May 8, 2017

Subject: This is about education

Dear friends and neighbors,

I stand with the 117 superintendents in the state who remain committed and available to assisting with and moving the K-12 education negotiation process forward to a successful resolution. Our superintendents and educators are on the front lines of education and are charged with leading the public schools in our local communities. They possess the experience, expertise and insights that will help shape the best possible outcomes for our communities and the children, families and staff they serve.

In recent letters to the legislature, the governor and stakeholders, the superintendents outlined their concerns with the main challenges of the McCleary decision and the legislature’s paramount duty to amply and fully fund education in our state. As the operating budget process continues, they hope the legislature will address the following issues:

Collective Bargaining – We are unanimous in our stance that collective bargaining must be reformed.  At a minimum, “guardrails” or “bumpers” must be in place that prohibit bargaining of local levy resources for basic education duties and responsibilities. Without reform of collective bargaining – particularly around use of local levy resources – we are strongly concerned that a significant new investment of State resources will not produce the outcomes and program improvements the Legislature intends. We are further concerned that absent a reform of collective bargaining as it currently exists, a regression to the current unconstitutional funding system at some point in the future is a certainty.

Salary Schedule and Salary Allocation Model – We support continuation of a state salary schedule and allocation model to assure consistency, uniformity and equity across our region and state. We are open to proposals that would simplify the current model with fewer educational, certification and/or experience steps; however, the state salary schedule is a basis for local salary schedules across our region, and eliminating it altogether would present a significant challenge for each district to create and negotiate individually.

TRII and Supplemental Pay – We strongly support clear and specific limitations on the use of local levy resources for compensated time outside of the 180-day student year or for duties and responsibilities that are clearly distinguishable from those routinely expected of any teacher.

Allocation and Funding Model – We support a structure that allocates resources primarily utilizing the prototypical school model as an objective, research-based approach to generating funding for staff positions. Such a model can be periodically reviewed and modified over time to meet changing needs. We are open to a per pupil funding model that is grounded in the prototypical funding model and does not supplant state funding with federal or local resources.

Health Benefits – We support a transition to a statewide health benefits program for K-12 employees. Such a transition must thoughtfully account for any increased district costs, including the potential for a sizeable increase in benefit-eligible employees.

Salary Increments for Teachers – We support continued salary increments for advanced degrees and years of experience. We also support continued salary recognition for teachers who obtain National Board Certification. We do not support bonus or merit systems and view them as both inherently unreliable to administer and destructive to building and sustaining a collaborative district and school culture that best serves all children.

Professional Development – Recognizing the need and value of ongoing learning and growth, we support 10 days annually of professional development outside the 180-day school year with local flexibility to schedule some or all of the equivalent professional development time within the 180-day school year (e.g. extended work days, Saturdays, evenings, etc.) as a component of basic education.

Cost of Living Adjustments – We support regular cost of living adjustments as a component of basic education to assure that salaries remain competitive to attract and retain a high-quality workforce.

Regionalization or Poverty Factors – We recognize the unique challenges of attracting and retaining staff members to high cost, remote and/or high poverty districts and support a salary allocation model that provides additional incentives to attract and retain high-quality staff in communities so impacted.

Beginning Teacher Pay – We support a significant increase in the minimum salary for beginning teachers to at least $45,000 annually to appropriately recognize a comparable market value for beginning teacher pay and to attract a larger pool of high-quality candidates to the teaching profession.

Expenditure Limitation for Salary and Benefits – We have limited support for an imposed or fixed percentage of district expenditures for salaries and benefits. We see this as potentially unworkable on a statewide level and non-responsive to the unique and varied circumstances and expenditure drivers across school districts. If a percentage is imposed, it should be at least 85% of district expenditures.

Grandfathered Levies and Salaries – Given a sufficient infusion of state resources to fully and amply fund basic education and competitive, market-rate salaries, we support the elimination of grandfathered levy lids and salary allocations – subject to the “hold harmless” provision below – if not immediately, then over no longer than a 2-3 year period.

Hold Harmless During Transition – As the Legislature implements a program of full and ample basic education funding through a negotiated compromise of the proposals thus far introduced in the legislative session – or new ideas not yet under public consideration – we strongly support a “hold harmless” provision for any districts detrimentally impacted under the new funding structure ultimately adopted until such time as the funding model “catches up” to those districts’ current funding levels.

Local Levy Lid – In an environment of full and ample funding of basic education, we believe the current levy lid would no longer be necessary to support local enhancements. Provided a consistent and ongoing State commitment to maintain full and ample funding of basic education and sufficient “guardrails” to assure that local levy funds only support locally determined enhancements to basic education, we believe a lower local levy lid of 10-20% of combined state and federal funding is supportable.

Fund Accounting/Audit Standards – While we fully support the assurance that local levy resources do not fund basic education, especially compensation, we do not support overly burdensome requirements that will significantly increase operational and audit expenses. We strongly oppose separate accounting for state, federal and local revenues and expenditures and/or compliance determination through annual State audits.  We support tasking the best school district finance minds with developing reasonable and workable solutions to provide the assurance and separation of state and local funding we all desire.

Local Effort Assistance – In the transitional phase to a new funding structure, we support continuation of Local Effort Assistance as an important means of assuring equity of enhancement opportunities across districts. We can provide qualified support for elimination of local effort assistance conditioned on a full, ample and consistently funded program of basic education.

 “Levy Swap” – We do not support re-purposing current local levy capacity to fund the State’s basic education obligation.

The superintendents also write:

“We urge immediate, serious and urgent negotiations towards a final compromise plan that meets the affirmative constitutional right of every Washington child to a fully funded basic education. In the absence of such a final compromise plan, our districts are unable to meet critical dates in developing plans to achieve our primary mission of educating all children. Most importantly, every day of delay is another day in which our State’s children are further denied their most basic constitutional right to an equitable and amply funded education.”

I share the concerns of our Educational Service Districts and the coalition of Washington Education Associations including school boards and principles. I am working with my colleagues to find a compromise solution that benefits our 1.1 million public school students and our educators.

Best regards,