Despite Recent Boost, Public School Funding is Still Down
Lawmakers pumped an additional $1 billion into public schools for the current two-year budget period, but after multiple years of cuts, this boost is still not enough to return funding to pre-recession levels.
According to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Washington state is spending $35 less per student than we did in 2008 (see graph). That has everything to do with the way lawmakers chose to respond to the recession. As revenues declined, lawmakers relied very heavily on cuts instead of raising necessary revenue. The cuts stymied education reform efforts to lower class sizes, increase learning time, and cover the costs of the basics like textbooks and school buses. In 2012, the State Supreme Court ruled in its McCleary case that the state was underfunding our education system. Complying with the court’s mandate is estimated to cost approximately $4.5 billion a biennium.
A strong education system provides businesses with educated workers and equips people with the right skills to compete in an ever-changing economy. Additionally, investments in health care, economic security for families, and early learning provide support for thousands of children of color, children from lower-income households, and children living in depressed regions who lack access to the kinds of economic opportunities available to children from wealthier families. In other words, these investments ensure educational success for all kids, not just those who can afford it.
The Center’s full report can be found here.
For more analysis on our state’s education funding, see our brief, A Paramount Duty: Funding Education for McCleary and Beyond