Prepared by Marie Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
House Democrats announced their 2023-25 operating budget on Monday, March 27, and the House Appropriations Committee immediately held a public hearing on the more than 1,200-page document that afternoon. Also released on the 27 was the bipartisan 2023-2025 capital budget. Both budgets have some things in common with the Senate budgets released the previous week, and many differences.
Like the Senate, the House proposed operating budget uses federal funds called “ESSER III” to support certain programs or to increase funding in specific areas. The challenge is that those funds have already been obligated and are under contract by OSPI to school districts, non-profit organizations, state agencies and other entities to perform work as described in the 2021-23 expenditure authority.
Both the House Appropriations and House Capital Budget committees voted their budgets out of their committees last week.
Highlights of the House Operating Budget
|Increase to special education funding||$85 million||Cap is raised to 14%, multipliers increased slightly for 2023-24 school year. Also includes $5 million General-Fund State (GFS) for inclusionary practices.|
|Special passenger transportation safety net||Not included||The $100 million in the Senate operating budget is linked to SB 5174. Hoping to see the $100 million in a final budget.|
|Educator compensation||$258.3 million for K-12 salary inflation||Includes K-12 inflation adjustments: 3.7% in 2023-24 SY, 3.9% in the 2024-25 SY; plus changes to regionalization and experience factor ($23.3 million), and health benefit increases ($306 million).|
|Transition to Kindergarten (TTK)||$58.1 million||Funding is provided to implement HB 1550; budget notes say funding will support 5,077 students beginning in the 2024-25 school year.|
|Early Childhood Education & Assistance Program enhancements||$72.9 million||Funding is provided for the conversion of 2,000 part-day ECEAP slots to school day slots during the 2023-25 biennium. Funding is also provided for an additional 1,000 school day slots and a parallel 17% rate increase.|
|School meals (reimbursement for the federal Community Eligibility Program)||$53.5 million||Also includes $26.5 million for the 2023 supplemental to pick up districts in CEP.|
|Local Effort Assistance, 2023 supplemental||$23 million||For districts who will see a drop in LEA due to increased assessed value, one-time funding for the 2023-24 school year.|
Highlights of the House Capital Budget
|School Construction & Assistance Program||$588.1 million||Same as Senate level.|
|Small District Modernization & Tribal Compact Schools Grant program||$100 million||Same as Senate level. About $81 million for school district projects (LEAP list here) and $1.5 million planning grants.|
|Seismic retrofits||$40 million||Also reappropriates $100 million from 2022.|
|Health & Safety grants||$22 million||Higher than Senate: $5M for emergency repair; $12.0M for urgent repair; $5.0M for ADA compliance.|
|Healthy Kids grants||$13 million||Same level as Senate, slightly different eligible projects.|
|Career Prep and CTE||$5 million||Higher than Senate. District project grants are capped at $150,000.|
|Agriculture Science in Schools||$5 million||Not included in the House capital budget.|
|Green Schools: stormwater projects||$200,000||Funding is less than Senate, different intent.|
|Energy retrofits||$20 million||Senate was $10 million. School districts are eligible to apply.|
|Energy assessments||$5 million||To conduct energy assessments for compliance with green building standards.|
Speaking of budgets, the Senate passed ESSB 5187, their two-year operating budget, off the Senate floor March 30th by a vote of 40-9. This is frankly unprecedented in at least the past decade, with 12 Senate Republicans voting with Democrats to pass a truly bipartisan operating budget.
Ranking Republican Lynda Wilson spoke in favor of the budget bill, thanking Senators Christine Rolfes and June Robinson, Senate Democratic budget writers, for including Senate Republicans in discussions, stating they were at the table and in the room during decision making, and the budget reflected many of their values and goals for this session.
As a reminder, like the Senate capital budget, ESSB 5200, which passed to the House on March 24th, the Senate operating budget has been placed on the House floor and is eligible for a vote.
All budgets, summaries/highlights, agency detail, etc., can be found on the LEAP site here.
Regionalization and Experience Factor
Last week I reported that the Senate budget rebased regionalization and the experience factor, starting with the 2023-24 school year, creating new winners and losers in a process that could use some transparency regarding how certain numbers are reached. At least 31 school districts would lose the experience factor, for an OSPI-estimated impact of $8.5 million, while other districts see rollbacks to their regionalization, some of which was planned and some of which wasn’t known until looking at the numbers.
The House chose a softer landing, cutting the experience factor for districts that would lose it next school year only by 2% (not 4%), and cutting in half any decreases in regionalization. This was very much appreciated, but districts on the losing end are hoping the Legislature will either only decrease percentages by 1% or fund at a level so that no school district loses funds for the next school year. This is likely a discussion that will happen during negotiations between House and Senate operating budget writers.
Last week was another cutoff – this time for bills from the opposite chamber to pass out of policy committees. The list of bills that are failing to move is getting smaller, but a few failed to meet the deadline. These include:
- HB 1392 would have created the “fair servicing and repair of digital electronic equipment.”
- HB 1478 would have established a statement of student rights.
- HB 1479 would have created new procedures, definitions, and reporting for the use of isolation and restraint in schools. As passed the House, would have allowed isolation rooms for students in grades 3-12 through December 31, 2025.
- SB 5054 would have promoted and facilitated the use of professional learning communities.
- SB 5180 would have allowed Washington state to adopt the interstate teacher mobility compact.
- SB 5462 would have required the development of inclusive learning standards and instructional materials in public schools.
Of these, the loss of HB 1479, related to isolation and restraint, is particularly difficult since the bill had made great progress through the House, and funding was included to support professional development. While the policy can’t be placed in the budget language, funding for best practices and training, along with prioritizing who should get the professional development, is a budget matter.
Advocacy in Action!
- During a public hearing March 27th on the House proposed 2023-25 operating budget, WSPTA President Nancy Chamberlain asked legislators to increase funding for special education to meet the needs of students in our K-12 programs. Nancy thanked them for the investments in inclusionary practices professional development, and funding for teacher residency programs and the Beginning Educator Support Team program. Listen to Nancy here.
- Later that week, Advocacy Director Lizzy Sebring waited several hours to speak on E2SSB 5311, the bill that would lift the cap on enrollment to 15%, increase the multipliers, and modify the safety net. The bill was part of a Saturday, April 1 public hearing in the House Appropriations Committee. Lizzy shared WSPTA’s support for the Senate funding level but asked legislators to remove the cap completely. Listen to Lizzy here.
The Week Ahead – Subject to change
The Senate Ways & Means Committee wrapped up public hearings on bills in its committee on Friday, March 31, and has bills scheduled for executive action on Monday and Tuesday of this coming week. The House held a public hearing Saturday, April 1st and has scheduled executive action Monday and Tuesday as well.
All bills in fiscal committees must pass by Tuesday, April 4th unless they’ve been designated “Necessary to Implement the Budget” or NTIB.
Starting Wednesday, April 5, legislators will be on the floor. The final day for bills from the opposite chamber to pass off the floor is April 12th at 5 PM.