By League of Education Voters Policy Team
On March 20, Washington’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released their updated projections. The council expects the state to take in an additional $307 million in general fund revenue collections during the 2017-19 biennium than was projected when the biennial budget was adopted. Additionally, revenues are projected to be about $550 million higher for the general fund in the 2019-21 biennium than was previously projected. In total, an additional $850 million in expected to be available for the upcoming budget process than previously thought. Read More
In our podcast, we interview policymakers, partners, and thought leaders to spotlight education policies, research, and practices so that together we can create a brighter future for every Washington student.
In this episode, League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman asks Governor Jay Inslee what he sees as the biggest challenges and opportunities in education from pre-K through higher ed and how he addresses them in his 2019-2021 budget proposal, what he hopes to achieve with special education funding changes, why focusing on student well-being is important, and why he chose to dedicate funding toward student supports in higher education.
By Jacob Vela, League of Education Voters Senior Policy Analyst
Governor Jay Inslee released his 2019-21 budget proposal today. The Governor’s proposal is a start to the budget conversation that will get underway in earnest on January 14, 2019 when the new legislature convenes to begin hearing legislative proposals for their 105 days of the scheduled regular legislative session that extends through mid-April.
The proposed budget includes around $1billion in funding increases across the education continuum from pre-school through higher education. The governor recommends $173 million more for early learning, including serving 2,385 more students through the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP).
An increased focus is brought to student mental health with $155 million in additional investments for school nurses, psychologists, social workers, and guidance counselors for elementary and middle schools. Funding will be rolled out over several years with a priority given to low-income districts. Read More
By Daniel Zavala, League of Education Voters Director of Policy and Government Relations
Remember that time last year when I went over everything “You Need to Know about the McCleary School Funding Agreement?” Well, it’s time for a refresh. The 2018 legislative session was all about McCleary 2.0, or what we can call, what to do when the Supreme Court says you’re still not quite there yet.
Many of us were expecting a quiet session where little would be addressed in education due to budget constraints. Two major events occurred: The Supreme Court’s November Order saying the legislature was still out of compliance and a Revenue Forecast that far exceeded most predictions regarding unanticipated future revenue collections. The end result: Another year of legislators in the 11th hour hanging ornaments (i.e. piecemeal policies) on an omnibus policy tree (i.e. Senate Bill 6362) that likely created more questions than answers. My prediction: we will be back next year sweeping up the broken ornaments. And while we may fixate on the 11th hour scrambling, it is important to reflect on the successes we saw this year in expanded eligibility with early learning and college financial aid, increased funds for special education and the State Need Grant, and raised awareness of social emotional and mental health needs.
By Daniel Zavala, LEV Director of Policy and Government Relations
In what was quite literally years in the making, the Legislature has at long last presented and passed a K-12 funding solution. And, perhaps surprisingly in today’s political climate, it was passed with strong bipartisan support. Before I get into the details of the solution, let me spend some time talking about how we got to where we are… and it starts with a 2007 lawsuit called McCleary. The lawsuit was largely based on the inequities across districts resulting from disproportionate use and allocation of local levy money. Basically, the plaintiffs argued the state was not amply paying for basic education, something that is a paramount duty of the state. Fast forward to 2012… and the Washington Supreme Court agreed. Forward another few years, a couple of court orders, imposed sanctions on the legislature, and we arrive at the 2017 Legislative Session – the last regular session to address the court order to address the McCleary decision. What was left after the last 5 years was the need to continue progress on funding K-3 class size reduction and teacher compensation.
By Juliette Schindler Kelly, Director of Government Relations and Advocacy at the College Success Foundation
On March 27th, the Washington state House Democrats released their operating budget proposal for the 2017-19 biennium, SHB1067. Generally it was received favorably by the higher education community as supporting our priorities, and as a necessary improvement upon the Senate’s postsecondary funding approach. Additionally, many representing postsecondary in the education advocacy space emphasize the need to support the entire education continuum, from the formative preschool years to post-high school additional credential or degree. The House budget demonstrated an understanding of moving beyond the McCleary mandate to provide genuine learning opportunities for Washington’s youth.
The House budget expands higher ed pathway opportunities, with a focus on preparing Washington students for today’s labor market. Affordability and pathways are key components, although there is still room for enhancements. The approach to addressing the cost barrier for students pursuing postsecondary study is a combination of a tuition freeze (with backfill for the public institutions of higher education so that the loss of funds is not detrimental), with need-based financial aid in the form of bolstering the State Need Grant. Investing in the State Need Grant to give more low-income students access to postsecondary education is a critical component to increasing access for Washington students. Unlike the Senate budget, the House proposal opens the door for 6,000 more of our students to receive a State Need Grant. The goal should be for all 24,000 deserving but unserved students to not have to struggle to find a way to afford college, but this step moves us closer to the goal post.
The budget also displayed an understanding that obstacles exist beyond financial need. Many students need assistance in the transition to, and persistence within, their postsecondary experience. Low-income, first generation students often need extra navigational assistance in this foreign environment. Many students from diverse and economically-challenged populations attend community and technical colleges, and benefit greatly from student advising and supports. Therefore, it is gratifying to see the proposed increase for community and technical colleges (CTCs) to use Guided Pathways, or a similar model designed to improve student success, to better serve students in this system.
Breaking down barriers to postsecondary opportunities is for naught if the basic needs of a low-income individual prevents him from pursuing further education. The Senate budget proposal diverts Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Work First dollars to support the State Need Grant program, which is counterproductive. The House budget writers are wise to include increased funding to address homelessness and augment the TANF, State Family Assistance, and Refugee Cash Assistance Program grant amounts. These programs help stabilize the families of the very students we seek to provide a greater opportunity for focused learning.
Budgets reflect priorities, and although there is more work to be done, we applaud the House for targeting many of the essential priorities that will help move our state forward, advance our economy and close opportunity gaps. In this spirit, let us all support greater investment in our education system from early learning through higher education so that increased attainment will reap greater prosperity for all Washingtonians.
House Democrats and the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) have released bills to address the McCleary education funding lawsuit.
The House plan, HB 1843, would set a minimum salary of $45,500 for new teachers, and would slow the decrease of maximum local school tax levies from 28 percent of total state and federal funding, to 24 percent by 2021, instead of by next year as under current law. The basis for the calculations is changed, as well; and HB 1843 seeks to lower teacher-student ratios.
The Senate plan, SB 5607, sets a similar minimum starting teacher salary of $45,000, and the state would collect local property tax levies for schools, adding $1.4 billion per biennium to supplement education funding. Local districts could still raise additional money with voter approval, but the amount would be capped and could only pay for extras, not basic education.
See our side-by-side comparing fiscal elements of the House Democratic plan and the Senate MCC plan with the current funding system and Governor Inslee’s budget plan here.
Like most professions, the education landscape is full of acronyms and jargon. As we gear up for the 2017 state legislative session which will focus on education funding, the LEV Policy Team has created this glossary of key terms you will likely hear:
- Allocation: an amount of money determined by the state and given out to districts.
- Basic Education: goals established by the Legislature for Washington’s education system, as well as a program to achieve those goals. See details here
- Biennium: a period of two years usually used for budgets.
- Bond: a method used by a public school district to finance the purchase of land or buildings or pay for school construction costs (like getting a loan for a project). Bond measures are placed on the ballot by district school boards to be approved or defeated by the voting public and must be paid back by the local taxpayers. Bonds require a supermajority (2/3) of the vote to pass.
- ELL (English language learner): a student whose primary language is a language other than English and who have English language skills that are sufficiently lacking or absent resulting in a delay of learning.
- FRL (free and reduced lunch): a term used to describe students who qualify for participation in the federal school nutrition program that provides free or reduced price school lunches for students from low-income households.
- Full-day kindergarten: state funded kindergarten that requires a total of 1000 instructional hours and 180 days of instruction.
- HB: House Bill
- Initiative: a law proposed by citizens and placed on the ballot in an election. This process bypasses the state legislature and allows citizens to pass laws.
- Instructional hours: the number of hours districts are required to provide students. Instructional hours include all time in the school day from the beginning of the first period class to the end of the last period class, except for time spent on meals.
- LAP (learning assistance program): a program to serve eligible students who need academic support for reading, writing, and math, or who need readiness skills to learn these core subjects. Money for the LAP program is provided by the state based on a district’s low-income students.
- Levy cliff: a reduction, in current law, in the amount of money school districts can collect through local property tax levies that takes effect in January 2018.
- Levy: a request by a school district of voters to raise or continue local property taxes for a limited number of years for operations costs or capital improvements such as computers or other equipment.
- McCleary: The Washington State Supreme Court case which ruled that the State of Washington is violating the constitutional rights of students by failing to amply fund basic education. The Court ordered the Legislature to make “steady, real, and measurable” progress each year to fully fund K-12 public education by 2018.
- MSOC (materials, supplies, and operating cost): the cost to a school district or education entity for materials and supplies used in the classroom (e.g.: white boards, pencils, and printer paper) and operating costs like building maintenance and utility bills.
- National Board Certification: a voluntary, advanced teaching credential that goes beyond state licensure. National Board Certification has national standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do.
- Professional Certification: an advanced level teaching certificate, issued to holders of a Residency Certification who complete a ProTeach Portfolio.
- Prototypical school: a school design used in the state funding formula to determine the number of teachers, principals, and other school staff that are needed to provide a basic education. The size and staffing levels in a prototypical school differ for elementary, middle, and high schools. Districts are not required to staff their schools in the same way as the prototypical schools.
- QEC (quality education council): created by the legislature in ESHB 2261. The purpose of the QEC was to develop strategic recommendations for implementation of a new definition of Basic Education and the financing necessary to support it. During the 2016 legislative session, HB 2360 eliminated the QEC.
- Residency Certification: the initial license issued by the state for a teacher to be allowed to teach in a school. Teachers in Washington must attempt to earn the Professional Certificate after teaching for three years.
- SB: Senate Bill
- SPED (special education): specifically designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.
- Staff mix: a part of the state funding formula for schools used to capture the average teaching experience and education level of teachers in a district. Teachers’ salaries go up with each year of experience and level of education. Staff mix (a number between 1 and 1.9) is multiplied by a district’s base teacher salary to determine the salary amount the state provides for teachers.
- TBIP (transitional bilingual instructional program): a state supported program that funds districts to provide a two-language system of instruction. Students learn language concepts and knowledge in their primary language at the same time they receive instruction in English.