Governor Unveils $2.3 Billion Education Plan

Education Christine Kipp Gov. Jay Inslee says the state needs to invest $2.3 billion to meet its commitment to students, families and educators.

During a town hall meeting Monday night at Newport High School, Inslee laid out his proposal for the state's primary and secondary educational futures.

"We know what what we need to do, we just need to do more of it in more place," Inslee told the audience, which included satellite locations in Tacoma, Moses Lake and Spokane via a live web broadcast.

According to Inslee, more than half of the proposed investment, $1.3 billion, would be spent meeting the requirements of House Bill 2776, the subject of the McCleary decision, by the second year of the 2015-2017 biennium.

Funding allocations per student in the 2015-16 school year would be increased from $848 to $1,216, which will allow for, "full implementation of the state's new learning standards in English, math and science, and support the use of behavior intervention curricula."

The governor told the Reporter, while it may take time to pass the budget, he's confident it will get done with the majority, if not all, of his recommendations.

"Are we going to continue this excellence or start a slow slide backwards?" Inslee said of the budget's passage. "There's no money flowing through the streets of Olympia at Capitol Hill and these are quantum leaps we're proposing with archaic revenue streams, which aren't keeping pace with the growth of our economy."

A large portion of the town hall meeting was spent with Inslee detailing various aspects of his proposed education spending, but one topic he continued to go to the well with was the idea of providing mentors for first- and second-year teachers in the school system.

Inslee is expected to unveil his proposal to balance the budget Thursday, something he described as "a real financing plan, not based on indebtedness."

According to Inslee's staff, class sizes from kindergarten through third grade would be reduced to a maximum of 17 students, a $448.1 million cost paid a year ahead of the deadline. It would also satisfy a portion of the recently passed I-1351.

When asked how voters may react to the governor proposing only funding a part of the bill, Inslee's budget chief David Schumacher told reporters prior to the meeting it was the only realistic solution.

"We cannot fully fund 1351 in the first biennium," he said. "What we've chosen to do is fully fund the K-3 class size … there's not enough money to fully fund the (estimated) $2 billion."

Funding for full-day kindergarten would also be implemented statewide in the governor's proposed education spending budget, increasing enrollment from 44 percent to at least 70 percent.

Currently, children not enrolled in state-funded full-day kindergarten are either attending half-days or their parents are having to pay roughly $3,000 in annual tuition, according to the governor's senior education policy advisor, Marcie Maxwell.

Inslee also proposed making the state's largest-ever investment in early learning by spending $156.3 million to create 6,358 new spaces for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and establishing a rating program that trains child care providers in effective learning strategies. That investment is estimated to reach an additional 50,639 children in the state.

"Our investment in early childhood education is a very large one ... a place I believe we have to start," Inslee said.

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