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Final state budget falls short on compensation, smaller class sizes

The state budget the Legislature approved Monday effectively cuts educator pay, increases class sizes for most students and fails to fully fund K-12 public schools as required by the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

“As educators, we are committed to the success of every single one of our students, regardless of their ZIP Code,” said Kim Mead, president of the Washington Education Association. “That’s why we’re so disappointed the Washington Legislature is failing to fulfill its paramount duty to Washington’s 1 million public school students. Legislators may claim they’re fully funding education, but educators know the truth: this budget falls far short of fully funding smaller class sizes and professional, competitive educator pay and benefits.” Bake sale

Smaller K-12 class sizes and adequate pay and benefits are crucial parts of the Legislature’s constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education – yet the budget released Monday does not provide what’s required by McCleary:

  • The budget leaves students in grades 4-12 packed into some of the most overcrowded classrooms in the country. By cutting $2 billion in required funding for smaller class sizes as required by I-1351, this budget increases class sizes in grades 4-12. Those students will not benefit from the one-on-one attention smaller class sizes provide.
  • The budget funds a minimal 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for educators over two years as required by I-732, and a temporary, one-time 1.8 percent increase that goes away after two years. Senate Republicans consistently opposed funding a higher permanent salary increase for school employees. Legislators themselves will receive a permanent 11.2 percent raise, state employees also will get a permanent 4.8 percent raise and it’s been six years since educators received a state COLA. A COLA is not a raise.
  • The budget provides a minimal increase in funding for educator health care, but nowhere near what state employees and legislators themselves will receive. Higher out-of-pocket health care costs will negate the COLA for some educators and result in a net pay cut for many teachers and support staff. That will make it more difficult to attract and keep the qualified, caring educators students need to be successful.

Mead said if it weren’t for the ongoing efforts of Washington educators, the Legislature likely would not have provided any new K-12 funding. More than 40,000 WEA members staged one-day strikes or walkouts against the Legislature this spring, the first teacher strikes against the Washington Legislature since 1999. WEA members played a major role in the two ballot initiatives (I-732 and I-1351) and the McCleary court case that dominated this year’s budget discussions.

“Along with parents, WEA members are the strongest advocates for our kids and the quality education they deserve,” Mead said. “We are proud of our actions to support Washington’s public schools.”

Here’s WEA’s initial take on the budget, including higher education compensation. The House needs to approve the budget by midnight June 30.

On non-budget issues, the Legislature did not pass legislation that mandated the use of state test scores in teacher evaluations.

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