Senate budget has highs and lows

Today the Republican-led Washington Senate released its proposed 2013-15 budget. A genuine bi-partisan effort has been pursued in the Senate in creating the proposal. We are impressed by the intense effort by both Republicans and Democrats to work together on behalf of all Washingtonians.

Initial budgets are just that, initial. This is the beginning of the conversation in Olympia that will determine how public funds are invested in education over the next two years. The House will release their budget next week.

The Senate proposal includes a total of $1.5 billion for education, with investments in early learning, K-12 and higher education.

However, there are a number of significant omissions in the Senate budget, including:

  • limited funding for full-day kindergarten (details below);
  • no funding for K-3 class size reduction;
  • no increases in instructional hours or support for a college- and career-ready diploma–components of the 2009 legislation (HB2261) referred to in the McCleary v. Washington decision ordering the legislature to fully fund basic education by 2018;
  • no support for Common Core implementation; and

The Senate budget includes a $760 million modest down payment on McCleary including:

  • fully funding “books and buses”–maintenance, supplies, and operating costs (MSOC) at $521 million and transportation at $198 million; and
  • limited funding to phase-in full-day kindergarten (FDK), with priority given to schools in low-income communities at $41 million. In 2013-14, 30 percent of the state’s kindergarten population would be served (up from 22 percent) and in 2014-15 it would increase to 35 percent.

NOTE: This level of investment falls short of what is needed to meet the needs of our state’s youngest learners. At this level, full funding would not be attained until 2028, a full 10 years after current law, and the Supreme Court, require.

The Senate proposal also includes nearly $200,000 to support the implementation of common sense school discipline which will require schools and districts to collect and report data and end long-term discipline.

Lastly, the Senate also calls out a combination of cuts and additional support for early-learning and higher education:

Early Learning

  • Working Connections Child Care – Senate proposes a $143 million cut to TANF/WCCC and an additional cut of $17.4 million which will reduce the number of families that can access the program from 33,000 to 29,000 families.

Higher Education

  • The Senate proposal increases funding by $107 million, a nearly 4 percent increase over the projected expenditures for 2013-15. This includes nearly $34 million for the College Bound Scholarship program.
  • Coupled with the proposed tuition decrease, this proposal would result in a net loss for higher education.

LEV’s 2013 legislative priorities include fully funding basic education, ensuring our high school students graduate college- and career-ready, and expanding early learning and higher education access. This budget proposal makes some progress compared to where we have been over the past few years, but still falls short of what our students need and our constitution demands.





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