Sen. McAuliffe introduces legislation to reduce K-3 class size

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Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe
Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe

To help address concerns expressed by the Washington State Supreme Court earlier this month, 1st District State Senator Rosemary McAuliffe introduced legislation on Wednesday that spells out specific steps to class size reduction in state K-3 classrooms over the next five years.

“The Supreme Court was unequivocal – we must act now,” said McAuliffe, D-Bothell. “Our kids have been in overcrowded classrooms for too long and further delay is unacceptable.”

State law passed in 2010 requires that the state fund K-3 class sizes of 17 students per teacher for grades K-3 in all schools by the 2017-2018 school year. Senate Bill 6108 lays out year-by-year how the state should reduce class sizes each year to reach the 2018 goal.

“The Supreme Court told us that it isn’t enough to have a goal – we have to outline the steps along the way to get there, too,” said McAuliffe. “Students, parents, teachers and school districts need to be able to count on the state and know that we’re going to deliver what we promise, and putting this kind of schedule into law will hold the legislature accountable. This is exactly the kind of plan that the Supreme Court told us in plain English that we have to have.”

The Supreme Court advised the Legislature to produce a report by April 30 of this year outlining how it plans to reach full funding of basic education by 2018, including the state’s responsibility to fund teacher compensation, which carries a total expected price tag of approximately $5 billion. McAuliffe’s bill represents a plan for implementing funding of class size reduction, one concern of the court.

Legislators added $982 million to the state budget last year for education in 2013-2015, a monetary figure that the court was pleased with. But justices are worried that changes in state basic education aren’t moving quickly enough.

“The State clearly made strides in 2013, which should not be overlooked,” said Chief Justice Barbara Madsen. “But the court is very concerned that, measured by the current rate of progress, the State is not going to be in compliance with the constitution by the 2017-2018 school year.”

SB 6108 has eight co-sponsors, one of which is McAuliffe. It was introduced Wednesday in the Senate’s Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, of which McAuliffe is the ranking Democratic member.

The 1st District includes Mountlake Terrace east of I-5, all of Brier, and areas extending east to Bothell.

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