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Senate Republican budget funds charter schools, attacks educators’ benefits & bargaining

State Senate Republicans and their collaborators released a new budget plan today (March 15) that continues their attack on public school employees’ health care, pensions and collective bargaining rights.

The Senate Republican budget funds the state takeover of K-12 health care (SB 6442) — and diverts taxpayer funding into failed charter schools. The Senate Republican budget also fails to make a $99 million K-12 pension payment and limits pension benefits for new school employees.

“Funding smaller class sizes for our youngest children should be a higher priority than squandering taxpayer money on risky failed charter school schemes that voters don’t want, or the costly state takeover of educators’ health care system,” said Mary Lindquist, WEA president.

This budget threatens educators’ health care benefits, pensions and collective bargaining rights, and it does nothing to restore funding for smaller class sizes. When supporters released it at a news conference today, they also touted legislation that permanently repeals voter-approved Initiative 732 (COLAs) and Initiative 728 (smaller class sizes).

Instead of expanding the size of state government by taking over educators’ health care system, wasting taxpayer money on failed charter schools and limiting bargaining rights, legislators should respect the Supreme Court’s recent ruling and begin to restore funding for K-12 public schools, Lindquist said.

Taken verbatim from the Republican budget document:

SCHOOL EMPLOYEE BENEFITS BOARD - $12.4 MILLION OTHER FUNDS

Funding is provided for startup costs for a new School Employees’ Benefits Board (SEBB) program within the Health Care Authority. The SEBB will provide centralized purchasing of health benefits for school employees throughout the state beginning January 1, 2014. Self-insured school districts will be allowed to opt out provided that they provide comparable benefits at a cost no greater than that paid by districts participating in the SEBB program and provide additional data that allows the SEBB to confirm this. Initial funds are provided through a loan from the Public Employees’ and Retirees’ Insurance Account (PERIA) to the new School

Employees’ Insurance Administration Account (SEIAA), which will be repaid with interest.

ALTERNATIVE GOVERNANCE FOR CERTAIN PUBLIC SCHOOLS - $780,000 GENERAL FUND STATE

Funding is provided to implement Senate Bill 6202, which establishes alternative forms of governance for certain public schools. The alternative forms of governance include opportunity schools (up to ten) as well as a transformation zone district, administered within the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) for the purpose of temporarily managing a list of transformation zone schools.

RETIREMENT SYSTEM REFORMS - $143.1MILLION GENERAL FUND-STATE SAVINGS, $39.5 MILLION OTHER FUND SAVINGS

Savings are achieved through the provisions of Re-engrossed Senate Bill 6378, which suspends employer Plan 1 unfunded liability payments for fiscal year 2013 and eliminates subsidized early retirement benefits for new members of the Plans 2 and 3 of the Public Employees’, Teachers’, and School Employees’ Retirement Systems (PERS, TRS, and SERS) who first establish membership after June 30, 2012. Savings in realized in future biennia as a result of the elimination of the early retirement options will be used to fund additional employer contributions, allowing the Plan 1 unfunded liabilities to be paid off more quickly than under current law.

Read what David Goldstein of The Stranger has to say about the budget.

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