s budget and what taxes he wants to use to pay for it.

Information in this article, originally published Dec. 16 and corrected Dec. 17, incorrectly stated the amount proposed for teacher raises.

Comments | Topics: Education, Jay Inslee, McCleary decision


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