Monday, May 2, 2011

K-12 budget points you need to know

Dear advocates,

Public education is a core function of the state and its paramount duty (per the constitution). The state is charged with ensuring equitable and stable funding.

Here are some quick points about the proposed budgets:

The phrase “$2,000 less per student” refers to pre-cut funding levels. Three years ago, K-12 funding included:
  • I-728/student achievement funding
  • Money to lower class sizes in primary grades
  • Money for professional development
  • Money for cost-of-living increases, and 
  • Various teacher and student supports provided by the state offices.  
This funding
  • Did NOT cover enhancements (like art, music, PE and college- and career-aligned graduation requirements)
  • Did NOT cover 6 hours of instruction
  • Did NOT cover actual maintenance and transportation costs. (The state was short about $500 million on maintenance alone.) 
  • Did NOT cover all salaries (about 1 in 4 teachers are funded by local levy or private money)

    Over the past two years, districts have absorbed nearly $1 billion in cuts and today are struggling to maintain core programs and staffing. The $2,000 figure represents approximately how much less, per student, the state might send to cover the core services and salaries that funding levels three years ago covered.

The McCleary court decision that held the state wasn’t meeting its constitutional duty to pay for K-12 education was based on funding levels from several years ago. Funding levels are now lower. The state supreme court will hear the case June 28. (Washington State PTA was part of the coalition that sued.)


Other budget points:
  • We lost about $700 million to help with supplemental and remedial tutoring, as well as extended days, all-day kindergarten, summer school and increased access to early learning when we lost I-728/student achievement money two years ago. No budget proposal addresses this critical need.
  • We already have a short school day and year, and cutting instructional time (via furloughing teachers) is on the table. 
  • Budget-related bills would postpone adding instructional time for middle and high school until at least 2014. … BACKGROUND: The state pays for five hours even though kids attend six hours. The new program of basic education would increase state funding to 1,080 hours a year, from 1,000, to cover that missing hour in middle and high school (not elementary).
  • We have some of the nation’s largest class sizes, and they’re slated to go up. This can affect a teacher’s ability to differentiate instruction and control classroom disruptions. 
  • In prior budgets, districts received money from two sources for class-size reduction: I-728, reduced and then eliminated in the current biennium; and K-4 enhancement funding, retroactively cut this year (schools had to send money back while still paying for contracts)

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