Governor Proposes $2.3 Billion for Education from Birth to Career
Governor Inslee kicked off his week of budget roll-outs by unveiling his plan to invest an additional $2.3 billion in education (see graph). These investments would nearly double the state’s early learning spending, fully fund most education reforms, and make college more accessible for students from low- income backgrounds.(1) Many aspects of the proposal target resources to students with low incomes, a disproportionate share of whom are students of color- helping to narrow the opportunity gap.
Early Learning- $156 million
The most critical time of learning begins at birth. The Governor’s boost to early learning would allow 6,358 more three- and four-year olds from low-income backgrounds to attend preschool. The quality of child care would be improved through an increase in funding to implement a quality rating and improvement system and training in effective teaching strategies. Additionally, more families would receive home visiting, which provides families with the resources and skills they need to raise healthy children; and 1,500 more children with special needs would receive intervention services. These investments are a strong start to providing all kids with the foundation they need to be successful adults.
K-12 public schools - $2 billion (2)
Lawmakers are on the hook by the State Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling to fully fund basic education reforms by 2018. Governor Inslee proposes to fulfill the majority of that obligation ahead of schedule in the upcoming budget cycle. Under his plan, in the 2016-17 school year, class sizes in kindergarten through third grade would shrink to no more than 17 students per class and all students would receive full-day kindergarten. Funding enhancements that cover the cost of maintenance, supplies, and operating costs (MSOC) at schools would also be fully funded. The Governor’s plan does not, however, fund lower class sizes above third grade, as required by Initiative 1351.
Increasing teacher pay is an important component of fully funding basic education, and an area that the court specifically called out. While bringing teacher salaries in-line with the labor market is likely to require a sizable investment, Governor Inslee proposes a small start by giving teachers a raise above the cost-of-living increases required by law. Teachers would receive a three percent increase in pay in the 2015-16 school year and a 1.8 percent increase in the 2016-17 school year.
Beyond these required enhancements, the Governor proposes investments that increase opportunity for students from low-income backgrounds who don’t currently have the resources to succeed. Targeted resources to high-poverty schools would provide more family engagement in learning, increased mentorship, nutritious meals, services to keep kids in school and reduce suspensions, and wrap around services to support the entire family.
College and beyond- $156 million
In today’s world, a degree or certificate is necessary to succeed in the job market. But too often students find college to be a distant, unaffordable dream. By continuing the freeze on tuition increases for the next two years, the Governor’s plan puts the brakes on increased tuition costs for students. Additional funding will allow more high school students with low incomes and students pursuing a degree in health care or STEM to get the financial aid they need. These are important investments, but more is needed to reduce tuition costs that have skyrocketed in the last few years- which has resulted in Washington state students experiencing the second largest tuition increase in the nation.
To get more people back to work, an increase in our state’s I-BEST program- which integrates basic education with job training- will help 800 individuals get the skills they need to get a job.
Click here to read the Governor’s full education plan.
Much of the Governor’s plan targets funding across the education pipeline towards investments that will have to the most bang-for-the-buck and go to students who need it the most. This approach would begin to close the inequities that children face depending on their race, ethnicity, income, and where they live- exactly what’s needed to put Washingtonians on a solid foundation and make our economy strong again.
Stay tuned for more analysis, including the Governor’s full budget and revenue plan which is scheduled to be released on Thursday, December 18th.
(1) Nearly doubles state funding for early learning in the Department of Early Learning
(2) Includes $236 million for I-732 teacher COLA’s which are required by law and included in the maintenance level and the state’s share of pension ($200 million) which is included in the maintenance level. The investments in MSOC ($750 million) are required by current law.