Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Basic Education 101

The legislators' proposed cuts are severe and we are concerned about the state's ability to meet its constitutional duty. Here is a primer on Basic Education.

The State Constitution provides that:
  • "It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders…" (Article IX, Section 1), and, 
  • "The legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools. …" (Article IX, Section 2);
The courts have held:
In School Funding I and II the court interpreted these articles of the State Constitution and established important funding principles for the state, including that:
  • The Legislature is required to define "basic education" and provide ample funding for it from regular and dependable tax sources. (School Funding I) 
  • Programs considered basic education are Regular Apportionment, Vocational Education, Special Education, Pupil Transportation, Transitional Bilingual Education, Learning Assistance, and Institutional Education. (School Funding II) 
  • The Legislature is "required to continually review, evaluate, and revise, if necessary, the educational system of the state and the program of education and its funding to meet the current needs of the children of the state." (School Funding II) 
  • Once the Legislature has established what is considered 100 percent funding of basic education needs, it cannot reduce that funding level due to state revenue problems. (School Funding II) 
  • The Legislature may not use special excess levies to fund basic education; although such levies may be used to fund enrichment programs. (School Funding I)

  1. School Funding I, Seattle School District v. State, 90 Wn. 2d, 476 (1978) 
  2. School Funding II, Seattle School District, et al. v. State, Thurston County 81-2-1713-1 (1983) 
  3. Regular Apportionment pays for the instructional, classified, and administrative staff and all nonemployee-related costs for facility and classroom supplies and equipment associated with regular education.
The legislature’s 1977 Basic Education Act established:
  • "Basic Education" in terms of broad educational goals, and specified minimum hours, days and instructional programs that school districts were required to offer; and 
  • State funding formulae consisting of staff-per-student ratios 
  • Basic Education Act was revised in 2009 via HB 2261, and the new program is in process of implementation (per last year's HB 2776). It is to be phased in starting with this budget until it is fully funded in 2018. New items to be included in basic education: Allday kindergarten; smaller class sizes K-3; six hours in middle and high school; funding for highly capable, new formulas for transportation and maintenance. (These were funded as "enhancements" and for several years we have been working to have them funded as "basic" so they are stable and equitable.)

    Slight increases in all-day K funding and K-3 class size enhancements for high poverty districts would be examples of implementing the new program of basic education.

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