Monday, June 18, 2012

Choosing leadership in Olympia . . .

Our candidates for Governor met last week in their first debate with both saying that they would attempt to increase public funding by $1 billion in their first budget.  Though they disagreed on the super majority for raising taxes and charter schools, they both see the need for increasing public school operating budgets.

In case you missed it, there is a recap of the debate in this Seattle Times article.

But when it came to education funding, which is called out in the state Constitution as the "paramount duty" of the state, Inslee and McKenna seemed largely in agreement.

A recent state Supreme Court decision found the state has been failing to fulfill that constitutional obligation to schools.

Both gubernatorial candidates, when pressed by the moderator, public-radio correspondent Austin Jenkins, said they would try to find an additional $1 billion for schools to ensure the state is doing its duty.

Sounds great, but how can they do it without raising taxes as both suggested they would not do.  My sense is that the current governor and the legislators that just spent months on a supplemental budget package would have increased our budget if possible.  The best that they could do, which we were pleased with, was to stop the bleeding from the previous budget cuts by balancing the budget through cuts in other programs.

Given the current economic projections there is little likelihood that revenues will increase at anywhere near the rate to ensure this or any other increase in our budgets.  As I understand it, the next session of the legislature, the new governor’s first, will start with a revenue shortfall.  So, is this pledge a reality or is it playing politics?  The choice between the candidates, if one wants education funding to be a deciding factor, was reduced in the first debate.  They both promise more money, but can they deliver?

Taking out funding leaves charter schools as a deciding factor with McKenna supportive of implementing a charter package and Inslee against it.  The response follows traditional party lines and will reinforce Inslee’s support with WEA, something that McKenna already knew was not going to be available to him.

"I am going to try to put a billion in the next budget, or more, for education," Inslee said. Charter schools, he said, would only pull money away from public schools, and he added that his education plan calls for new grants for innovation in existing schools.

But McKenna said Inslee was being misleading, since the charter schools also would be public. While not a panacea, "they should be part of the mix," McKenna said.

It just might be a choice that will be decided by issues other than public education.  What do you think will be the deciding factors in this race?

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