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Senate votes to fully fund teacher salaries, make improvements on 2017 education package

OLYMPIA – The Senate [on Wednesday] passed legislation that makes necessary changes to the sweeping education funding package passed in 2017 to fully fund K-12 schools in Washington state.

Senate Bill 6362, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, fully funds teacher salaries by the start of the 2018-19 school year, fulfilling the state’s final responsibility under the 2012 state Supreme Court McCleary ruling.

“We’ve met with dozens of school leaders, listened and worked to address their concerns,” Wellman said. “We knew we would have to modify the legislation passed last year. This bill represents a responsible approach and addresses many of the questions we have heard over the last six months.”

Last year, the Legislature passed HB 2242, which will funnel more than $7 billion to K-12 schools throughout the state of Washington over next four years.

SB 6362 makes the following changes:

  • Fully funds teacher salaries by the 2018-19 school year, complying with the state Supreme Court order.
  • Increases funding for special education.
  • Smooths out the “regionalization” pay formula so districts are on a more level playing field with neighboring districts and can recruit and retain talented educators.
  • Creates a salary safety net account for school districts who have a disproportionate share of experienced and highly qualified teachers or other unique circumstances and gathers additional data on potential inadequacies in order to allow the legislature to adjust the new salary formula if necessary in the future.
  • Allows the levy capacity for districts to grow at a more accurate inflationary rate for areas like Seattle, which will allow districts to collect more money for enhancements to basic education if they choose.
  • Provides districts with high poverty needs more stability by using a three-year average to determine eligibility for extra funding to support students who are falling behind academically.
  • Speeds up new requirements for OSPI to track school district revenue and spending in order to provide more transparency about how our public education dollars are spent.
  • Ensures no district will receive less money than it would have prior to the passage of the McCleary plan.
  • Makes several other structural and technical changes to HB 2242.

“In this short 60-day session, we are complying with the Supreme Court’s order and taking the final step in the McCleary process, but more importantly, we are making another significant investment in our students, teachers and families,” Wellman said.

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