Senate Democratic leaders today presented a beginning proposal for a plan for fully funding basic education by 2018. The plan outlines a series of year-by-year goals for the phasing-in of full funding of basic education, including educator compensation.

The legislation also includes a proposal to immediately increase education funding in the 2014 session by more than $100 million through closing unproductive tax loopholes. The Democrats’ plan would dedicate the money towards proven reforms that increase student achievement like class size reduction and all-day kindergarten, and to basic costs that should be paid for by the state instead of local districts, like textbooks, other operating and cost-of-living salary adjustments for educators.

“Funding a great education for all students is our paramount duty,” said Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell. “It’s urgent that we take action this session to fulfill the promise we made to the children in our public schools. It’s going to take new revenue to fulfill this obligation to our students, and reducing class sizes for our children and grandchildren should be more important than preserving tax loopholes for Big Oil.”

On Jan. 9, the Supreme Court ruled in an order to the Legislature that “The need for immediate action could not be more apparent. Conversely, failing to act would send a strong message about the State’s good faith commitment toward fulfilling its constitutional promise.” The court further ruled, “It is incumbent upon the State to demonstrate, through immediate, concrete action, that it is making real and measurable progress, not simply promises.”

“We have a multi-billion dollar funding challenge ahead of us,” said Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane. “We’ve got to get our funding back on track now or the gap we’ll need to make up in the future to fully fund education will be even larger. This proposal is a reasonable step we can take this year to invest in real improvement in student achievement.”

The bill also includes a phase-in plan for moving towards fully funding basic education by 2018. The legislation establishes year-by-year goals for linearly phasing-in the priorities outlined specifically in SHB 2776, while also establishing final 2018 target values for other components of our basic education program and a plan for funding those enhancements. In recognition of the Court’s statement that it is “deeply troubling” that the state has not offered any plan for meeting its educator compensation obligations, the bill also includes a phase-in plan for compensation. 

“The Supreme Court was clear that we needed a plan for fully funding education. This is just such a plan,” said Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle. “We need to send a clear message to the Supreme Court and to Washington students and their families that we will fulfill the promises we made in 2009 when we redefined basic education. We’re happy to work with Republicans if we can find a bipartisan agreement on a plan to send to the court, but this message needs to be sent by somebody. Let’s not risk a constitutional crisis. Let’s get this done.”

You can watch video of the press conference here.

You can take a closer look at the proposal here.

You can view the entire bill here.

You can listen to the audio release here.