OLYMPIA – In the final hours before a state government shutdown, the Legislature passed a landmark bill that adds billions of dollars to public schools in Washington state over the next four years. Passage of this bill addresses the chronic underfunding of schools called out in the state Supreme Court’s McCleary case.
“This budget makes the biggest investment in education in a generation and reflects the core values that Democrats have advocated for throughout this process,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, one of the education negotiators who also serves as a negotiator on the state operating budget. “It ensures more equity between low- and high-income districts and students and provides additional funds for students with individual needs. Of course no budget is perfect, and the reliance primarily on property taxes for funding was not what Democrats wanted but unfortunately was all the Republicans would consider. In the end, kids and educators will see $7.3 billion more dollars going into their schools over the next four years, and that is an enormous win for the students of our state.”
House Bill 2242 takes numerous steps toward closing the opportunity gap including increasing salaries and salary equity for educators, providing additional funding for special education and for low-income districts. The bill also increases funds for career and technical education and ensures locals may retain control of their levies while also adding common sense transparency and accountability measures to how levies are spent.
“This has been a long process but in the end we were able to come together in a bipartisan way and produce a K-12 funding solution that will meet our Constitutional obligation and help the 1.1 million schoolchildren in our state to achieve their fullest potential,” said Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane. “Education in general, and this plan in particular, goes well beyond just helping individual children. When we get education policy and funding right, we boost our economy, build community, and strengthen our democracy by producing well rounded, intelligent citizens.”
The bill passed with bipartisan support out of both chambers of the Legislature (67-26 out of the House of Representatives, and 32-17 out of the Senate). The bill now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.