Washington has been losing ground in funding high priority public services for two decades. From the 1991-92 school year to 2005-06, Washington’s rank among all the states in funding K-12 education fell from 17th to 37th on a per pupil basis. Then the legislature increased allocations to education, including fully funding the Student Achievement Fund. That pushed Washington’s rank in per pupil spending up to 33rd in 2007-08.
Relative to the state’s personal wealth, however, the state’s decline has been relentless. According to that measure, our rank fell from from 24th in 1991-92 to 47th in 2007-08.
Washington’s Rank Among All States in K-12 Spending
Budget cuts of the last two years have undermined hard-won gains for Washington kids. Voters created the Student Achievement Fund in 2000 with the passage of Initiative 728 to reduce class size, provide extended learning opportunities, offer preschool to help prepare children for kindergarten, and provide other supports to students. Each school district decides with citizen input which of the authorized uses best suit the needs of its students.
However, I-728 has always depended on the state general fund. In good economic times, the legislature is able to appropriate sufficient general revenues. Between 2005-06 and 2007-08, the legislature increased the per student allocation for student achievement from $300 to $450, accounting for Washington’s climb in the national rankings. But because of the deep recession, the I-728 allocation will fall from $458 in 2008-09 to zero in 2010-11. That cut alone will drop Washington back from 33rd to 38th in per pupil funding, behind Alabama and just ahead of Montana.
Annual Per Pupil Allocations for Student Achievement (Initiative 728)
The reduction in Student Achievement funding is only one of many cuts to K-12 education in Washington. The legislature also suspended voter-approved teacher cost-of-living adjustments, reduced levy equalization for property-poor districts, and made other cuts in the 2009-11 state budget. New policy advances that will help provide real educational opportunity to all our state’s kids also remain unfunded, including full-day kindergarten, additional preschool availability, and more rigorous high school requirements.
How Initiative 1098 will help
If passed by voters, seventy percent of new net revenue from I-1098 – about $1.6 billion annually – will be dedicated to the state’s Education Legacy Trust Account, which provides dedicated funding for a number of educational improvements, including reduced class sizes in grades K-4, selected class size reductions in grades 5-12, extended learning for students in K-12, additional professional development for educators, early learning for children who need pre-kindergarten support, and improvements or additions to school facilities directly related to class size reductions and extended learning opportunities.
Want to read more, view citations, or see full size graphs? You can find the full brief (from which this post was excerpted) here: Why I-1098 is Right for Washington ».
Looking for more information about Initiative 1098? Visit the Economic Opportunity Institute website.