Frustrated with the House, Senate and governor’s proposals to fund K-12 education, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn unveiled an OSPI funding plan for K-12 on Tuesday.
Dorn’s plan decreases class sizes not only in kindergarten through third grade, but also grades 4 through 12. However, it does not decrease class sizes as much as in voter approved Initiative 1351.
The plan also calls for statewide collective bargaining for teachers with regional adjustments and stretches out the deadline for full funding by 2018 to 2021. The 2018 deadline was court-ordered after the state lost the McCleary school funding lawsuit.
Dorn said he is suggesting the time extension partly because there may not be enough teachers available to hire to fill the staffing gap.
“It’s not just do you have teachers, but are they quality teachers?” he said. “I don’t just want a teacher in front of every kid. I want a quality teacher in front of every student,” Dorn said.
He also called for changes to the school levy system. Many school districts use local voter-approved levies to fund teacher salaries and other basic needs, as well as for other programs and activities that enhance schools.
Some districts have a harder time passing operating levies than other districts, and not all districts have equal limits on how high the levies can be.
Dorn says those differences put students in richer districts at an educational advantage over those in poorer districts.
“I believe this is a civil rights issue,” Dorn said.
Dorn’s plan increases K-12 statewide spending by $2.2 billion in the 2015-17 biennium, which is a greater increase in education spending than the budget proposals that have come out of the House, Senate or the Governor’s office.
Dorn suggested that some of the local levy money from school districts could help pay for that, if the state allows local levy money to be transferred to the state general fund, which would be used to fund schools throughout the state.
Dorn said that he hopes to prevent harming the districts that can get operating levies passed by phasing in the changes.
“One of our concepts is to do no harm. That’s what our hope would be that we would do no harm bringing other districts up the level of the richer districts,” he said.
However, Dorn demurred on unveiling his whole plan on how the state will fund his $2.2 billion spending increase, saying that State Treasurer James L. McIntire will talk about that plan on Thursday.
Dorn’s plan comes two weeks before the scheduled end of the 2015 regular legislative session.
“I just get the feeling that we’re going to be here longer than the next two weeks,” Dorn said.
Details on the plan released Tuesday are on the OSPI website.