To Members of The Morton School District Community
Recently attention by media reports and social media postings have raised questions regarding the significant changes in Washington State public school funding and how public schools may use that money for materials, supplies, operating costs, and salaries. We wanted to share some information that you may find helpful.
1. Did the State increase funding for public school districts?
Yes and no. Following the McCleary decision from the Washington Supreme Court, the Washington Legislature acted in 2017 (EHB 2242) and again in 2018 (E2SSB 6362) to comply with the State’s “paramount” duty to fund public schools and to avoid making school districts rely so heavily on local levies. The State significantly increased the money allocated to public schools for such things as materials, supplies, operating costs, and employee salaries, and this will appear to be a very large increase at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. However, the State also significantly reduced a local school district’s capacity to tax the community through local levies and placed restrictions on how such local levy funds may be used. For example, school districts are no longer permitted to use local levy enrichment funds to pay basic education salaries for teachers whose salaries are paid instead through the increased allocation received from the State. The increased State allocation that is occurring in conjunction with the reduced local levy capacity is sometimes referred to as a “levy swap.” In short, it means that the increased funding from the State is significantly offset by the loss of local levy funding that the District will be able to get from our community.
2. Will our District teachers and other employees likely see an increase in their base salaries for 2018-19?
Yes. Collective bargaining for salaries is currently on-going, but teachers and other certificated staff will likely see significant increases to base salary for basic education duties and responsibilities that have, in the past, been supplemented by local levy revenue. Some of this new salary will reflect what in the past has been paid through a supplemental contract. The average allocation from the State for the basic education salary of each certificated instructional staff member in the Morton School District for the 2018-2019 school year is anticipated to be $65,216.
As part of EHB 2242, the Legislature also abolished the state salary schedule for teachers and other certificated staff that has been in place for decades, requiring instead that each school district collectively bargain its own salary schedule.
3. Are all school districts funded exactly the same amount from the State?
No. The most significant difference is that school district funding is now modified by a factor called “regionalization,” which is an attempt to recognize that the cost of living in some Districts is higher than in other Districts. The “regionalization” factors currently used to increase funding allocation in state school districts are: 1.0 (meaning no regionalization factor); 1.06 (a 6% increase of state salary funding); 1.12 (a 12% increase of state salary funding); 1.18 (a 18% increase of state salary funding); and 1.24 (a 24% increase of state salary funding). Beginning in the 2019-20 school year, school districts receiving 24% regionalization will begin losing 2% of regionalization per year until they reach a 12% regionalization factor. At the same time, school districts receiving 18% regionalization will begin losing 1% of regionalization per year. Morton School District currently receives no regionalization increase in its state allocation for salaries.
4. Are there rules or restrictions on what school districts can pay its employees?
Yes. The Legislature established a minimum salary for new public-school teachers and other certificated instructional staff that is increased by regionalization and inflationary adjustments. In the Morton School District for the 2018-2019 school year, this amount is around $40,000. The Legislature also requires that teachers and other certificated instructional staff with at least five (5) years of experience be paid a 10% increase above the minimum salary. The Legislature also set a maximum base salary for teachers and other certificated instructional staff, which in the Morton School District for the 2018-2019 school year is around $90,000.
5. Are there any special rules in place for paying salaries in 2018-19?
Yes. The transition from the “old system” of state funding to the “new system” of state funding when school districts will have increased state funding but a significant reduction in local levy revenue capacity will obviously create a bit of chaos and uncertainty. Recognizing this concern, the Legislature passed RCW 41.59.800 and RCW 41.56.800, which limit the increases that a school district can make to the average total certificated instructional staff salary amounts (including supplemental contracts) and average total classified staff salary amounts during the 2018-2019 school year. The maximum increase for 2018-2019 under both RCW 41.59.800 and 41.56.800 was set by the annual consumer price index (CPI) for the city of Seattle in 2017, determined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to be 3.1%. In the alternative, if a school district’s average total salary for its certificated instructional staff or classified staff is below the average statewide salary allocation, the law permits the district to increase pay up to the statewide salary allocation, even if this amount is more than the CPI limit of 3.1%. This alternative method for determining salary increase limitations does apply to the Morton School District.
6. Are there increases that an individual teacher might receive that might be greater than the 3.1% CPI limit for the 2018-2019 school year?
Yes. In E2SSB 6362, the Legislature modified the language of RCW 41.59.800 and recognized that there are several exceptions for increases that will not count against the 3.1% limitation. For example, a teacher may move up on a salary schedule because of years of experience or because of increased education (e.g., getting a master’s degree), and the teacher can still receive the step increases or the money allocated for getting a master’s degree. The law also allows the District to hire new certificated staff based on student enrollment needs, and this increase will not count against the 3.1% limitation. Teachers who obtain a National Board certification may also receive the stipend associated with that achievement, and this will not count against the 3.1% limitation. The exceptions for classified staff are similar under RCW 41.56.800, as amended.
7. I’ve heard through social media that the Legislature did not place a 3.1% limitation on public school salary increases for the 2018-2019 school year, and that school districts are simply making this claim so that they can hoard money given by the state. Is this true?
No. Please note the following resources:
Testimony before the House Appropriations Committee on February 24, 2018, regarding these issues can be found at TVW online. (see approximately 3:44:00 through 3:59:00).
Attempts to interpret RCW 41.59.800 or RCW 41.56.800 (as amended in 2018) as not limiting salary increases for the 2018-2018 school year would render these two statutes meaningless and clearly defines what the Legislature intended during the upcoming school year. The District has always bargained with its collective bargaining groups to provide salary increases based on revenue available and our projected capacity to maintain the District’s fiscal stability, an obligation that we have to our community and taxpayers. The District will use these standards for the 2018-2019 school year as well, but we must also recognize that the Legislature has clearly limited the increases we are to consider for our staff. It is the District’s responsibility and intent to abide by state law.
The Morton School District would like to thank the Puyallup School District for the bulk of the information above as it is taken from their own site.