Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cuts stopped; long road ahead for K-12

It took two special sessions, but at the end of the day – or in this case the all-nighter – state legislators crafted a budget that helps protect children. Cuts from past years were not restored, and K-12 education in particular faces a long road to adequate let alone ample funding. But the cuts stopped.

Education and programs that keep children healthy, fed and safe were maintained, and the legislature committed to figuring out how to add billions of dollars to basic education to meet its legal obligations. The “payment plan” is due by the end of the year. It needs to propose budget strategies and/or revenues to pay for 2009’s expanded definition of basic education, and 2010’s phase-in plan.

In the session’s last days, the legislature also reached agreements on K-12 health-insurance benefits, early retirement benefits for future state employees, and a balanced budget requirement. It also passed a capital budget that authorizes nearly $1 billion in general obligation bonds for capital projects that the state predicts will translate to 18,000 new construction jobs.

In the end, there was no sales tax proposal to buy back education. But one tax break – to large out of state banks – was repealed. The money will not, however, be designated for K-12.

Bills last year and this year that would have ended this same exemption and put savings into either class size reduction or all-day kindergarten failed to win a two-thirds majority. Ending this tax break also came with several new exemptions, limiting the savings. A Senate proposal to end another tax break and funnel savings into basic education never advanced.

The operations budget bill, 3ESHB 2127, has been delivered to the governor and is awaiting her action. A quick glance at a bill number can give you an indication of how tough it was to pass – the more numbers and letters it has, the more it has been revised. Over the past six months, the operations budget has overshadowed four legislative sessions  --  the late 2011 special session, the regular session, the full 30-day special session that ended Tuesday, and Wednesday’s one-day session. In just the past two months, Olympia has seen fourteen operating budget proposals. (You can read them all at the LEAP site)

Final votes on the 2012 Supplemental Operating Budget:

Gov. Gregoire’s statement on budget agreement, end of special session

TVW recap of closing late-night action

Please see below for highlights of the budget, as viewed through our Washington State PTA filter, and links to the fiscal reform bills.

Apple Health for Kids was maintained, along with Maternity Support Services, Basic Health Plan, dental care for pregnant women, public health funding, and state funding for medical interpreter services. State Food Assistance was also maintained.

The safety net took some hits, but in general there were smaller reductions than anticipated in services for vulnerable populations.

  • No additional cuts to K-12 education – “basic” or enhancement funding
  • No cut to the school year
  • No cut to levy enhancement funding
  • No cuts to early learning or higher education
Keep in mind, however, that K-12 has sustained ongoing cuts for several years, and your local school district may still be grappling with a budget gap for next year. Funds that helped keep class sizes in check, cover extended learning and pay for professional development were cut several years ago and have not been restored. School districts, however, have been struggling to maintain the same level of service and honor contracts agreed to before the biggest cuts kicked in.

Going forward, the state must put additional revenue into funding the “prototypical model.” By 2018, it must include K-3 class sizes of 17, voluntary all-day kindergarten for all children, and extended instructional time in middle and high school to accommodate job and college-ready graduation requirements.

In related funding: The Office of the Education Ombudsman, along with the Office of the Family Ombudsman (DHSH services), lost funding equivalent to a .5 full-time employee. These offices are part of the governor’s office and were subject to reductions in state overhead.

Developing a payment plan for basic education, HB 2824:
A less-publicized fiscal reform measure may finally address the state’s need to adequately fund K-12 education in a stable and equitable manner.
  • A task force will file a report by 12/31/12 on how to pay for the program of basic education as defined in 2009’s HB 2261 and the phase-in schedule determined in 2010’s HB 2776. If the plan or plans don’t include new revenue, the task force must identify programs in the existing budget to reduce or eliminate.
  • The I-728/Student Achievement Fund is repealed. Smaller class sizes will now be phased in as part of basic education, not funded as “enhancements” (and subject to budget cuts)
  • I-728 source funds will be redirected. Extra lottery revenues will now be directed into basic education funding; education legacy trust funds will now be directed into support for common schools

Additional K-12 investments include:
  • $1.5 million for collaborative schools, HB 2799
  • $128,000 foster care outcomes, HB 2254
  • $250,000 open K-12 education resources, HB 2337
  • $1.4 million for implementation of WaKIDS (of that, $1 million for HB 2586)
  • $2 million for an “urban school turnaround initiative” – One-time funding for 2 schools in the state’s largest urban school district, serving the same community of children. Must be among state’s lowest performing schools. Funding is for 2012-13 school year
  • $100,000 for AP/IB Exam Fee Backfill (federal funds cut; offset testing fees costs for low-income students)
  • $25,000 for Interpreter-Services Standards
  • $250,000 for one-time funding for Project Lead the Way, a program emphasizing a multi-disciplinary, hands-on, and problem-solving approach to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. Funds help set up 10 high school programs
  • $150,000 for one-time funding to set up 2 aerospace and manufacturing skills centers
  • $300,000 for one-time start up grants for aerospace assembler programs. Fund help set up 12 programs
  • $5.8 million to implement a four-tier teacher and principal evaluation system statewide, ESSB 5895
  • $100,000 for Career and Technical Education grants
  • $200,000 for social support and academic intervention services to at-risk students (students who have been suspended or expelled, are pregnant or parenting teens, have dropped out of school, or are significantly at risk of dropping out of school. Students are eligible to participate with the recommendation and approval of their resident school district)
  • $14.5 million redirected into general fund by eliminating a tax deduction for some large banks. (SB 6635)
  • $12 million raised by changing rules on roll-your-own cigarettes
  • $320 million left in reserve
(WSPTA does not have positions on any of these measures)

K-12 Health-insurance benefits, SB 5940
Requires revisions around premiums and progress toward affordable full family coverage for all K-12 employees.
Early retirement benefits for future state employees, 2ESB 6378
Creates a new subsidized early retirement benefit that provides a 5 percent per year reduction in benefits from age 65 for members retiring with 30 or more years of service.
Balanced budget requirement, SSB 6636
Requires the state's two-year budget to be in line with anticipated revenue over a four-year period or 4.5 percent growth per year, whichever is greater.
Washington State PTA works to make every child’s potential a reality. Funding education – specifically phasing in the expanded program of basic education – is our top priority. But hungry and sick children can’t learn; and families grasping for basics can’t give their children the support they need to thrive. We advocate for budget strategies and revenue that take care of children and give them a great education.
- Ramona Hattendorf, WSPTA government relations coordinator

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Ramona - this is a great recap and I plan to share it with my membership.