Understand the consequences of underfunded K-12 students

The Laws & Ed Policy — The definition and implementation of education

Education Is A State-Protected, Fundamental Right

Laws, judicial rulings and public policy guide the governance of public education — the local school districts implement and deliver the education.

What does the Washington state Constitution say?

“It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste or sex.”

Washington Constitution, article IX, section I

This constitutional provision is unique to Washington. While other states have constitutional provisions related to education, no other state makes K-12 education the “paramount duty” of the state.

Source: 2008 Citizen’s Guide to K-12 Finance prepared by staff of the Senate Ways and Means Committee

The State must apply a definition of programs and funding that fulfill its constitutional obligation to fully finance public education—Basic Education—by providing ample opportunities for all students to achieve learning levels consistent with modern standards-based education .

Basic Education Is A Formal Legal Term

The concept of Basic Education defines a specific set of K-12 education programs.

The State’s Basic Education funding is the biggest piece of the “K-12 Funding Pie” and the state legislature is legally required to fund the Basic Education programs, which are:

· General Apportionment

· Special education

· Vocational education

· Learning Assistance Program,

· Pupil Transportation

· Juvenile Detention Center and State Institution Education programs.

By sheer size alone, state Basic Ed funding has a lot to do with how much and how fairly education funds are distributed among school districts.

Laws Governing Basic Education Come in Two Parts

1)  Basic Ed’s definition — how it is legally described

2)  Basic Ed’s funding formulas — how the money is calculated to fund the various parts of the definition

The State Legislature, with The Basic Education Act of 1978, originally defined basic education and developed the staff-per-student ratios used in funding formulas -- it defined education in terms of emphasizing the amount of time students needed to spend taking certain courses..

The Education Reform Act of 1993 then significantly changed the definition of basic education and for the first time established high academic standards for all students, but did not revise the funding formulas to pay for them.

The 1978 funding formulas were left intact, though the 1993 Reform Act placed greater emphasis on how well students learn rather than on the time spent learning.

But most Ed Reform initiatives were funded through programs or targeted grants that fell outside basic education programs.

About 8% of the state’s funds are for ed reform. In fiscal year 2007, just over $450 per student went to education reform initiatives and about $350 of these dollars were I-728 funds.

State Court judicial decisions in ‘78 and ‘83 have held

· the State must define and fully fund Basic Education,

· excess levies can not be required to fund any part of Basic Education, and

· The legislature is required to continually review, evaluate, and revise Basic Education funding formulas as the education system evolves and changes.

A Lot Has Changed Since 1983!

Even though the court had required the legislature to continually revise the funding formula as the system of education changed, the legislature did not do so.

The old 1978 Basic Ed formulas don’t consider the cost of what we now consider to be essentials:  computers and other forms of technology, security, telephone lines, foreign language, Advanced Placement, remediation for the growing population of disadvantaged children, and the WASL.  Additionally, just the cost of educational resources have increased significantly since 1978.

Many persistent and pervasive problems come from the outdated funding formulas.

Some of these are:

· The Inequities in the State Salary Schedule

· Not enough funding for multiple student needs

· Not enough funding for various Facility Needs

· Not enough funding for Teachers and Staff

Examining the problems with state school funding formulas show how those formulas need to be changed and why many districts are worse off than others.

Funding Washington Schools

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Has WA State met its constitutional duty to amply fund education?

Are the intent of existing laws fulfilled?

No — The state has not kept up with inflation—the state would need to spend more than $2,000 more per student to match in real terms what the state was spending in 1994 when the formula was set.

No — the state has been falling further and further behind the national average for per-pupil spending on education since 1995. At the end of 2005, the state was at 83 percent of the national average — 44th out of 50 states.

No — the state does not pay for enough:

· Teachers

· Librarians

· Counselors

· Custodians

· Groundskeepers

· Buses

Nor does it adequately allocate for:

· Meeting the basic needs of special ed students

· Enough high school courses (typically referred to as ‘hours”) for students to meet minimum requirements of our own state colleges. The state currently pays for ‘5 hours’ — 6 is the minimum to meet reqs, 7 are needed to be fully equipped for post-graduate, 21st century choices.

· Utilities—heating fuel, electricity, water and facility maintenance

Nor does it pay enough (out of the same budget as utilities!) for:

· Instructional supplies

· School books

· Computer supplies and power

The Role of Lawsuits in Policy

Throughout state history, lawsuits with their judicial decisions have often, if not predominately, been a central catalyst to change.

The current lawsuit by the Federal Way School District is a good example. They are suing the state over the fairness, equity and pragmatism of teacher compensation rates. The NEWS suit, the Special Education suit, etc.

The State’s 70% equals the 63% dedicated Basic Ed plus the 7% ‘other State’ funds include for Highly Capable (gifted), Ed Reform programs and I-728 monies for Student Achievement, among other programs.