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Senate "Education By Starvation" Proposal Would Fund Education By Cutting All Other Investments

Posted by Andy Nicholas at Apr 09, 2013 01:15 PM |
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By Andy Nicholas and Kim Justice -- A plan that State Senate leaders recently revived to fund education at the expense of all other vital services continues to be the wrong approach to fully funding our schools and poses a grave danger to Washington state’s economy. It would lead to deep cuts in investments beyond education that create jobs and help the middle class prosper.

Beginning in 2015, Senate Bill 5895 would attempt to fund court-mandated education reforms by limiting public safety, health care and all other areas of state investment to the rate of inflation plus population growth.

This rigid formula, which was the cornerstone of Rob McKenna’s education funding proposal when he ran for Governor in 2012, ignores the real-world costs of maintaining important investments from one year to the next.

For example, health care costs grow considerably faster than the general rate of inflation. And the aging of our state’s population means that the number of seniors needing health care and other services grows more rapidly over time than the population at large.

As a result, the arbitrary population plus inflation formula would force huge cuts to a range of important non-education investments. But the cuts don’t stop there. The measure would also eliminate Initiative 732, a law requiring annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to teacher salaries. However, policymakers would be required to transfer an amount of funding equal to the cost of these COLAs to education from other areas of state investment, forcing even deeper cuts non-education spending.

The graph below shows the combined impact of the population plus inflation formula and the mandated COLA transfers, had SB 5895 been enacted in 2005. As the graph shows, the Senate proposal would have forced more than $4 billion in cuts to non-education investments between 2005 and 2008.

starving budget

During the 2005-07 budget cycle alone, SB 5895 would have forced $2.5 billion in cuts to important priorities in Washington state. That’s more than all of the combined funding for public safety ($1.5 billion) and services that support foster children and families in crisis ($500 million).

Funding education at the expense of all the other things that kids need to thrive – strong families, safe neighborhoods, a healthy environment -- is the wrong approach. Instead, Senate leaders should look to generate additional resources for schools by ending unproductive tax breaks, as Governor Inslee proposed, while continuing current taxes that are set to expire and exploring other options, such as a tax on profits from high-end investments and other capital gains.

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