Sequim Schools still waiting on McCleary

While the details of fully funding basic education remains a constant unknown for school districts across Washington state, Sequim School District may be in the clear when it comes to accessing funds for education as the state Legislature still has not satisfied the McCleary mandate.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled on Nov. 15 that state legislators have made progress in fully funding basic education but they are still not on track to meet the court-imposed deadline of Sept. 1, 2018.

“The court ruled unanimously that it will retain jurisdiction in the case and gave lawmakers another legislative session to get the work done, ordering them to present a report by April 9 detailing the state’s progress,” the Associated Press reported.

The state has made progress in fully funding transportation, materials, supplies and operating costs and full-day kindergarten according to a statement made by State Superintendent Chris Reykdal from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Reykdal said the Court found that the state still has not met its obligation to fully fund education staff salaries that were to be implemented by Sept. 1, 2018.

“The state has admitted that will not happen,” Reykdal said.

“Because of the missed deadline, the Court will retain jurisdiction over the case and continue the $100,000-a-day fine. It has asked the state for an update after the 2018 legislative session.”

When Washington state legislators passed a two-year, state operating budget on June 30 allocating $7.3 billion towards an education funding plan over the next four years, Sequim Schools could have access to an estimated $33,649,297 in school funding starting the 2018-2019 school year with the policy change.

“We are trying to determine exactly what this means for Sequim School District,” Gary Neal, Sequim Schools superintendent said.

As the mandate for fully funding education still has not been met, Sequim Schools will still be able to access funds from the state and will start collecting local levy money starting in 2018 at $1.52 per $1,000 of assessed property value that will yield $26.5 million over four years with the renewal of the Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) levy that was passed in February during a special election.

“There are a lot of known unknowns how this is going to rule out and it’s hard to speculate on what it means,” Jim Stoffer, Sequim School Board Director and legislative representative, said.

Stoffer said this year was a data gathering year for the school district and an increase in funding was not expected to go into effect until the 2018-2019 school year.

Stoffer said Sequim schools will still get the allocations from the state it normally receives and by voters renewing the EP&O levy it allows the district to still collect monies even during times of uncertainty.

“For Sequim Schools, right now we just have to keep the operations going as we normally would,” Stoffer said. “We fortunately passed our (levies) last year and we know that funding remains the same as this rolls out.”

The state’s operating budget could also cap school district’s local levies at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property values or $2,500 per student by 2019, but it is still unknown if local levies will be rolled back in the future with a state-wide property tax increase of $2.40 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Stoffer said with a change in leadership in legislative District 45 with Democrats now having the majority in the House and Senate it could affect how state legislature carries out a plan to fully fund education.

“We will see some changes to how McCleary is rolled out based upon that,” Stoffer said.

Neal and Stoffer attended an annual Washington State School Directors’ Association conference from Nov. 16-19 where the impacts of the McCleary ruling and recent Court decision are being discussed among superintendents and school directors from across the state.

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