Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Senate Republicans and House Democrats have unveiled their K-12 education funding plans to comply with the state Supreme Court McCleary order.
The Senate proposal is a student-centered funding plan intent on simplifying school budgeting. It would establish a $12,500 minimum funding amount per student and provide additional funding based on unique student needs.
School districts must be able to retain and attract teachers. The Senate plan would allow school districts the flexibility to reward high-performing teachers, and provide a housing allowance for high-cost-of-living areas. Starting teacher salaries would be increased to $45,000. Local control remains a critical part of the Senate Republican plan, and accountability measures are also included.
House Democrats passed their plan out of the House Appropriations Committee on a party-line vote last Thursday. I have concerns about the House Democrat plan as they have not yet identified how they would pay for the $6.2 billion in new spending. They have proposed creating or raising a number of taxes. Click proposed House Democrat taxes to review their list of proposed taxes to date. These are taxes that have been proposed before, but they have yet to show they have the votes to pass them.
Their plan does not sufficiently address the McCleary issue and our state's regressive levy system. We could be right back where we started in a few years.
Transparency for textbook and course material costs
I reintroduced legislation this year, House Bill 1375, that would require community and technical colleges to include the costs of required textbooks and course materials in the online course catalog during the registration process or provide a direct link to a bookstore so students can view cost information.
The public hearing on the measure went very well. My name may be on the bill as the prime sponsor, but students are driving the conversation on this legislation. Every student group I have talked with has legitimate concerns about textbook costs. Studies show that costs have increased 88 percent from 2006-2016.
I worked with various groups who had an interest in the legislation to address any concerns from last year's session. I believe we have a good piece of legislation and I am hopeful it can move forward.
In my latest legislative video, we use House Bill 1375 as an example of how a bill becomes a law, as I give a brief walkthrough of the legislative process. It starts with an idea and dropping a bill into the actual “bill hopper” (see photo) and can lead all the way to the governor's desk. Click here to watch my video.
Honoring those who have served
Every two years the Legislature holds a memorial service to honor the lives of former legislators who have recently passed away. During the service, a current legislator will light a candle of remembrance in honor of a legislator who has passed away. This year, I had the honor of lighting the candle honoring former Rep. Don Hansey.
It was especially meaningful to recognize Don because we worked together on several projects for the local Republican party. Don served in the Legislature for much of the 1970's and was very influential in building the conservative movement in Whatcom County.
The memorial is a significant way to pay tribute to those who have taken the time to serve their constituents and the state of Washington in the Legislature.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about this legislative update or the issues before us.
Stay tuned for more updates this session. It's an honor to serve you!
Luanne Van Werven