Frame talks policy, plans at QACC meeting

On Jan. 7, Noel Frame was appointed by the King County Council to fill the 36th District House vacancy created by Jeanne Kohl-Welles’s departure from the Senate for a Council position, and Reuven Carlyle’s move to fill her seat.

Less than a week later, she was in Olympia as the newest member of the Legislature.

With her first session now in the books, Frame was at last week’s Queen Anne Community Council meeting, where she discussed her work at the State Capitol, and what issues are on the front burner for her moving forward.

At the forefront is the “very, very big deadline looming next year” with the McCleary decision.

While the Legislature has been working around the edges to allocate funding for education, it hasn’t been nearly enough.

“We still have a $4 billion bill per year to fill,” she said.

To address that gap, Frame wants to see comprehensive reform to the current tax structure. That includes a state income tax — an effort she said has failed in the past in part due to poor strategy and communication — but would also need to bring down other taxes (including sales and B&O) at the same time.

The first-term representative also stressed the need to sell such reform to voters, saying that a comprehensive reform bill would either have a clause that sent it to the ballot, or would be subject to a referendum.

“Whether we choose it or not, it’s going to happen,” she said.

Frame said these funding issues are nothing new, and in fact, it’s something she faced as a public school student in the state 20 years ago. She called it “embarrassing” that the same problems exist today.

She also took issue with the idea that the state doesn’t yet have a definition of, “basic education,” citing 2009 votes in the Legislature that made that determination.

“Any conversation about, ‘we don’t know what basic education is,’ is smoke and mirrors,” Frame said.

One of the issues facing Seattle students in particular, Frame said, is the “extraordinarily high” turnover in SPS leadership, both in school board seats and at the superintendent level.

“That’s not good for kids,” she said.

An effort to address at least part of that problem — by allowing districts to raise school board compensation — came up just short this session.

But while there are systemic issues, Frame referenced the “pockets of success,” happening all over the state in various districts.

However, those successes aren’t promoted to the public as they are in the private school system, and great programs aren’t sufficiently funded to be scaled up.

This also points to a larger problem with community engagement, and while parents that are already busy and overburdened are tasked with volunteer work, those without a child in the school system aren’t sought out for assistance.

“These folks are not involved in our school system,” she said.

With the rapid rise in college tuition, there’s also a disconnect, where legislators talking from personal experience can speak at length about how they were able to work their way through college to pay for tuition and expenses, something that isn’t attainable for many college students.

“Your reality then is not the reality today,” she said.

Frame also said progress has been made in mental health legislation, including fixing a loophole regarding outpatient treatment.

But as a whole, Frame said, the current state budget isn’t one that reflects what the state says it wants to accomplish.

“Budgets are values documents,” she said. “If you look at our budget right now, it’s not in line with what we say our values are.”

There was also discussion about a housing preservation bill that Frame sponsored this session.

While Frame said it had bipartisan support, and the backing from big coalitions, it too did not make it through the legislature.

“I came in with a lot of political skills,” she said, “but not enough for that one.”

Frame, who along with her fellow 36th District representatives did not draw a challenger for the November election, said she’ll channel efforts that would have gone into her own campaign into getting other Democrats into office around the state.

If her party had more than a two-vote majority in the House, and a majority in the Senate, she believes the support would be there to pass things like comprehensive tax reform. 

“I’ll be working to help other people get elected,” she said.

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