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Details Murky In New Funding Plan For State's Public Schools

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
D'onna Hartman smiles as she works with children at the Creative Kids Learning Center, a school that focuses on pre-kindergarten for 4- and 5-year-olds, in Seattle.

Lawmakers released an education funding plan for the state of Washington at the end of June. The plan allocates $7.3 billion to K-12 public schools throughout the state over the next four years.

But there are still a lot of questions about whether this goes far enough to satisfy the state Supreme Court ruling known as the McCleary decision.

88.5’s Ariel Van Cleave sat down with Seattle Times education reporter Neal Morton to get details on what changes are coming down the pike with the new plan. The biggest change affects staff salaries.

New salary scheme


"Before, the state had this salary grid that largely drove salaries to teachers based on their education level and their years of experience. That is now gone," Morton said. "Starting teachers will get paid at least $40,000, and that has to increase by at least 10 percent within five years of experience. We know the state will be increasing the amount it gives the districts for school worker salaries. We also know that they're putting restrictions on how much a teacher can make. The state no longer wants districts to pay any teacher above $90,000. Although, there are a lot of strings attached to that."


Regional factor for salaries based on housing prices


"A district like Seattle, Mercer Island, Lake Washington, will get about 18 percent more money for each teacher so they can pay a higher salary and actually be able to afford these teachers. Some districts like Federal Way will get a little bit less. Other districts will get nothing at all," Morton said. "There is some concern that a teacher can work in Mercer Island and earn a relatively high salary, but then live in Federal Way where they have lower housing prices, so is the state getting the job done? There's also the question of whether we should be subsidizing teacher salaries in a place like Mercer Island to begin with. They're not having a hard time attracting a pool of teacher candidates, but our lower-income districts certainly are."


Satifying McCleary decision


"That's the big question. We'll have to wait to see. There is new money for special education, vocational classes, there's more money, as I said, for teacher salaries for schools that have a lot of students that live in poverty. But folks are wondering if the price tag is sufficient," Morton said. "There's also some concern it doesn't meet a 2018 deadline to fully implement this plan."


What's next


"Essentially the (state) Supreme Court will have to dig into the details of this plan. They'll probably have some questions for both the state attorneys and those who represented the families in the McCleary case. They'll make a decision on whether this gets the job done or if lawmakers need to come back and do more work."

Ariel first entered a public radio newsroom in 2004 while in school at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. It was love at first sight. After graduating from Bradley, she went on to earn a Master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Ariel has lived in Indiana, Ohio and Alaska reporting on everything from salmon spawning to policy issues concerning education. She's been a host, a manager and now rides shotgun with Kirsten Kendrick as the Morning Edition producer at KNKX.