McCleary funding plan brings unintended consequences

August 8th, 2017|

The fresh analysis compiled by the Seattle Public Schools on the McCleary plan highlights problems on several fronts.

The process by which this plan was developed, under the time crush of a potential government shutdown, did not provide nearly enough time for the deep analysis required to ensure that all areas of the state benefited equally and to the level needed. Some districts in the region appear to be better off, however Seattle Public School’s detailed analysis using OSPI’s projections indicates marginal benefit in the early years of the plan and no benefit in the later years.

These projections were released 30 days after the budget was voted on and passed. This is not OSPI’s fault; the agency simply did not have the time to pursue a deep review given the looming government shutdown that was pressing all budget negotiations. This type of budget brinksmanship must stop in the future.

The unintended consequences of the plan, particularly in the realm of special education, must also be addressed.  In addition, the Legislature is going to need to revisit the local levy caps, as well as the inflation index used in the plan, to address the very real concerns of the Seattle School District and other school districts around the state. While overall there will be more money flowing from the state down to individual districts, these caps were a continued source of debate and controversy while developing the plan and must be dealt with next year before they kick in.

It was unintended consequences like these, as well as the disproportionately applied property tax increase and other concerns, that compelled me to vote against this plan when it came before us late in the legislative session.

In addition to this vote, I voted against the report to the state Supreme Court this year because it did not include district-level funding data or any mention of school construction funding. The agreed-upon capital budget, which contains an additional $35 million for Seattle school construction and approximately $1 billion across the state for school construction, is being held up over an unrelated dispute over water rights in rural areas. These rural areas, like our urban areas, are also awaiting critical school construction funds. The construction budget needs to pass as soon as possible so that these critical construction projects can continue or get underway to alleviate the overcrowded classrooms our students and teachers are facing daily.

As with any major reform bill at the state or federal level, additional legislation to fix or resolve consequences like these must be brought forward. I know that the Seattle Senate delegation will be working to bring such legislation forward. I will be working closely with the Seattle Public Schools and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction over the next year to address these challenges faced by the Seattle district.