Inslee proposes additional $200 million to ‘speed up’ education funding

Gov. Jay Inslee - Reporter file photo
Gov. Jay Inslee
— image credit: Reporter file photo

Governor Jay Inslee announced a proposal to boost school spending by $200 million on Jan. 28, saying it’s a needed infusion of funding “to keep the state on track for meeting its court-mandated basic education obligations.”

The proposal came in response to an order from the State Supreme Court earlier this month that indicating the state is not moving fast enough to meet its own funding timelines, calling for “immediate, concrete action.”

“Our (state) constitution makes clear that education is this state’s paramount duty,” the Governor said. “And in recent years, the Legislature has come together in a bipartisan fashion to pass promising school reforms. What’s missing is action, follow through, making good on our commitment. What’s missing is funding. Today, I am presenting a plan that puts us on the path to meet our moral obligation to our children and our legal obligation to our constitution.”

The additional $200 million would be added to the 2013-15 budget, and would, according to Inslee’s office, address the need of “ensuring classrooms are properly equipped with necessary materials, supplies, books and curricula”,” and would also restore “voter-mandated teacher cost-of-living increases.”

The breakdown of the $200 million would have approximately $130 million going towards classroom needs, and approximately $74 million going towards the cost-of-living increase for teachers. The Governor’s office noted that in 2000, voters overwhelming supported the idea of ensuring cost-of-living adjustments for teachers, and that the state has not been able to provide any since 2008.

“If we want to attract and retain the best and brightest teachers for our children, we have to provide competitive salaries,” Inslee noted.

His overall plan is still focused on eliminating seven tax-loopholes, spread across a variety of sectors of the economy. According to the state’s number crunchers, closing those loopholes would create $200 million in additional revenue in the current biennium, and would generate $414 million during the 2015-17 biennium.

“There may have been a time and a place for these tax breaks,” the governor said, “but today they simply are not as high a priority as educating our children.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn released a brief statement in response to Inslee’s proposal, saying, as he has for the last several years, that the $200 million is a start, but still falls short of meeting the state’s educational needs.

“Adding $200 million to basic education will help get us closer to meeting the Supreme Court’s 2018 deadline to adequately fund basic education,” Dorn said in his statement. “While I think Governor Inslee’s proposal is a step forward, it is not the $400 million I think is needed to help us meet the deadline. It is also not the complete plan to fund basic education, which the Supreme Court has mandated by April 30 … In the meantime, this is the first proposal I’ve seen in this session that would money to basic education.”

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