The Supreme Court made it clear that more unfunded K-12 mandates were unacceptable when it ruled in McCleary that, "This court cannot idly stand by as the Legislature makes unfulfilled promises for reform."
Senate Democrats agreed and introduced measures that specifically address the state’s moral and constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education for every student.
While Republicans say their priority is to fund education first, they introduced no legislation to fund K-12 education and instead spent the first two months of the legislative session proposing additional reforms with hollow promises.
“I am happy to consider additional results-oriented reforms that deliver productive outcomes for our kids,” said Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, ranking education committee member. “However, I am concerned that we are halfway through session and have yet to have a dialogue regarding our obligation to fund K-12 education. Even more disturbing, the bills just passed off the floor add to the tab with new obligations.”
“I continue to support meaningful changes that will help students,” said Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane. “We must implement and fund the reforms already in law while continuing our efforts to improve the instruction every student receives. To do this, we must shift gears. It’s past time to ramp up the education funding discussion to meet our constitutional and moral obligation for kids.”
“Many of the bills we voted on today are a distraction away from funding and fulfilling our obligation to our students,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island. “They fail to address the real-life problems our schools have been facing during the funding crisis caused by the recession. We can’t count on robbing Peter to pay Paul as a long-term budget solution. I’m curious to see how education funding will be addressed in the Republican budget.”
Republican bills passed off the Senate floor that do not address McCleary funding obligations include:
- Senate Bill 5237 establishes accountability for student performance in third grade, but all reforms are subject to available funding.
- Senate Bill 5328 creates an A–F label for schools, but includes no real reform or funding.
- Senate Bill 5329 addresses persistently low-achieving schools, but does not provide funding to support school improvement.
- Senate Bill 5244 addresses school suspensions and expulsions, without dedicated money it presents another unfunded mandate.
- Senate Bill 5242 requires principal consent for new teacher assignments and eliminates due process for teachers. While this bill doesn’t require funding, the state remains short on fully funding the existing evaluation system.
Visit the Senate Democratic Caucus website for a comprehensive overview of the SDC’s K-12 education position.