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Bipartisan school construction plan would benefit K-3 classes

UPDATE (Mar. 5, 2013) — The House has approved HB 2797 on a strong bipartisan 90-7 vote. However, there are concerns that some Republican Senate leaders may try to kill the bill.

The following was distributed by both the Democratic and Republican caucuses of the Washington State House of Representatives:

OLYMPIA (Feb. 27, 2014) — In the landmark McCleary decision, the state Supreme Court laid out clear goals for the Legislature to meet with regard to class size and full-day kindergarten by 2018. On Thursday, legislative leaders from both parties introduced a plan (HB 2797) to give school districts the space they need to meet these goals.

dunshee-hans“I’m glad the court agrees that what we want to do is both urgent and important,” said Capital Budget Chair Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish). “Reduced class sizes and all-day kindergarten play a critical role in a child’s success. In order to accomplish these goals, new classrooms must be in place before teachers can show-up for work. Across the state, east and west, schools struggle to find the space. This plan gives them the classrooms they need and creates 7,000 jobs at the same time.”

Last year, Mukilteo school district turned down state funding to expand access to full-day kindergarten simply because they did not have the space. School districts from across the state have said that they don’t have the necessary classroom space to meet the goals outlined in McCleary.

The Dunshee/MacEwen legislation sells $700 million in bonds backed by lottery revenue for grants dedicated to constructing classrooms for full-day kindergarten, as well as K-3 class size reduction. Four other states sell lottery-backed bonds and continue to enjoy strong credit ratings.

macewan-drew“The bottom line is voters have spoken on this issue when they overwhelmingly passed Initiative 728 in 2000. They agreed that lottery funds should be leveraged to ensure school districts have the space to accommodate the class-size reduction model they have been aiming for,” said Rep. Drew MacEwen (R-Union), assistant ranking Republican on the House Capital Budget Committee. “This plan continues the good work we did on our current two-year budget by making capital investments that will put us in compliance with the McCleary ruling and our state constitution.”

Members of the Capital Budget Committee, Democrats and Republicans alike, have worked together over the course of several months to craft this legislation.

In January, the state Supreme Court reinforced the urgency for action in this area, stating, “…Make no mistake enhances funding for full-day kindergarten and class-size reduction is essential, but the State must account for the actual cost to schools of providing these components of basic education.”

You can learn more about the other state selling lottery-backed bonds here and here.

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