Seven months ago, eight lawmakers representing each legislative caucus were asked to examine nine outstanding questions related to the basic education funding problems that remain and make recommendations to the Legislature on what should be done to solve those problems.
The task was clear.
The questions were clear.
The timeline was clear.
The Democrats on this task force answered that call. We did our jobs. The Republicans did not.
After seven long months and countless hours of work, the four Democrats on this task force accepted the challenge and put forth a specific proposal we believe includes the right recommendations that will provide opportunities to learn for every child in this state.
It wasn’t easy. The four of us didn’t agree on everything simply because we’re all Democrats. Concessions were made by all of us because we know the best way forward is through compromise.
The Democrats were ready to share our proposed solutions with Republicans last week expecting that they were ready to do the same and negotiations would begin.
Unfortunately, they literally did not show up for the discussion we all agreed to have.
As a result, instead of adopting a joint set of specific recommendations for the Legislature to consider, or even two sets of specific recommendations from each caucus, this task force is left with one set of specific solutions from the Democrats and a set of guiding principles from the Republicans.
Representing the Democrats on this task force, our goal was to reach a bipartisan consensus on a set of recommendations we could send to the Legislature. Unfortunately, that will not happen because we have not received any specific recommendations from the Republicans.
With a bipartisan agreement no longer an option, Democrats would support the next best option, which would be to adopt the task force materials into the record with the Democratic solutions and Republican guiding principles included.
For reasons still not entirely clear to us, the Republicans will not support this option.
Therefore, because this task force has failed to produce a set of specific recommendations and has failed to support an alternative approach to include the Democratic solutions and the Republican guiding principles, Democrats will not support the adoption of a formal report that is empty of the one thing specifically required in SB 6195 – recommendations and solutions to fully fund education for Washington’s 1.1 million school children.
This vote today will not negate any of the hard work put in by members of this task force, our staff, and the independent consultants. We are proud of the solutions that were developed by our members of this task force, and especially thankful for all the countless staff hours that have been put in to support us.
And we thank the outside consultants who gathered and analyzed the data we needed to be successful and finish the job we were tasked to do and identify solutions to the specific questions in SB 6195.
Regardless of today’s votes, all of the materials, notes, and testimony are available online at leg.wa.gov for members of the media and the general public to read.
Going forward, House and Senate Democrats will continue to work on specific education policy and funding recommendations that we believe are best for Washington’s 1.1 million school kids.
Because at the end of the day, that’s what all this work is about – providing opportunities for every child to learn and reach their dreams.
No more excuses. No more delays. The Legislature needs to fully fund education this session.
That’ll be the primary focus of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses for the next 105 days. We encourage the Republicans to join us in that dialogue when they’re ready to propose specific recommendations.
We welcome our Republican colleagues to the table when they are ready to work together on solutions. We hope those discussions can begin soon for the sake of Washington’s 1.1 million public school kids.
Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, Ranking Member on K-12 Committee
Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, Deputy Democratic Leader
Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, House Majority Leader
Rep. Kris Lytton, D-Anacortes, Chair, House Finance Committee