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Wash. Lawmakers Debate How To Fund Schools

Bryan Buckalew

The Washington Legislature convened Monday in Olympia, kicking off what will likely be a hectic two months. Lawmakers will weigh social issues like abortion and gay marriage. They'll also search for ways to close a $1 billion budget gap. One topic they're sure to address: education. KUOW's Bryan Buckalew has more.


The Washington state Supreme Court said last week the state isn't meeting its constitutional obligation to fully fund education.

Now it's up to lawmakers in Olympia to decide what to do. Governor Chris Gregoire wants to raise the sales tax by 0.5 percent. She says that would let school districts keep the school year at 180 days. It would also let the state continue to help districts that don't raise enough money through property taxes. But Representative Bruce Dammeier says a tax increase isn't a viable option.

Dammeier: "We need to be using our existing money to the best possible impact for our students. Just putting more money into the current system will not necessarily yield a better result."

Representative Dammeier is the ranking Republican on the House Education Committee. He says he doesn't want to cut education. Instead he says lawmakers should reform programs for alternative learning and English as a second language. The high court's decision last week did not tell the legislature what to do. It did say lawmakers need to fix the problem by 2018.

I'm Bryan Buckalew reporting.

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