The state House on Tuesday, by a whopping 90 to 7 vote, approved a proposal to spend $700 million on the construction of new classrooms.
The lopsided vote in the House, however, may have little bearing on how the measure will do in the Senate.
“I don’t see it getting much traction in our caucus,” said state Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside. Honeyford is the capital budget chairman for the GOP-led majority in the Senate.
House Bill 2797, backed by House Capital Budget Chairman Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, and Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, Mason County, would issue bonds to pay for the construction. The bonds would be paid off over time using state lottery revenue.
Dunshee argues that fully meeting the state Supreme Court’s mandate for additional education funding will mean hiring more teachers to reduce the numbers of students in classrooms. The state should be building the classrooms before the new teachers show up, he says.
MacEwen, during floor debate on Tuesday, said that “as a body we have said we need lower class sizes, we need more instruction. This bill allows for that to happen. We can’t say those things need to happen and then provide no means for it to occur.”
Honeyford said in an interview Tuesday afternoon that he had concerns about the stability of lottery revenues when it comes to using the money to pay off bonds. He also said using the lottery dollars for construction would take away operating funds for schools.