Looking ahead to the McCleary session: Education funding takes center stage

Our new policy brief on the supplemental budget passed by lawmakers notes that the minor changes made this year set the stage for a much more active budget writing session next year. By the end of next month, the Legislature will have to deliver a funding plan for meeting the state Supreme Court’s order to fully fund basic education by the 2018 school year.

In my column, I take a look at some of the options. Growth alone won’t do it.

 Given the language of the court’s last order, the state’s two-year budget will have to increase basic education funding by $3.5 billion by the 2017-19 biennium. (Even if lawmakers reject the compensation figures, the estimated requirement is nearly $2.5 billion.) Roughly half of that should come in the budget session beginning next January.

Revenues are growing, but not fast enough to close the shortfall without substantial cuts in every other part of the budget.

I expect the Court will soon signal its growing impatience and dissatisfaction with lawmakers’ efforts this session.