GOP bid to fund education first falls flat on party-line vote
February 6, 2013
By Kylee Zabel, Reporter
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
A showdown on the House floor Feb. 1 over an amendment offered by Republicans, which would create a separate budget for K-12 education funding, provoked Enumclaw Rep. Cathy Dahlquist (R) to ask, “Where has the majority party been the last 10 years?”
Democrats, who are in the majority, rejected the Republican proposal in a 52-41 roll-call party-line vote.
The proposal, known as “Fund Education First,” would have required a separate budget to be formed for public education and would require it to be funded before all other budgets. Education funding is now part of the general state operating budget. The Republicans first introduced this legislation in 2006 and have done so each year.
Placing blame on Democrats for being inactive on the public education financing front, Dahlquist charged, “We would not be asking for this amendment today if the majority party had done what they were supposed to do and upheld their paramount duty to fund education first.”
While Republicans urged their counterparts to pass the amendment, Democrats refused, saying that funding education separately would fail to address the multiple financing and operational shortfalls present in Washington’s education system.
Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina) said that the proposal before the House doesn’t actually address the Supreme Court’s McCleary Decision, citing the disproportionate amount of times the ruling mentions the word “funding” versus the word “first;” 233 times to 13 times, respectively.
In the Jan. 2012 McCleary v. State decision, the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously declared that the Legislature must meet its 2018 funding mandate outlined in a 2010 bill signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Measures include the state allocating more than $9,000 per student per year, paying 95 percent of pupil transportation costs, reducing class sizes, funding full-day kindergarten and providing money for supplies, maintenance and operating costs.
More than $10,000 is being spent now on each student annually by a combination of state and federal funding.
However, Hunter stated that the Republican proposal is nothing but superficial compliance. “It’s a waste of time and will distract the public,” he said.
Rep. Gary Alexander (R-Olympia) maintained that “Fund Education First” is more than a Republican slogan.
“It’s not going to delay the process,” he said. “We’ve already demonstrated we can do this in a very responsible way and in a very timely way.”
But, Rep. Timm Ormsby (D-Spokane) says he’d rather fund education right, than first. He stated that for some Washington students and families, realities of hunger, lack of shelter and poor health can take precedence over concerns for education.
“We have a long history of knowing that separate is not equal,” he said. “We [need to] fund education in the context of all of our other obligations, not separate.”
Two freshman legislators, Rep. Drew MacEwen (R-Union) and Rep. Chad Magendanz (R-Issaquah), quoted President Obama as claiming a world-class education is the solution to poverty.
“The path out of poverty is a quality education,” said MacEwen. “Let us say to the children in Washington that we, in the House, will stop holding education funding hostage to other political needs.”