After investing nearly $5 billion additional dollars in our public schools over the last six years, Washington is one step closer to keeping its promise to one million school kids.
The House of Representatives voted today to approve HB 1843, a bill that would ensure our schools are fully funded and that every child receives opportunities to learn.
Every element of the House bill was driven by the question – What’s best for kids? – which is why I was a proud YES vote for HB 1843.
Closing the opportunity gap
Our plan takes a significant step toward closing the opportunity gap and improving student outcomes in Washington state by prioritizing:
- Learning assistance to help struggling students keep up with their peers.
- Transitional programs to help bilingual students.
- Class-size reductions for career and technical education and skill centers.
- Parent-involvement coordinators and guidance counselors.
A high quality teacher in every classroom
It also addresses the teacher-shortage crisis through educator recruitment and retention programs. The bill makes a serious commitment to pay new teachers a fair salary, provide additional professional learning opportunities, and ensure their compensation keeps up with market rates.
The Senate Republican plan is wrong for kids
Unfortunately, the bill that came out of the Senate on a party-line vote has some deeply troubling provisions that I cannot support. The Senate Republican bill:
- Cuts learning support services for low-income kids.
- Reduces teacher pay over time, or increases class sizes. Or both.
- Eliminates local levies for a year, which will significantly impact afterschool programs, sports, clubs, music, and other locally-approved education enhancements.
- Reduces local levy capacity by about two-thirds.
Both sides agree new revenue is needed
Neither plan can be done within existing revenue sources. Democrats and Republicans agree new revenue sources are needed to solve this problem.
The House plan is estimated to cost roughly $7.5 billion over the next four years. In the coming weeks, our Democratic Caucus will unveil our plan to pay for this proposal. Ideas that have been discussed previously include taxing corporate polluters, taxing out-of-state businesses taking advantage of outdated and wasteful tax exemptions, and taxing capital gains of wealthy investors. As the Vice Chair of the House Finance Committee, I assure you are working diligently to bring forth a strong proposal that will fund these investments in a way that is sufficient, sustainable and takes steps toward righting some of the wrongs of our regressive tax structure.
The Senate Republican plan on the other hand, largely relies on a massive property tax hike on middle-class and working families, mostly in King County and the Puget Sound region. Their proposed policies cost $8.8 billion over the next four years, yet even with their property tax increase, their plan still falls about $2.5 billion short of balancing This means Republicans must propose cuts to other state services like higher education, public safety, foster care, low-income health care, and housing to comply with the four-year budget outlook requirements.
Each side has now offered proposals on the policies they believe create the strongest environment for success for all of Washington’s children. But we all know the hardest part to resolve is how to pay for it. Over the coming weeks, negotiators will work on a path toward compromise that will ensure public schools are fully funded for Washington’s one million school kids.