Latest McCleary proposal? Change the rules

The looming school funding crisis the state’s been facing for years is expected to come to a head this legislative session in Olympia.

A group convened by the governor, which includes Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, has been working through the interim to determine how much it costs to fully fund basic education, a requirement of Section 1, Article IX of the state’s constitution.

A state lawmaker from Spokane thinks he has a better idea: change the constitution.

Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, introduced a bill this week to amend the constitution striking the section requiring the state to amply fund public education.

Baumgartner told The Spokesman Review the state’s constitution is “poorly equipped to define what basic education is in the 21st century.”

The Washington State Supreme Court is holding the Legislature in contempt of court for failing to do so and finding the body $100,000 per day until they meet the funding deadline. Baumgartner’s bill would certainly fix that.

His proposed measure would also allow for private money to directly fund public schools, it would add charter schools to the list of “common schools” and end the longstanding separation of church and state.

Democrats immediately responded to the measure on Monday afternoon, with Sen. Christine Rolfes, a lead on the McCleary task force, saying in a statement, “Our first priority is to ensure we live up to the responsibility we have to our kids and our constitution. I guess the only question I have is, why isn’t that the Senate Republicans’ first priority too?”

If the measure were to pass, it has a serious uphill battle. To amend the constitution, the measure would need to be passed by super majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature and then approved by voters.

Legislators can introduce an unlimited number of bills. Some measure are introduced with the intent of solely starting a dialogue.

Another lawmaker Republican legislator pre-filed a bill to fund education first.

And Republican Rep. Matt Shea’s bill to establish a new state in Eastern Washington is sure to start a couple of conversations. 



Lauren Dake

Lauren Dake covers politics for The Columbian. You can reach her at 360-735-4534 or Follow her on Twitter .

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