An extra $1 billion for schools: Is it enough?
The state budget deal would dedicate roughly $1 billion in new money toward public schools. Lawmakers disagreed about whether that would be enough to satisfy the state Supreme Court.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Is it enough to satisfy the Supreme Court?
State lawmakers disagreed on that question Thursday night, even as they appeared to have struck a deal to add roughly $1 billion to public-school spending in response to a court order.
Although much was still unknown hours after the accord’s announcement, initial details indicated that both Democrats and Republicans got money for their priorities in the K-12 education piece of the budget.
The deal, expected to be voted on Friday by the House and Senate, would dedicate money to all five categories the court said last year were inadequately funded: student transportation, school supplies, class-size reduction, all-day kindergarten and increased high-school instructional hours.
About $505 million would go toward transportation and supplies, which are now partly paid by local levy dollars. The new state funding would free up schools to spend that money in other areas.
Some $104 million would go toward reducing class sizes by two students in kindergarten and first grades in high-poverty schools, and around $90 million would help expand state-funded all-day kindergarten.
Roughly $97 million would go to the increased instructional hours, while about $143 million would be funneled into the Learning Assistance Program, a collection of initiatives focused on closing the achievement gap between rich and poor students.
In all, spending on K-12 education would increase 11 percent from the current biennium, to $15.2 billion, taking into account money for an expected increase in students and other funding shifts.
“It’s a great win for kids, for the students in the state,” said state Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, R-Enumclaw, the ranking Republican on the House Education Committee. “It is a significant step forward.”
Dahlquist said much of the new money would be targeted at high-poverty schools and programs tied to results.
But state Sen. David Frockt, Democratic floor leader, predicted the budget would not satisfy the court.
Frockt, of Seattle, noted that the court’s decision was estimated to cost the state about $4.5 billion by 2018.
“We made some progress in some areas, but we have done nothing to meet that long-term, sustainable obligation,” he said.
Education officials expressed cautious optimism.
Duggan Harman, of Seattle Public Schools, said he was happy to hear that the total for K-12 in the latest deal was slightly higher than in the last round of proposals.
But Ben Rarick, executive director of the State Board of Education, said lawmakers need to focus on boosting revenue.
Staff reporter Linda Shaw contributed. Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal