Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Recriminations As School Funding Task Force Splits Along Partisan Lines

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Members of a bipartisan education funding taskforce divided along party lines Wednesday and were unable to come up with a package of agreed upon recommendations on issues like teacher salaries and how to fully fund public schools by 2018.

Washington state lawmakers face a daunting task as they convene on Monday for the 2017 legislative session: how to fully fund public schools by 2018. And that job might have just gotten harder.

For the past several months a group of eight Washington lawmakers and a representative of the governor have been meeting on the topic of education funding. Their task was to make recommendations on everything from teacher pay to how to fund basic education in Washington.

But on Wednesday, instead of delivering a neat package of bipartisan recommendations, the Education Funding Task Force divided along party lines. Democrats produced a list of recommendations that called for $7.3 billion in additional education spending over the next four years. Republicans published a list of “guiding principles.”

That prompted this scolding from House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, a Democrat.

“We’ve been meeting as a group for seven months and I’m looking down and I’m seeing that your document says ‘Republican Guiding Principles.’ If after seven months you have guiding principles, it’s just not enough,” Sullivan said.

Republican  Sen. John Braun, vice chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, pushed back forcefully. He critiqued the Democrats’ plan as failed ideas from the past.

“Please refrain from scolding us for our approach,” he said. “Our approach is legitimate. We think we have a better chance. These proposals that you trot out from yesteryear have been tried in this way and have not succeeded.”

Washington lawmakers have promised to act by the end of the 2017 session to take the pressure off local school levies to fund basic education. The state is also racking up a $100,000-per-day fine for failing to provide the Washington Supreme Court with a plan to fully fund public schools by 2018.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."