Education officials thought the compromise between dueling House and Senate bilingual education proposals was a done deal, but they were disappointed to find that, in the end, only the version preferred by House Democrats received the funding to go forward.
That means the plan that had most excited school leaders in Pasco, and had been supported by Columbia Basin College, appears to have been derailed, even though Gov. Jay Inslee signed off on it earlier in the legislative session.
This is an example — and we are sure there are others — of how certain details in the hastily approved, two-year state budget have caught people by surprise.
It should not be this way.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
But once again lawmakers pushed the budget deadline to the brink of a partial government shutdown, which allowed no time for public review.
The Legislature did the same thing in 2013 and 2015, and now it’s like a bad habit lawmakers can’t seem to break — even though it is a terrible way to conduct business.
This time the governor signed the budget on June 30 with less than an hour to spare before certain state services would have had to come to a halt — including state parks that would have had to close for the Fourth of July weekend.
The threat of a government shutdown seems to be the only motivation that encourages state lawmakers to do their job.
The Legislature used up the 105-day regular session and three additional special sessions to work out a $43.7 billion budget and a new plan to fully fund K-12 education. Negotiations took place behind closed doors and with a select few lawmakers.
They then released a budget that the majority of their colleagues hadn’t seen but were expected to approve. In a telling speech that can be seen on TVW, the state’s public affairs network, Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, blasted the backroom process during the Ways and Means Committee hearing the day the budget needed to be finalized, saying the Legislature has “crossed the line of acceptability.”
He said, “Details matter and facts matter and the fine print matters and I don’t think any of us knows what is truly in this … This is outside the bounds of acceptability and I think we owe the people of this state an apology for our lack of time management and efficiency.”
His sentiment is spot on.
In the case of the bilingual education programs, the Commission on Hispanic Affairs originally had crafted legislation that would have given four school districts the means to attract bilingual high school students to become future bilingual teachers. If they return to their home school district area and teach for a time, their college loans could be forgiven.
Pasco was being touted as a good fit for the pilot program.
Ricardo Sanchez, who was on the Commission at the time, had gathered support for Senate Bill 5712 and it ended up being approved 48-0 in the Senate.
A proposal in the House intended to create 10 two-year $100,000 grants for programs aimed at recruiting bilingual community members to become teachers also was introduced, and the two bills ended up in a compromise bill, SHB 1445. After a complicated legislative journey, Gov. Jay Inslee signed SHB 1445 into law in May.
The pilot program was reduced from four school districts to two, but supporters were still pleased to get something started.
Sanchez ,who is now on the State Board of Education, said he learned after the budget was approved that funding was provided only for the portion of the bill sponsored by the House, and not for the Senate plan.
This kind of unexpected disappointment happens when the Legislature rams through a budget nobody sees until after it’s approved — and it’s a shame.