As districts across the state start planning for next school year they will be faced with some unfamiliar choices as they look to allocate $2.5 billion more in state funding next school year than the current school year. The most recent increase in state education funding was directed mostly to increase K-12 staff salaries, including the more than 50,000 teachers across the state. This was a key part of the court’s ruling as the state has underfunded teacher salaries for many years leaving districts to pick up the tab if they wanted to offer teachers a competitive salary.
As districts plan for how the influx of money will be spent in the face of the shifting funding landscape districts and community members will have some difficult questions to consider:
Does the state provide enough for all districts to attract and retain teachers, especially for high-poverty or rural districts?
How will the increased investments impact how districts use their local levy dollars?
How will the educational experience of students be positively impacted with the new investments?
The recent investments and changes made to the K-12 funding system in response to the Washington State Supreme Court McCleary ruling will have long-lasting impacts on our education system. While progress has been made to adequately fund basic education, more work remains to ensure that we equitably fund basic education. League of Education Voters is committed to working with districts and partners to continue to move towards an education system that is funded to provide every student what they need to succeed.
We will be providing a number of resources and series of analyses that will highlight some of the remaining opportunities and work ahead looking towards the 2021 legislative session. These include:
A series of maps that illustrate the impact of House Bill 2242 (2017 legislative session) and Senate Bill 6362 (2018 legislative session) across the state, and the inequities that remain;
A brief on the choices facing districts and the new investments in teacher salaries;
An analysis of the continued challenges in special education funding in preparation for the 2019 session; and
A broader analysis of the impact of HB 2242 and SB 6362 and solutions to explore to address challenges created by regionalization factor and the two-tiered local levy structure, and how we can better target resources to students who have been systemically and historically underserved.
League of Education Voters appreciates all the work done by the state to satisfy the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision on school funding. While this case appears to be over, the fight continues to create and fund a system that drives resources first to our students who need the most support.
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.
The Legislature made significant changes to the K-12 education funding structures in 2017—infusing more than $7 billion in state money into the system over four years through House Bill 2242. As the fiscal impacts of the changes became clearer, legislators proposed a range of changes to address the concerns that districts have voiced around HB 2242.
As the legislature made changes in 2018 to their plan to fully fund education, League of Education Voters feels it is important that the changes should be focused on:
Direct investments based on student need. Any changes to the funding system should drive resources to districts based on the needs of their student populations.
Eliminate disparities between districts. Modifications made to the structures put in place in HB 2242 should address unintended impacts that created (and recreated) inequities between high-property value/low-poverty districts and low-property value/high-poverty districts.
Attracting & retaining educators. State funding formulas should ensure that districts across the state are provided enough resources to attract and retain a diverse educator workforce.
Increase transparency in funding system. Increased access to data on spending and student outcomes is essential to ensure the effectiveness and equity of the new systems and structures put into place.
The passage of House Bill 2242 in 2017 will inject an additional $7 billion in state funding into our K-12 system.
In order to determine whether the new investments are distributed equitably and improve student outcomes, we will need more robust means to track school spending and results. We will also need to examine the new structures and mechanisms put into place to ensure they do not recreate inequities in our funding system.
Opportunity: New mechanisms to track spending are created in both HB 2242 and in the new federal ESSA legislation.
This morning the Washington State Supreme Court issued their latest order on the McCleary case detailing whether or not the state has met its responsibility to fully fund education. In a unanimous opinion the Supreme Court ruled that the state’s plan to fully fund education will provide enough resources to meet its constitutional responsibility to fund basic education, but the Court also stated that the timeline for full-funding put forward by the state takes too long. Basically – the policy and structure are good, but the state needs to pay for it faster.
In the order, the Court details each funding stream that constitutes the Washington State Legislature’s plan to fully fund education: Materials, Supplies, & Operating Costs (MSOC), transportation, categorical programs such as the Learning Assistance Program (LAP) and the Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program, staff salaries, K-3 class size reduction, and full-day kindergarten. The Court concludes that when fully funded according to House Bill 2242, the funding amounts will be sufficient to provide for an amply funded basic education.
Now that the state budget negotiations have finally crossed the goal line, I am happy to report that our legislature has made a huge investment in K-12 education! Thanks to your advocacy and support, schools with historically underserved students will get much-needed additional help. Read more about the legislature’s solution to the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision in this blog by Daniel Zavala, LEV’s director of policy and government relations. Be a part of this landmark moment! Help ensure that the McCleary decision is implemented to benefit every Washington student by making your gift today.
Also, LEV interviewed Washington state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal about his long-term vision for K-12 education. And we’re hosting a free Lunchtime LEVinar July 20 on how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and complex trauma impacts student learning.
Read below for more about our work.
Thanks for all you do for kids. We couldn’t do it without you.
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.
At the League of Education Voters (LEV), we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for May:Elaine Woo. Read about her experience as a strong advocate for science education and fair funding.
Elaine Woo works with conviction for the children of Washington state. She speaks to legislators in Olympia, visits schools, advocates through phone calls, and recently co-wrote an Op-ed for the Seattle Times.
Elaine became connected with LEV when she received an email about a Lunchtime LEVinar. Soon afterward, she met LEV state field director Kelly Munn at an activist training event, which put Elaine on a path to talking with lawmakers. “I started calling and visiting my legislators as well as writing letters,” she recalls. “It’s great how LEV helps people find a way to have a voice.”
Elaine taught elementary school for 3 years in California before heading to Okinawa to teach for a year with the Department of Defense. She then spent the next 33 years with Seattle Public Schools (SPS), with the exception of a year teaching highly capable education with Seattle Country Day School. Upon returning to Seattle Public Schools, she taught in the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) as well as in the regular classroom for the next 12 years.
After Elaine became the assistant principal at Bryant Elementary in Seattle, she was asked to help parents develop a science program for the school. She says, “Some of the parents told me that every child in Seattle needs a good science education, not just in this school.” Soon afterward, Elaine was approached by Valerie Logan, the wife of noted biologist Dr. LeRoy Hood. Both Logan and Hood took major leadership in helping the Bryant School community and the entire district apply for a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). With the NSF grant, other grants, and district funds, the professional development program was continually developed and implemented for 16 years providing researched-based professional development for elementary teachers.
Elaine worked as an assistant principal at Bryant and then principal at John Rogers Elementary for about six years before leading the grant efforts for science teacher professional development in the Seattle Public Schools central office. “The experience taught me about change,“ she explains. “There are certain areas where each of us just doesn’t want to change.” She learned that making policies stronger is difficult but crucial. Elaine adds, “If policies are better and more supportive, then teachers can do better for their students.”
She has a big issue with elementary science, because there is so much pressure to focus on literacy and math that principals and/or teachers in Washington are left to decide whether or not science will be taught. Elaine says, “It’s too late for many students if you wait until middle school for full-year science.” She also likes the concept of ensuring that students can pass a science assessment before leaving high school. Elaine believes that if a biology assessment, for example, is required for graduation, it sends a message to the students that they need to work harder. She says, “Adults find excuses not to include a science test for graduation. People cling to those barriers, maybe because it’s less work, which is tragic for kids.”
Elaine’s philosophy is that if a teacher has high expectations, participates in research-based professional development, and provides effective support, then students will achieve better. Outside the classroom, our kids need good instruction and support at home, as well. She also weighs in on the McCleary education funding debate. She says, “The accountability portion of McCleary is really hard, but it’s really important.” She notes that there has to be support from superintendents, principals, and parents for raising the bar. “Legislators are walking a fine line,” she explains. “We need to thank them for their hard work.”
On LEV, she says, “The work LEV is doing is fantastic – helping parents and students find information outside of the system.” And when judging her own efforts on behalf of Washington kids, Elaine humbly says, “I don’t do enough, and I’d like to do more.”