The Washington State Legislature convenes January 14. During the 105-day session, their major task is to develop the 2013-15 state budget. Since state funding makes up two-thirds of our revenues, the outcomes from this session impact the Northshore School District greatly. With a new Governor, many new legislators, and new legislative leadership, there is much change afoot in Olympia.
What has not changed is the responsibility of the Legislature to meet its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education. Just over a year ago, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary decision that the Legislature was not meeting this duty and directed it to do so by 2018, with demonstrated progress along the way.
After two decades of numerous studies, reports, commissions and task forces, there is a broad and agreed upon understanding of what it will take to fully fund basic education. In fact, the Legislature in recent years has passed laws spelling this out and establishing timelines to get there.
The Northshore community consistently steps up to pass local levies and bonds that help make our schools some of the best in the state. Yet there remain unmet needs in our schools that could be better addressed if we received the full state funding we are due. If in the 2013-15 budget, the Legislature fully funded just two of its basic education responsibilities-student transportation and operating costs for things such as basic supplies, materials, utilities and insurance-we would have millions of local levy dollars available to better meet our local educational needs, dollars that are currently being used out of necessity to backfill years of underfunding.
The Supreme Court mandated change, and the time for the Legislature to act is now. The students in our schools today should not have to wait any longer for the education to which they are entitled by the constitution of our state. In the coming months, I hope to report progress by the Legislature fixing what is currently broken about funding for public education. In the meantime, I will continue to work with our local legislators and advocate for the changes the McCleary decision requires.
Larry Francois, Northshore School District Superintendent