Washington state’s great water stand-off continues to impact homes and community
Jul 20, 2017

As our state struggles to fix the problems created by the court ruling in the Hirst v. Whatcom County (known as the Hirst ruling), the third special session concludes today. Legislators will be leaving Olympia without a fix, without a compromise, and without a much needed solution for rural home owners and rural communities.

As we end this special session, all indicators point to the fact that Hirst will be yet another issue to drive the wedge deeper between rural and urban Washington. 

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Final Votes on the State Budget
Jul 18, 2017

Lawmakers remained in their home districts for most of the Second and Third Special Sessions of the Washington State Legislature, while leaders from both chambers met to resolve key issues like a basic education funding plan, a two-year state operating budget, and tax measures to help  pay for them. 

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School funding: Where does the money go?
Jul 17, 2017

As a policy analyst who studies rising education budgets, I’m often asked, “Liv, where does all that money go?”

Good question. 

One insight was just provided by the community of Tukwila, located just south of Seattle.  The Tukwila School District is small but is typical of districts across the state.  Tukwila has five public schools and 2,914 students.  Its budget is about $44 million, or roughly $15,097 per student.  That is more than tuition at many private schools.  Yet school officials in Tukwila, and in many other districts, say they are chronically short on funding.  So where does all that money go?

The Tukwila School Board recently passed a resolution that provides part of the answer.  Board members say they intend to stop the practice of secret budget negotiations with the powerful WEA union and in future make these meetings public.  As the Board members explain,

“By opening the collective bargaining process to public view, the District will provide an incentive for both parties (management and labor) to take timely, reasonable, publicly defendable positions that allow the community to better understand the budget and other implications of collective bargaining contracts.”

The WEA union contract for 2013-15 matched available funding, but a new union contract, negotiated in secret, blew an enormous hole in the local school budget, skimming money that would otherwise be available to fund services for children.  From 2012 to 2017, Tukwila’s education funding increased by nearly a third, or more than $10 million (see graph).  But the union’s secret agreement with the District required all of that money and more.  Tukwila’s budget “shortfall” is not the result of falling tax revenue – available public money has increased greatly.  The problem comes from union executives using off-the-record contract talks to divert most of the funding increase to themselves.

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