Members of the eight-member Joint Legislative Education Funding Task Force created by ESSB6195 during the 2016 session decided they would meet at least monthly starting in May, and would begin by “defining basic education.” The task force was created to identify a path forward for the state to reduce its reliance on local levies for funding obligations and to increase compensation so that it attracts and retains a skilled educator work force. A nifty chart shows the current responsibilities, and reports or recommendations from previous task forces or work groups, including links to resource information.
Seven members and the Governor’s representative, Policy Director Matt Steuerwalt, convened their first meeting April 20 (watch the 90-minute meeting here). In addition to setting an interim schedule, members agreed co-chairs should represent the majority Senate and House chambers and that Steuerwalt should continue his role as facilitator. Members also decided that they needed to see what kinds of data school districts could provide to better understand data limitations, and so that the task force can make requests for additional data collection or dis-aggregation that meets their needs in evaluating compensation issues.
Based on a briefing by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) regarding accounting and data collection, the task force also indicated an interest in hearing from the State Auditor’s Office and OSPI to get preliminary recommendations on updating accounting procedures that would include revenue source to expenditure coding and school-level accounting data that might lead to better understanding and reporting for revenue and expenditures.
Lawmakers seemed surprised to learn that school districts didn’t have the authority to create separate funds to track revenue v. expenditures but were limited to a single general fund, and heard about the limits of separating funding streams by what they paid for. Lorrell Noahr of OSPI (formerly Senate Ways & Means staff) described it like a joint checking account – both parents deposit their paychecks into the account, so it’s impossible to tell whose dollar paid for their kid’s shoes. One suggestion was to include a panel of school district business officers at a future meeting to explain how accounting works at the local level.
The task force also heard that the Washington State Institute for Public Policy has issued an RFP for the compensation consultant, with a deadline of April 26th for submissions. Members agreed that the task force co-chairs should be involved in reviewing the top proposals. The consultant analysis will include reports, such as Washington Learns and the 2012 Compensation Technical Working Group report. The consultant has an initial deadline of September 1, 2016 for a report on compensation, and a final report of November 15, 2016.
Legislative members attending Wednesday’s meeting were: Senator John Braun, R-20; Senator Andy Billig, D-3; Senator ChristineRolfes, D-23; Representative Kris Lytton, D-40 (by phone); Representative Chad Magendanz, R-5; Representative NormaSmith, R-10; and Representative Pat Sullivan, D-47. Steuerwalt said that Senator Ann Rivers, the eighth member of the task force, was unable to attend.
The next meeting will be scheduled the second week of May. Members identified the second week of the month as a target week to schedule future meetings. Public comment was not listed on the agenda, but was offered as an opportunity, and will likely be offered at other meetings. The general consensus was to hold meetings in Olympia to keep costs lower. Materials will be available on the legislative web site.
WSPTA Legislative Consultant