Friday, May 14, 2010

It's all about the flour

All candy is not created equal.

That became painfully obvious during the session's discussions about lifting the sales tax exemption from those sugary treats. Rep. Ross Hunter has a blog post up lamenting the never-ending debate over how to define "candy." It's an important definition because it determines which candy-like items are taxed or not starting June 1.

Hunter alludes to the definition we ultimately adopted, which is the definition established by the Streamlined Sales Tax Board, a national group that works to simplify taxes across state borders. Hunter serves on the board.

Page 124 of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement lays it out. Essentially, it comes down to whether the product contains flour.
“Candy” means a preparation of sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners in combination with chocolate, fruits, nuts or other ingredients or flavorings in the form of bars, drops, or pieces. “Candy” shall not include any preparation containing flour and shall require no refrigeration.
So that's why Junior Mints will be taxed, but not Nestle Crunch.

You can check out the full list of what's on the candy list here by clicking on the box next to candy and gum sales tax. (Warning: It's a very complete and thorough list arranged by candy manufacturer. Do not read on an empty stomach.).

New grad requirements and fewer school districts?

Maybe, maybe not. Two notable reports came out this week that could be part of major changes in our state's schools.

High school graduation requirements haven't changed since 1984. But dramatic changes are in the works as the State Board of Education comes close to finalizing CORE 24, a new set of graduation requirements that boosts the number of credits from 19 to 24 with students choosing a track that preps them either for college, college and career, or career. Legislators must ultimately approve the changes and are certainly open to feedback about the Board's proposal.

Also in education, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee released its preliminary report on school district size and cost. There are 295 school districts in the state, and some legislators have been questioning whether we should consolidate some of the districts to save money. Such a move isn't without controversy, however, so JLARC's findings will provide some data to help legislators grapple with that question over the coming months.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Education focus of today's GMAP meeting

The Governor's office is hosting a one-hour Government Management Accountability and Performance forum today with a focus on education.

You can watch it live now online at TVW. The next forum will be June 16 and cover the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Washington was the first state to implement this kind of a management model on a statewide basis. The Governor and state agencies use GMAP to publicly measure how well they're providing services and meeting performance goals.

UPDATE: Niki from TVW's Capitol Record has a great summary here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

K-12 reform discussions this week in Olympia

Ambitious education reform discussions continue today and tomorrow as the Quality Education Council meets to discuss their work plan for 2010.

The QEC, as those who follow education policy know, is the group formed when we passed HB 2261 in 2009. The group successfully passed the first set of reforms this past session and continues moving ahead until HB 2261 is fully implemented.

Of particular note -
Today at 3, the group will also discuss inclusion of early learning as part of basic education, as well as an overview of the recent McCleary lawsuit and its impacts on the QEC's work. Tomorrow morning the group will check in on the status of the Governor's Race to the Top efforts.

You can watch it live online on TVW and take a look at the meeting materials here.