Inslee signs bill to improve basic education funding for public schools

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Thursday to amply fund basic education for all students in kindergarten through 12th grade and to change how school districts use local funding.

The changes are in response to the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, which determined that the state was not meeting its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education. Part of the decision found that schools were relying on local levies to pay for their basic needs, such as teacher salaries, a responsibility that should fall to state government.

“This is a big day in the state of Washington,” Inslee said. “For the first time in decades, we have a budget that fully funds education. Our work isn’t over, but we’ve met the constitutional and moral obligation to our students, and we’ve set the course for the future of education in Washington state.”

View highlights from the bill-signing ceremony here:

The new law creates a fairer pay structure for teachers that could include increases for expertise in a specialized area and that takes into account regional differences in cost of living. It adds three professional learning days for certificated instructional staff, expands the mentorship program for new teachers, and creates a statewide health care benefits program for school district employees who work more than 630 hours.

The law adds state funding to special education, career and technical education, highly capable and transitional bilingual programs, and it funds a new learning-assistance program for schools that serve a large number of students who are not meeting academic standards.

The law defines the types of programs that can be paid for by local levy dollars and, starting in 2020, will require the state to approve local levy measures before they go on the ballot. Additionally, new limits on the amount of money a school district can collect in local property taxes begin in 2019

While local levies will be limited, more K-12 education funding will be supported by an increase in the statewide property tax beginning next year.

“I’m very proud of what we did, that we focused on getting it right for kids around the state in an equal and fair way, recognizing that all kids aren’t the same,” said Sen. John Braun, a Chehalis Republican and the Senate’s key budget writer. Braun added that investing in programs for students with diverse needs ensures that “every child has an equal chance of success.”

Gov. Jay Inslee during a bill signing ceremony Thursday for House Bill 2242, a plan to fully fund basic education in Washington state. (Official Governor’s Office Photo)