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Jan. 29, 2023

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State school board chief: New revenue essential to McCleary

Official says court mandate can't be met without additional funds

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published:

o What: Washington State Board of Education meeting to discuss the transition to career and college-ready standards, and impacts of more rigorous graduation requirements.

o When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. Public comment is at noon Thursday and 11:45 a.m. Friday.

o Where: Educational Service District 112, Clark and Pacific Rooms, 2500 N. 65th Ave., Vancouver.

The Washington State Board of Education doesn’t see a way to fully fund K-12 schools without finding new sources of state revenue, said its executive director, Ben Rarick.

The board is meeting Thursday and Friday in Vancouver to discuss the transition to career and college-ready standards, and impacts of more rigorous graduation requirements. But Rarick said the biggest challenge the board faces is addressing the state Supreme Court’s directive that legislators fully fund K-12 education.

At its September meeting, the board adopted a resolution acknowledging that new state revenue is necessary to comply with the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

o What: Washington State Board of Education meeting to discuss the transition to career and college-ready standards, and impacts of more rigorous graduation requirements.

o When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. Public comment is at noon Thursday and 11:45 a.m. Friday.

o Where: Educational Service District 112, Clark and Pacific Rooms, 2500 N. 65th Ave., Vancouver.

Read the board’s resolution on the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision at its website.

“We reject the idea that we can rely on revenue growth for funding,” Rarick said. “New revenue is going to have to be part of the picture. If the Legislature is not considering some new form of revenue, they’re going to have real challenges.”

Rarick said he’s heard some talk about using a levy swap to satisfy the McCleary decision. He said a levy swap would not bring in additional revenue, but would just increase the percentage the state pays while decreasing the local levy percentage. The total dollar amount would remain unchanged.

“That may help the count, but it’s not going to help kids,” he said. “What the McCleary case is about is that the state percentage (of K-12 funding) isn’t ample.”

A year ago, Rarick said, legislators and policymakers all agreed that schools should be fully funded. But now with the deadline for McCleary looming, Rarick said it’s time to figure out how to fund schools and meet McCleary requirements.

“Let’s get to the real issue: How are we going to do that? When are we going to do that? What are the funding sources?” Rarick asked.

Complicating matters, an initiative seeking smaller class sizes in the state’s K-12 schools appears to be passing. Initiative 1351 had 50.68 percent of the vote as of Wednesday evening, though the race is so close it may require a recount.

If the measure passes, it would take effect in 60 days.

“It certainly changes the legislative landscape,” Rarick said.

When it comes to new graduation requirements, Rarick pointed out that new state tests, called Smarter Balanced, will replace current state assessments in the spring. The K-12 system is moving toward career and college-ready standards, and the more rigorous graduation requirements will impact students in the class of 2019, who now are in the eighth grade.

The new diploma will require 24 rather than 20 credits, including one additional science credit.

Read the board's resolution on the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision at its website.

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Columbian Education Reporter