House Republicans introduce K-12 education budget proposal

Group will release full operating budget proposal at a later date


House Republicans introduced their K-12 education budget proposal in a news conference at the Capitol today. The proposal is an extension of their Fund Education First legislation, House Bill 2533, which would require the Legislature to pass a separate K-12 education budget before any other state appropriations.

“The state constitution is clear and the recent McCleary decision affirmed that education is our ‘paramount duty.’ In its ruling, the state Supreme Court emphasized that education is our highest priority before any other state programs or operations. Our Fund Education First legislation and budget proposal separate and elevate education funding from other state priorities,” said Rep. Bruce Dammeier, lead Republican on the House Education Committee. “The status quo in Olympia is failing our schools. Our students deserve better, our constitution demands it and our future economic prosperity depends on it.”

House Bill 2770 stands in stark contrast to Gov. Gregoire’s proposed supplemental operating budget. She has recommended cutting K-12 education funding by $630.1 million and buying some of these cuts back through a three-year, 0.5 percent increase in the state sales tax rate. House Republicans would allocate $13.66 billion to K-12 education – representing a $45.9 million, or 0.3 percent, reduction from the current operating budget. They would not raise taxes.

“The governor is proposing to cut education funding by more than 630 million dollars and then buy some of these cuts back through a state sales tax increase. This is the wrong approach,” said Dammeier, R-Puyallup. “Education should never be demoted to ‘buy back’ status. We should be funding education first, not using our students as leverage to drive a tax increase.”

The governor would cut levy equalization by $152 million and shorten the school year by four days to save $99 million. House Republicans would prioritize and fully fund both of these areas. The governor would also make an apportionment shift to defer a $340 million payment into the future, while House Republicans would prevent this accounting gimmick.

“The Fund Education First proposal fits nicely into what we’re trying to do with the overall budget process and that’s to identify – and fully fund – our priorities. How can we even begin to address the 1.5 billion dollar shortfall if we don’t know what our priorities are – if we don’t understand what the core functions of government are? By rolling out this education budget today we’re showing the public, the media, the education establishment, students, parents and teachers that it can be done. Here’s the process; here’s what it would look like,” said Rep. Gary Alexander, ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee. “Education is our state’s top priority so we’re going to fund it first. Now, let’s move on down the line to our next priorities which are public safety and protecting the most vulnerable. I expect to continue to show our priorities and how we would fund them without raising taxes when I introduce my budget in the upcoming days.”

House Republicans believe there are many good programs and services within the K-12 education system, but that some of them fall outside the definition of basic education and should not be priorities. They would eliminate nearly all non-basic education programs, freeze K-12 salary step increases and preserve the annual bonus for National Board Certification at a reduced amount.

Washington state already has three separate budgets for specific areas of state government – the operating, capital and transportation budgets. K-12 education, a stand-alone section of the operating budget, represents nearly 43 percent of state general fund spending.

House and Senate Democrats have yet to release any type of operating budget proposal and have not indicated when they will. The 60-day legislative session is scheduled to adjourn March 8.

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Quick facts

Fund Education First

  • House Bill 2533, Fund Education First, would require the Legislature to pass a separate K-12 education budget before any other state appropriations.
  • The legislation received a hearing in the House Education Appropriations and Oversight Committee on Jan. 31 and has seven Democratic co-sponsors – including the chair of the committee.
  • Supporters include: Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction; Washington Education Association; Washington State PTA; Association of Washington School Principals; Washington Stand for Children; Washington State School Directors’ Association; Washington Association of School Administrators; and Public School Employees of Washington.
  • The Fund Education First concept has been introduced by House Republicans each budget cycle since 2006.

McCleary v. State

  • McCleary v. State is a case that involved the adequacy of state funding for K-12 education under article IX, section 1 of the Washington State Constitution. In a ruling on Jan. 5, the state Supreme Court said:
    • our state has not complied with its constitutional duty to make ample provision for the education of its children;
    • reforms enacted by the Legislature in 2009 and 2010, House Bill 2261 and House Bill 2776, will, if fully funded, remedy state funding deficiencies; and
    • it will retain jurisdiction over the case to monitor implementation of these bills.

Operating budget history

  • Gov. Gregoire released her proposed supplemental operating budget on Nov. 21 and recommended cutting K-12 education funding by $630.1 million – a 4.6 percent reduction from the current operating budget. She wants voters to buy some of these cuts back, along with others in state government, through a three-year 0.5 percent increase in the state sales tax rate.
  • House and Senate Democrats have yet to release any budget proposals and are considering several different tax-increase proposals.
  • House Republicans proposed a full operating budget last year. It can be found here.


Contact: John Handy, Deputy Communications Director, (360) 786-5758


Washington State House Republican Communications