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The Hopper

Looking forward on education funding

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

January 9th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Democrats release school funding recommendations

OLYMPIA – Democratic education leaders on Wednesday released final recommendations on a K-12 school funding package to ensure competitive wages for teachers and to resolve the McCleary case before the state Supreme Court.

Senate and House Democrats unveiled their plan during one of the final the Education Funding Task Force meetings. The panel was set up seven months ago and was directed by law (SB 6195) to develop bipartisan recommendations by the start of the 2017 legislative session.

While a bipartisan agreement on recommendations could not be reached, Democratic education leaders released a detailed plan that provides an opportunity to build new schools across the state, place high-quality educators in every classroom and give 1.1 million Washington school kids opportunities to learn and achieve their dreams.

House and Senate Republicans declined to propose a plan and instead submitted a “guiding principles” document.

Click below to read more about the plan released by House and Senate Democrats on the Education Funding Task Force:

 

January 4th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Senate Democrats announce committee assignments

OLYMPIA – Senate Democrats on Wednesday announced their committee assignments for the upcoming 2017 legislative session.

“With six new members, Senate Democrats are energized heading into 2017 and we are ready to deliver on our values of fairness and opportunity for all in Washington,” said Sen. Sharon Nelson, the caucus leader. “We have a historic opportunity to fully fund quality education for our state’s 1 million kids and focus on improving the lives of working families and small business owners across the state.”

Nelson was especially proud of the diverse voices on her leadership team.

“We are a diverse state and we put together a team that reflects that,” Nelson said. “Voices from the LGBTQ community, communities of color and men and women from different areas of this state are all represented. I think our team is an accurate representation of the state in which we live.”

The 2017 legislative session officially starts on Jan. 9.

(Click here for a printable copy of the 2017 SDC committee assignments)

December 21st, 2016|Uncategorized|

Senate Democrats elect new leaders ahead of 2017 legislative session

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Senate Democratic caucus held leadership elections on Tuesday, electing Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip as caucus chair, and Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynwood, as floor leader. Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, was re-elected leader and released this statement following the vote:

“With less than two months to go before the next legislative session, and a nearly evenly divided Legislature, our caucus elected two great new leaders. Sen. McCoy brings a steady demeanor and breadth of experience to the role of caucus chair, replacing retiring Sen. Karen Fraser who has served in that role for several years.

“Sen. Liias has served as the assistant floor leader and has proven to be a capable operative and dynamic speaker. He will continue to be an asset in his new role as floor leader. I am honored to continue to serve as the leader of such a strong group of Democratic senators, and look forward to continuing to fight for families across this state.”

November 21st, 2016|Uncategorized|

Nelson: Senate Democrats resolute against fear and division

State Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, released the following statement in response to recent actions by members of the Senate Republican Caucus following the presidential election:

“In the last week, we have seen behavior from Senate Republicans that a vast majority of Washington residents would find disturbing. Since the presidential election, members of the Senate Republican Caucus have used words and actions to create division and instill fear among members of our communities.

“We have already seen an unconstitutional proposal that would undermine our right to free speech and heard divisive and false language about immigrants in a Senate committee. At the same time, we are seeing a dramatic and alarming rise in hate crimes and increased fear in our communities of color.

“Senate Republicans may be successful in generating headlines, but they will not be successful in their attempt to bring ugly, Trump-style campaign rhetoric inside the Capitol in Olympia.

“It’s imperative that Senate Republican leaders immediately and forcefully rebuke these actions and statements.

“Washington is known for embracing diversity and rejecting the politics of bigotry and resentment. Senate Democrats will stand by our shared values of fairness and opportunity and lead the fight to resist division and fear.”

November 17th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Nelson: Hill’s passing a tremendously sad day for our state

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson issued the statement below following the news of the passing of Sen. Andy Hill:

“Today’s news leaves us all with heavy hearts. We are devastated to learn of Senator Hill’s passing. He was a tireless advocate for his community and despite our political differences, I always respected his willingness to work across party lines.

“Throughout his career he stayed focused on serving his district and state and did so with pride and distinction.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. This is a tremendously sad day for our state.”

November 1st, 2016|Uncategorized|

Nelson: A positive revenue forecast is great news for our state and for Washington’s one million school kids

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson issued the statement below following Wednesday’s news that state revenue is expected to rise $334 million this biennium and $125 million in 2017-19:

“A positive revenue forecast is great news for our state and for Washington’s one million school kids.

“There are many challenges we will need to face in 2017, including fully funding education and addressing homelessness and mental health care. Today’s forecast will be part of the solution to these challenges – but anyone that tells you these modest gains are a cure-all doesn’t fully grasp the magnitude of the tasks ahead.

“Senate Democrats welcome today’s good news, and are happy to take it into account as we continue our work getting ready for the 2017 legislative session.”

 

September 21st, 2016|Budget|

Nelson: Despite budget deal, work on education is far from over

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson on Tuesday issued the statement below following the passage of the supplemental operating budget and the completion of the 2016 legislative session:

“From Day 1, Senate Democrats laid out their priorities – education funding, ending the cycle of poverty and homelessness for thousands of Washingtonians and building a Washington that works for all.

“By staying focused on these priorities we were able to make significant strides to close the educational opportunity gap, block Senate Republican attempts to cut mental health programs and services to the elderly, blind and disabled, and ensure there were increased funds for state hospital staff, mobile crisis teams and additional mental health treatment beds.

“What is disappointing however, is that our work took too long – and really it is far from done. Since Republicans took over the Senate, we have averaged an extra 47 days to do the one task the Legislature is required to do – write a budget. Ideology has too often trumped compromise, and as a result it has taken far more effort than it should to do the work Washingtonians sent us here to do.

“I am proud of how hard Democrats fought for top priorities in this year’s budget. I am proud of how focused we stayed on these priorities, even as Senate Republicans used precious time on political grandstanding, including staging a public firing of the state’s top transportation official and mismanaging an expensive investigation that quickly lost credibility.

“We did some good work in 2016. But frankly we had an opportunity to lay the groundwork for real progress in advance of what will be a very difficult session next year – there is going to be a reckoning in 2017.”

 

March 29th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Nelson: Senate Republicans start backing away from “irresponsible” budget

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson issued the statement below following the latest Senate Republican budget proposal that backs away from devastating cuts to mental health, and other critical state services:

“I’m pleased to see that Senate Republicans have now agreed with us.

“They have agreed with us that it is irresponsible to balance a budget by cutting mental health.

“They’ve agreed with us that it is irresponsible to make ends meet by raiding pensions dedicated to retired police, fire fighters and teachers.

“They have agreed with us that it makes no sense to raid other critical programs to pay for wildfires when the state’s Rainy Day Fund exists for these exact moments.

“Democrats in the House, Senate and the Governor have said from the start we would not support a budget written in such an irresponsible manner. Now Senate Republicans are finally starting to come around.

“There are still several disappointments in this budget. We must keep our promises to child care providers, and to the most vulnerable Washingtonians. We must do more for education and more to help our state’s homeless.

“We also must continue to negotiate in good faith. I have to ask, why wasn’t this offer made three days ago? Why did Senate Republicans go silent on Tuesday only to re-emerge late last night with an announcement that Ways and Means would meet today?

“The Senate Republicans were the only ones who knew anything about this budget until just a few hours ago – that is not transparent government.

“I hope the Senate Republicans will now work with us to finish our business.”

March 11th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Nelson: Washington’s school kids shortchanged in Senate Republican budget

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson on Friday released the statement below following the party-line passage of the Senate Republican budget:
“All year we have seen Senate Republicans focused on politics. Maybe that’s why their budget reads like an afterthought.

“Senate Republicans fall far short in addressing homelessness and they cut mental health in this state by $14 million.

“Most disappointing, however, is the harm they do to Washington’s one million school kids.

“The Senate Republican budget cuts $53 million from K-3 class size reduction. It ignores the opportunity gap. It does nothing to retain and attract quality teachers and falls far short of addressing the teacher shortage in a meaningful way.

“It also fails to prevent what would be the largest cut to K-12 education in the state’s history and ignores the McCleary fine – which continues to grow and has now surpassed $20 million.

“A budget represents values. It’s supposed to address the needs of our state and its people.

“At best the Senate Republican budget does nothing. At worst, it does serious damage to the people who can least afford it.”

February 26th, 2016|Uncategorized|