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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Washington State Budget: A Win for Schools?

The answer to that headline is - not really.  Are they getting more money?  Yes.  Enough money? No.  Can the Supreme Court really do anything?  Doubtful.

So really, it's a lot of legislators blowing smoke about education.  (And no legislator should pat themself on the back for finally getting a budget.  That said, I know many districts are relieved to finally have some answers so they can finish their own budgets.)

The Times reports that half the money would go to fund "student transportation, school supplies and building utilities" (things districts now pay for that the Supreme Court - go figure - said the state should pay for).

The rest would go toward expanding state-funded all-day kindergarten and class-size reduction in kindergarten/1st grade in high-povery schools.

This is all great but not enough.  (I believe the class-size reduction is about two students per class.  I don't know if the kindergarten funding means no more pay-for-K.)  

Here's The Stranger's Goldy and his pithy breakdown:

The Washington State senate just passed a two-year budget that includes an additional billion dollars for K-12 schools! Yay! Except it's not really a billion dollars. The expenditure changes above the 2013-2015 maintenance level budget (the amount of money needed to maintain 2011-2013 services at constant levels) is actually $944 million, which under no math I'm familiar with is routinely rounded up to $1 billion. 

But even that's deceptive. For the budget also lists another $295 million in policy compensation changes—mostly the money saved by once again suspending cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for teachers. The actual "Total Policy Changes" as listed on the legislature's own budget document (pdf) is $648,594,000. That's how much more money we're really putting into our K-12 schools: $648.6 million. (Unless, of course, you don't consider teacher pay to be a legitimate cost of operating public schools.) A legislative committee had determined that at least $1.5 billion in additional spending was needed to satisfy a court ordered downpayment on the McCleary decision.

FYI, teachers will now go six years without a COLA raise, leaving them 16 percent behind inflation. Because education reform!

The WEA concurs on this "$1B" for public education.  What the WEA says:

 Legislators are claiming the final proposed state budget increases K-12 funding by $1 billion, yet the state’s own budget summary shows the increase is substantially less.

In particular, the budget fails to fund smaller class sizes for all students, which means Washington’s average class sizes will continue to be ranked 47th in the nation. The budget also continues the suspension of educator cost-of-living adjustments, even though Washington’s teachers are the lowest paid among West Coast states and will go six years without a state pay increase.

10 comments:

Jon said...

This is really frustrating. We know what works to improve public education, but it requires more money.

Take a look at the amazing example of Harlem Children's Zone. They addressed what are the known problems, like summer learning loss and hungry or sick kids, and was very successful, but it cost 2-3 times more.

Education reform on the cheap is doomed to failure. We know what works, but it requires more funding.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there will be guidelines in place that will force school districts to use the additional full day K funds, to actually fund all day K? Several board members have gone on record saying how fantastic/groundbreaking it is that North Seattle families pay/supplement all day K for South Seattle families. I worry SPS will be hesitant to lose such a large stream of unrestricted monies. At the very least, all day K tuition should be substantially lower come Sept, right?
Half=Dayer

Anonymous said...

Half dayer, can you tell me which board members said that about N. Seattle families paying for S. Seattle families. Which board meeting? I like to look the record up.. Thanks.

Curious

Anonymous said...

Curious,
I can't remember the exact date of the board meeting, but it was in May I think. It was the meeting where they first shot down/refused to vote on the 2013/2014 calendar, which should help you figure it out. I watched it several times because I couldn't believe my ears.

Half-Dayer

LG said...

Most state employees (including me) haven't had a COLA raise in at least 6 years. Not that that makes it right.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Half-Day, this kind of thing has happened before (see 728). Money "seems" to be allotted for one use and somehow get used elsewhere. I think this would be a good message to Seattle parents if the money was used to fully-funded all day K for those who want it.

Anonymous said...

ummm... most of my math is from the math science world, but, I did audit a course in public finance by that Dwight Dively (sp?) 15 or so years ago.

given that 2011-2013 budget was CUT from prior years, how much is needed above '13-'15 maintenance to be where you should be if the '11-'13 budget had been a maintenance, instead of CUT, budget? ;)

JabberWockey

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