“Kids need classrooms.”
That’s how Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish) explains House Bill 2797, supported by Republicans and Democrats, which just passed out of the Capital Budget Committee a few minutes ago.
The legislation would create thousands of jobs while building the classrooms they need to meet the McCleary decision.
“The class rooms have to be in place before the kids and teachers show up in 2017,” said Dunshee, chair of the Capital Budget Committee. “So there is urgency to start now.”
“This isn’t a Republican thing, or a Democratic thing, but the right thing to do,” said Rep. Drew MacEwen (R-Union), who is co-sponsor of the bill. A total of 47 lawmakers signed onto the bill when it was introduced.
MacEwen appeared at a press conference alongside Dunshee to explain the plan, which would raise $700 million in bonds backed by lottery revenue to build classrooms for full-day kindergarten up to third grade. Those early years were targeted because research shows those years are crucial for a student’s academic success, and that class size in those years truly matters. Additionally, the voter-approved I-728 focused on cutting class size in the early grades.
The overcrowding problem was specifically mentioned in the state Supreme Court’s ruling issued right before the 2014 legislative session.
Dunshee explained that four other states have successfully used the lottery as a method to fund school construction, and that those states enjoy great credit ratings. You can learn more about the other state selling lottery-backed bonds here and here.
In a break with usual practice, Dunshee said local matching funds would not be required, meaning school districts would get funds to alleviate overcrowding whether they passed matching levies or not.
“There are some school districts in eastern Washington that haven’t passed a local levy for years,” Dunshee said. “So it would be unfair not to do something for their overcrowded classrooms. It’s our responsibility to help those kids get a good education, too.”