Gov. Gregoire’s School Funding Plan is a Good Start
By Kim Justice -- Governor Gregoire has proposed a sound blueprint for meeting the state’s court-ordered mandate to adequately fund basic education. Her proposed state budget recognizes that we cannot rebuild our commitment to Washington state’s school children – and support a strong, job-creating economy -- without new revenue. It’s a good starting point for Governor-elect Jay Inslee and the new Legislature as they inherit the issue.
In McCleary v. State of Washington, the State Supreme Court ruled that the state is failing to meet its constitutional obligation to amply fund basic K-12 education. The ruling requires the Legislature to make measurable progress toward fully implementing and funding two education reform bills—House Bills 2261 and 2776—by 2018.
Gregoire’s budget takes a step toward meeting that obligation by including $1 billion in new funding for education in the 2013-15 biennium (see graph below). The proposal phases in four enhancements contained in House Bill 2776:
• Expansion of full-day kindergarten in schools where more than 50 percent of the kids are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch ($121 million);
• Smaller class sizes in grades K-3 for high-poverty schools ($193 million);
• Full funding of student transportation ($209 million); and
• Increased funding for maintenance, supplies, and operating costs, including full funding for teacher training, curricula and textbooks and support for other administrative costs at 20 percent for fiscal year 2014 and 25 percent for 2015 ($401 million).
Her proposal also reverses teacher pay cuts that were made in the past two years, includes funding for teacher and principal evaluations, and expands early learning to give more kids a successful start in school .
Once the legislative session gets underway, policymakers will have to determine how to make progress on meeting the court’s mandate. They may refer to the spending recommendations made by the Joint Task Force on Education Funding, which include phasing in the reforms under HB 2776 as well as other essential components of basic education reform.
The kids of this state are counting on us to give them an education that will open doors to opportunities and stable careers. As Governor Gregoire confirmed, we cannot fulfill this obligation without raising new revenue. Future budget proposals must demonstrate a commitment to making good on our constitutional promise, and must ensure sustainable and stable revenue so we can invest in the prosperity of all Washingtonians.