By Eric Tegethoff
Washington News Service
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington owes $16 million in fines, and will owe $100,000 more a day until the Washington legislature agrees on a school funding plan.
To stop the hemorrhaging, not to mention getting out of being in contempt of court, lawmakers are considering a bipartisan solution.
Rep. Kristine Lytton, a Democrat, introduced the House bill at a hearing this week. And Republican Ann Rivers laid out a similar version to the Senate.
Rich Wood with the Washington Education Association says lawmakers need to work faster.
“The legislature’s failure to fully fund education in Washington has a very real impact on kids in the classroom who are in our schools right now,” he stresses.
Last August, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that the current funding model was unconstitutional. The fine is supposed to go toward funding basic education, though the legislature has yet to set up an account to receive this money.
Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed closing tax loopholes to bolster school funds. Then the state could use that money to raise the starting salaries of teachers by an average of $4,300.
Wood says competitive salaries are crucial for recruiting and keeping teachers in Washington.
“We also have research that shows teachers’ salaries in Washington are the lowest amongst the West Coast states,” he states. “And we know with an economy that is improving, teachers and other educators have other options.”