The State Senate has released its two-year budget proposal. Education spending consumes the bulk of the budget’s attention, both in terms of dollar amounts as well as overhauling the hopelessly complex local levy funding system that creates substantial inequities across the state.
Here’s a brief overview of the main education parts of the budget, along with related items.
- $43 billion operating budget proposal for 2017-19.
- $21.9 billion invested in K-12 schools. This amount reflects an increase of almost $3.8 billion over the previous budget.
- With this investment, for the first time since 1983, over 50 percent of the state budget will be devoted to funding Washington’s public schools.
- $493 million towards reducing class size in grades K through 3.
- Using a four-year projection, under this proposal, by 2019-21 education funding will have doubled since the 2012 McCleary ruling that held the State was not amply funding schools.
- 1,800 additional in-state student spots at four-year state colleges and universities, set up to support focus on science, technology, engineering and math.
A new way to pay for education
- Establishes a statewide, per pupil funding system that guarantees every student in Washington $12,500, with additional amounts added if the child has a disability ($7,500 more), is from a low-income family (from $2,000 to $5,000 more), is learning English ($1,000 more), or is homeless ($1,500).
- Under this new “backpack” funding model, dollars are invested based on the individual needs of each student. Washington is one of only seven states that does not use some variation of the “backpack” funding model.
- Increases starting teacher pay from $35,700 to $45,000.
How to pay for it
- A new statewide property tax (called a “local effort levy”) would replace maintenance and operation levies collected at the local level.
- Right now, local levy rates vary widely and result in substantial inequities in school funding.
- The Senate proposal takes aim at that problem through a flat, statewide rate at $1.55 per $1,000.
- At that rate, 83 percent of property owners in Washington state would see a tax cut, while the rest would see a tax increase.
- Click here to see a district-by-district analysis of how tax rates, district budgets and per student investments are impacted by the Senate plan.
- The Senate plan and Gov. Inslee’s plan both propose substantial increases in education funding. Under either plan, over 50 percent of the state budget would go to education. The House plan is expected to increase education funding as well.
- There are now two plans in play, Gov. Inslee’s and the Senate, that raise teacher pay in some form.
- The House will propose their budget, which will include education spending and possibly new taxes, next week.