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Published on Friday, January 6, 2017

Still no agreement about how to fund basic education

As legislators return to Olympia this week, their primary objective is to pass a two-year state operating budget that fully funds basic education. To help facilitate a bipartisan solution, the 2016 Legislature established a nine-member Education Funding Task Force comprised of eight legislators, from both chambers and both parties, and a representative of the Governor’s office.

The task force began meeting last April and has been looking at several areas of school funding, including salaries, recruitment and retention, K-3 class sizes, and the use of local school levies. The task force was given a January 9, 2017, deadline to adopt recommendations for the full Legislature to consider.

While the hope was that the task force would develop a bipartisan solution for funding public schools, Democrat and Republican caucuses released separate recommendations at a meeting last week. The Democrats propose investing an additional $7.3 billion in basic education over the next two biennia. The Republicans issued a set of guiding principles for funding basic education. The committee will meet again this week to formally adopt recommendations and take public comment, but there is no longer an expectation of bipartisan recommendations.

This means the 2017 legislative session begins without agreement and many different ideas about how to achieve the Legislature’s number one priority of funding basic education this year.

Categories: Budget & finance