1,933 days and still no McCleary education-funding fix in sight

No one expects a breakthrough on K-12 education-funding negotiations by the end of Washington’s regular legislative session. So what will it take to end years of debate and delay and resolve the multibillion-dollar problem known as McCleary?

OLYMPIA — It’s been 1,933 days since the state Supreme Court ruled that Washington, in violation of its own constitution, was underfunding public schools.

It’s been 617 days since the court followed up with a $100,000-a-day contempt of court fine against the state for failing to approve an education-funding plan that satisfies the order known as the McCleary decision.

Now, with three days left in this year’s regular legislative session, the fines are piling up, negotiations are ramping up — but a fix remains elusive.

Education funding: Where the parties stand

State lawmakers are trying to solve the last big part of the state Supreme Court’s school-funding order: how the state should pay for teachers and other school workers. But House Democrats and Senate Republicans are far apart on what to do — and how to do it. Here’s a look at where things stand:

They agree that:

• More state money is needed to pay for basic education.

• Starting teacher salaries must be raised.

• A solution should do more than the bare minimum requirements of the court order.

They disagree on:

• How much new money is needed to fund education, and where that money should come from.

• What kind of restrictions, if any, school districts should have on using local levy dollars in the future.

• What adjustments should be made to teacher salary schedules.

• What other education policy changes should be made beyond what the court has called for.

Source: House Democratic education plan (HB 1843) and Senate Republican education plan (SB 5607)

No one expects a breakthrough by Sunday’s deadline for this session; at least one 30-day special session is guaranteed.

What will it take to end years of debate and delay over a final resolution to the multibillion-dollar McCleary problem?

Those who watch Olympia expect a solution to come from a handful of lawmakers huddled in a room under enormous deadline pressure, hashing out compromises and ultimately cutting a deal.

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That pressure is likely to come over fear of a government shutdown, which happens if no state budget, which includes K-12 school funding, is approved by July 1.

The high court justices are applying their own pressure. They’ve said lawmakers must approve an education-funding plan by the time the Legislature adjourns for the year. And that plan must be implemented by Sept. 1, 2018.

No one said this would be easy.

Lawmakers have wrestled with McCleary for years, boosting education spending by…

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