Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday it looks less likely that factions in the House and Senate can agree on a unified plan for funding K-12 schools before adjourning their 60-day session next Thursday.
The Senate and House have both passed supplemental that need reconciling before lawmakers go home after Thursday, March 13.
But on a larger question of what the Legislature will tell the Supreme Court about its plan to fully fund basic education by 2017-18, lawmakers are far from agreement. As we reported Sunday, majority Democrats in the House and minority Democrats in the Senate each have introduced bills to nail down the state funding commitment in law, while some Senate Majority Coalition Caucus members say there may be more than one plan submitted to the court before it’s April 30 deadline.
Inslee told reporters in a news conference “it would be great” if a common plan is agreed to before adournment. “It doesn’t seem to be that progress is being made that would make it likely that would happen in the next several days,” Inslee added. “Legislators are little more focused on the immediate budget.''
The Democratic governor’s legislative director, Ted Sturdevant, said efforts were being made to organize a second meeting of the “five corners” – representatives of the four legislative caucuses and the Governor’s Office. One meeting occurred two weeks ago with about three members of each caucus, but no deal resulted.
Republican Sen. John Braun of Centralia said late last week he thinks lawmakers may end up submitting more than one plan to the court, which issued an order in January asking lawmakers to pick up their pace of funding for schools. House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, said his caucus wants a bill spelling out the state’s commitment.
The court’s 2012 ruling in the McCleary case suggests – based on the state’s previous plans for improving staffing in public schools – that lawmakers need to increase their biennial investments by as much as $5 billion above current levels over the next two budget cycles.
“I'm doing what I can,” Inslee said of responding to the court’s order. “In my state of the state address, I highlighted this. And I made a clear mark that I thought was a good goal for us on a bipartisan basis this year - of $200 million [in new investments] this year. … I've been urging legislators individually and collectively to try to move toward that. I've tried to explore with them options to do that.”
Inslee added: “One could say we have had some movement. One of the caucuses started at zero. They said they weren't going to do anything. They now have moved to a little more than that. That's a good sign … [I] shows we have made progress.’’
At last word the Senate’s supplemental budget included $38 million more for K-12 schools, mainly an increases in money for supplies and operating costs for local schools. The House was favoring about $60 million for those purposes plus more than $50 million more for cost of living pay adjustments for K-12 teachers and other employees.