Rep. Larry Haler is working on a constitutional amendment to change the way the state budgets its money.
The amendment would prioritize education spending over all other state expenses, the Richland Republican told his school board Tuesday.
The Richland School Board met with the three state legislators from the 8th District to discuss how spending cuts affect Richland's schools.
During a discussion of McClearly v. State of Washington -- a case in which a coalition of school districts has sued the state, alleging it has not kept up its constitutional duty to fully fund public education -- Haler revealed he was working on the amendment.
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Rather than rely on accounting tricks to balance the state budget, which often leads to spending from one year being paid for in the next, "expenditures would have to meet revenue," Haler said.
Less revenue would then instantly lead to cutting spending in equal amounts.
But the teachers in the audience were less than receptive to his idea, as they felt it would shrink already lean school budgets.
"I'm making less than I did two years ago," said Brian Sites, a teacher at River's Edge High School. "What are the incentives to become a teacher right now?"
Education would be paid for first, Haler assured the teachers.
"Education should be untouchable," he told the Herald after the meeting. "It would be taken out of the operating (budget) and there would be a single budget for education in the state."
Haler is encountering some resistance to the amendment from "the old guard," he told the school board. That's why he's considering writing it as an initiative for next fall, he said.
School officials also said they were concerned about increased talk of district consolidation, in which existing school districts would be combined, either on a county or even larger, regional level.
It's come up in the legislature before, without much success, but the current budget crisis has prompted some dramatic measures to pass already, said school board President Richard Jansons.
The Republican legislators were confident they would defeat the plan again.
"We've beat them on the house floor three times on this -- we'll do it again," Haler said.
Board members asked the legislators to delay new graduation requirements recently proposed by the State Board of Education.
The requirements, called Core 24, would dictate that each student in the state have 24 credits of a certain distribution to graduate.
Local school districts know best how to prepare local students for college or career, Jansons said. They don't need a statewide standard, he said.
"I agree with you and I'll continue to fight Core 24," said Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick.
The requirements are unlikely to be put into effect, said Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, as doing so would mean spending more money in a time when everything is on the chopping block.
In the regular school board meeting following the event with the legislators, the board elected its leaders. All three incumbents held their positions. Jansons remains president, Heather Cleary vice president and Mary Guay legislative representative.