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Education bills may find trouble at governor’s desk

Education bills in the legislature have yet to make it through the final voting process, but the future does not seem bright after Gov. Chris Gregoire said she has no plans to sign the bills without the funding to go along with it.

While addressing state leaders on March 17, Gregoire said she will not sign the bills, which include a new definition for basic education in the state, unless funding is attached. As the state addresses a $9 billion shortfall over the next two years, the only sure thing is a lack of money.

Rep. Marcie Maxwell, D-Renton, said that she and other freshman members have been doing what they can to raise awareness for the education bill.

“I think we’ve been effective and realize that public schools and students are a priority and there is a sense of urgency,” said Maxwell.

The bills, one from the House and a second from the Senate, which would overhaul the state education system, were the result of the Joint Education Finance Task Force, a two-year study on funding allocations for schools. Funding for the changes outlined in the bills would be phased in over a number of years, beginning in 2011, the last year of the current budget biennium. If passed, schools in the state could see a 50 percent increase, according to Senator Fred Jarrett, D-Mercer Island. The state’s constitution lists providing basic education for all students as a top priority.

House Democrats, including Maxwell, appealed to Senate leaders in a letter on Wednesday to pass HB 2261, citing a loud and clear message from voters for education reform and increased funding.

“We heard one priority in all of our communities over and over again: ‘Please improve education and funding for our children and our public schools,’” said Maxwell in a press release. “Not only did constituents raise the issue, but as a former Renton School Board director, I have firsthand knowledge of this state’s outdated basic education program and inadequate school funding formulas. We must do better to give all kids the knowledge and skills they’ll need to succeed in higher education, in tomorrow’s careers and as productive adults.”

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