State legislators talk about the state of education, funding
January 19, 2009
Rep. Glenn Anderson and Sen. Cheryl Pflug, from the 5th District, answered questions about the state of education and its funding at a roundtable organized by the Snoqualmie Valley PTSA Council Jan. 9.
Much of the conversation revolved around ideas presented by the Basic Education Finance Joint Task Force. The bipartisan task force has formulated a new model for financing basic education. The model, which calls for no new taxes, will be presented this legislative session.Washington state currently funds districts based on formulas set by the state in the 1970s.
“Just about everybody would agree that the current system that was put into place 30 years ago has become threadbare,” said Anderson, who served on the task force. “And there are a number of built-in inequities that came from that and have now metastasized.”
The old model gives extra funds to schools that have transient students, English language learners and low-income students. It also has several imbalances, such as districts with grandfathered salary differences, different levy lids and differential reimbursement for administrative and classified staff.
Pflug explained how some districts got grandfathered into higher funding. Before the state lawsuits of the 1970s, school districts raised much of their money through local levies. Pflug said the 1970 funding formulas helped districts that had trouble passing levies. Districts that benefited from the former system complained and received grandfathered status — an allowance that was supposed to be phased out within the decade, but is still in practice.
Anderson said he had high hopes for the task force’s new model and predicted it would have support among state Republicans. Democrats might have a harder time supporting it, he said, because many of them support either schools, or healthcare and social services, all of which need money.
Several other conversations touched on other funds experiencing cuts or suspensions.
“How schools are going to fund their locally hired staff without 728 money is another issue altogether,” Pflug said, referring to an initiative that reduces class size.
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