About 80 education leaders, board members and superintendents from across Southwest Washington came together on December 13 for a legislative forum hosted by ESD 112. The four state legislators who attended heard powerful examples of how the new education funding model (EHB 2242) is affecting their districts.
Superintendent Jeff Snell of Camas moderated the forum and emphasized that, while the intentions of the Legislature were good, there have been some unintended negative consequences with significant changes to such a complex issue as school funding.
“I’m raising twin 16-year-olds right now, and sometimes you’ll think they’re listening, and then all of a sudden they look up and say, ‘Wait, what?'” said Snell during opening remarks. “Those of us who are close to education have been aware of the issues created with the new funding, but now that it’s impacting school budgets for next year, I think there are a lot of people in the general public who are having that ‘wait, what?’ moment.”
Eight superintendents from around the region presented examples from their districts on the three main priorities that education leadership has for the legislature. Those priorities are:
- Fix Funding Inequities Among School Districts: Provide sustainable funding for small school districts, evaluate and correct regionalization methodology, change the super majority (over 60%) rule for passing construction bonds to a simple majority, like levies
- Fully Fund Special Education
- Fully Fund the SEBB (new educator pool for health insurance)
The four legislators in attendance were Senator Annette Cleveland (D – 49th district), Representative Paul Harris (R – 17th district), Representative Vicki Kraft (R – 17th district) and Representative Monica Stonier (D – 49th district).
Representative Stonier, who works in education as an instructional coach had already drafted a bill she plans to introduce this upcoming legislative session to eliminate the super majority requirement for bonds. “I always take what you say here very seriously,” she said, “and I apply it directly to my work in Olympia on the education committee.”