The Washington State House of Representatives adopted rules for the 2017 legislative session today. House Republicans offered an amendment to the rules that would have been the cornerstone of their plan to finalize and fulfill the state’s McCleary obligation.
“This goes beyond slogans and hyperbole,” said Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley. “We need to get beyond the idea and the words of making education a priority; we need to put it into action and actually prioritize our children. We need to take the politics out of funding education.”
The House Republican Fund Education First amendment would change the state’s budget process and require the Legislature to pass a separate K-12 education budget before any other appropriations. This approach would elevate K-12 education to the highest priority in the budgeting process, rather than leave it competing for dollars with other state agencies and agendas.
Shea offered the amendment during floor debate, yet the idea of funding education first has been supported by House Republicans since 2006. Despite this long history of fighting for the prioritization of education funding, Democrats rejected the amendment.
“The cornerstone of our education funding plan was just voted down today,” said Rep. Mike Volz, R-Spokane. “The other side has no plan to bring about the reforms needed to fund basic education. All we’ve seen is a list of taxes they want to raise – tax increases that don’t have the support of the public let alone the support of the Legislature. If education is truly the state’s paramount duty, let’s treat it like so and implement constraints that force the Legislature to prioritize education spending.”
House Bill 1021, sponsored by Rep. Drew MacEwen, is this year’s version of the Fund Education First solution. It has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
“How is it unreasonable to prioritize our spending for children? Our citizens prioritize their household budgets all the time,” said Rep. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney. “The mortgage and utility bills get prioritized over other monthly spending. It seems like a reasonable and logical step to prioritize education spending for our children over other state spending.”
“As a teacher, I can tell you we need more than just lip service to funding education,” said Rep. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley. “We know that the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision was about more than just dollars; there are reforms that need to be made. We have legislative proposals to implement these reforms. But to reject the idea of funding education first – again – just continues the ‘business-as-usual’ approach to education spending that created the problem in the first place.”
The 105-day legislative session is scheduled to adjourn April 23.