Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fourth budget proposal out; sides still at odds

And the state still hasn't figured out HOW it is going to pay for K-12 increases mandated by the McCleary decision.

About the latest proposal:
You can read the latest budget proposal on the LEAP website.
Take action: Thanks are due for protecting education and programs that keep kids healthy and safe. We are also asking members to support HB 2824, which would create a budget and revenue strategy for fully funding K-12 education. In 2009, the legislature decided what to include in basic education; in 2010 it made some decisions about what to phase in first. But it hasn't tackled the thorny issue of HOW to dramatically increase K-12 funding. Reform tax structures? Close exemptions? Cut from other programs?

It won't be an easy conversation, but after 3 years it is long overdue.
The bill consists of 2 parts:

  1. Set up a task force to draft a budgeting and revenue strategy. That plan would be due in December 2012. This would continue the work started with HB 2261 in 2009 (what to fund) and HB 2776 in 2010 (what to start phasing in). HB 2824 addresses the long overdue question of HOW to pay for school funding increases -- that is, where is the money going to come from.
  2. Roll I-728/"Student Achievement Funds" into basic education and common school funding. I-728 supplemented the old way of financing basic education. Its goal was to give schools money to lower class sizes, pay for extended learning, early learning and more professional development. The problem was the funding was considered "enhancement" and could be cut. I-728 funds were first reduced, then entirely cut over the course of the last several years.

Washington State PTA supports HB 2824
The time to discuss the particulars of revenue and budgeting strategies to support increased K-12 funding is long overdue.

As for the elimination of I-728, Washington State PTA wants smaller class sizes, extended learning, early learning and professional development, but we want the funds for them to be stable and equitable. We view this bill as a way to roll I-728 programs into basic education, and thus protect them.

The new program of basic education includes dramatically smaller K-3 class sizes and all-day kindergarten. Separately, the state is working on increasing access to quality early learning.

Extended learning and professional development are not yet part of basic education, and ensuring stable, equitable funding for them remains a challenge. However, the state has established the Quality Education Council to review and update the components of basic education, and we intend to work within that framework to address the issue. In the meantime, the legislature has the ability to fund extended learning and professional development out of the common schools fund. Many school districts currently use local levy funds to cover extended learning and professional development.

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