State Tries to Avoid Compliance

The legislature has tried everything possible to avoid paying the actual cost of basic education.

 During the McCleary trial, the legislature tried to shrink the definition of basic education

During the McCleary trial, the legislature pointed to wording in the ESHB 2261 education reform law that, to put it bluntly, asserted that Basic Education is fully funded when the legislature says it is fully funded. But, the Supreme Court dismissed the State’s argument as a tautology that, in any event, does not remove the judiciary’s responsibility to ensure that the state has complied with its constitutional duty.

Superior Court Final Judgement, Feb. 24, 2010, Findings 179 and 180.

Supreme Court Ruling in the McCleary Appeal by State, Jan. 5, 2012 p.60.

The state enacted legislation that underfunded and ignored important cost categories for basic education.

With passage of ESHB 2261 (2009), the legislature installed a new cost structure (the prototypical models for elementary, middle and high schools) for funding basic education, but did not identify specific staffing ratios or resource dollars for the new cost categories. Instead, ESHB 2261 commissioned the Quality Education Council (QEC) to develop evidence-based staff ratios and cost figures for the new cost structure. In addition, “the legislature declared its intent to implement the details of ESHB 2261 through a phased-in approach as recommended by the QEC, with full implementation by 2018.” Supreme Court Ruling in the McCleary Appeal by State, Jan. 5, 2012 p.32.

Since 2009, the QEC has recommended staffing ratios and compensations, and resource levels for fully-funded prototypical school models. However, the QEC recommendations were mostly ignored.

Yes, the legislature passed SHB 2776 in 2010 which increased state funding for transportation, materials, supplies & operating costs, all-day kindergarten, and reduced class sizes in K-3. The current budget bills, SSB 5883 and EHB 2242, increase the compensation for certificated instructional staff, certificated administrative staff, and classified staff and increase the staffing ratios for a few selected staff types. Other bills have also increased the funding in other basic education cost categories.

Yet with these budget increases and despite QEC’s full funding recommendations, many cost categories remain under funded or not funded at all. In particular, no state funding has been provided for reduced class sizes in high-poverty middle and high schools or family involvement coordinators at middle and high schools, or professional development coaches. The underfunded cost categories include guidance counselors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and office support staff.

Unfortunately, schools in our state are grossly understaffed. The schools are not being staffed according to the state’s prototypical school funding model.

See tables that compare the staffing ratios and resource levels used in the three funding plans: Current FY 2017, State Budget FY 2019, QEC Fully-Funded FY 2019.

The legislature quietly eliminated the QEC in 2015

As the QEC work groups reported their findings, legislators grew increasingly concerned about the large and growing cost of their recommendations.

In June 2016, the legislature quietly eliminated the QEC with passage of HB 2360.

Opportunities for the public to weigh in on the bill to eliminate the QEC were limited.

In their public hearings of HB 2360 and several other bills, both the Senate Early Learning & Education Committee (February 8, 2016) and the Senate Ways & Means Committee (February 29, 2016) voted to waive Senate Rule 45 which requires the public to be notified five days in advance of a hearing.

No one testified at the February 8 hearing. See the TVW video of the hearing at:

Only one person testified with regards to HB2360 at the February 29 hearing, and she favored the elimination of the QEC.

The House Bill Report on HB 2360 showed that:

Only two individuals testified at the House Committee of Education’s public hearing held on January 25, 2016.  Randy Dorn, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Jack Archer, State Board of Education, testified against HB 2360, favoring the continuation of the QEC; and
Only one person testified at the House Committee of Appropriations’ public hearing held on February 4, 2016.   One of the bill’s sponsors testified in favor of the bill to eliminate the QEC.

Governor Inslee signed HB 2360 into law on April 1, 2016.

The state seeks to remove from the definition of basic education the reduced class sizes called for by both the QEC and Initiative 1351.

As explained in a June 2017 Senate handout on the 2017-19 biennial budget,

“The staffing enrichments provided in the prototypical funding formula under Initiative 1351 are removed from the basic education chapter and re-codified in a different chapter, with language stating that the enhanced staffing units are an enrichment to basic education. However, if an additional staffing unit is funded by specific reference in the operating budget than those units become part of basic education.”

SUBSTITUTE SENATE BILL 5883 Operating Budget Sec. 502 (2) (a).

Engrossed House Bill 2242 Basic Education Sec. 904

Initiative Measure 1351 was passed in 2014 and called for the kinds and levels of staffing in prototypical schools that are nearly identical to those recommended by the QEC for full funding in 2018.

Urgent Need for Poor Students

Not enough attention has been paid to how little our state targets additional funding to its students in poverty. And here, by students in poverty, I refer to the students who qualify for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Free & Reduced-Priced Meal Program.

A recent evidence-based consensus of education experts is that students in poverty should receive 30 to 122 percent more than the amount guaranteed to each student.[1]

As the table shows, neither the state’s current or budgeted targeting efforts to students in poverty rise above 11 percent.

And at 25.80%, even the QEC Fully-Funded targeting effort comes up short – Although I believe it would have been higher if the QEC work groups had more time to quantify recommendations regarding extended learning-times outside of the school day and during the summer.

It is urgent that the state increase its funding for students in poverty from the profoundly inadequate level of $744 to the QEC Fully-Funded amount of $3,103 per student.

In our state, students from poor families pay a high price for their poverty. They are overrepresented among students who are not prepared for kindergarten, do not pass state tests, miss too much school, are disciplined, and drop out of school.

Students in poverty in our state are also overrepresented by American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Blacks, African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

However, it is not a matter of race, culture or choice that students from poor families, compared to their wealthier peers, generally do not do as well on academic performance measures.

It is a matter of their families not having enough financial resources for even the most basic needs – food, clothing, lodging, healthcare, childcare and education.

Poverty forces families to prioritize their basic needs and to forgo many opportunities to educate and enlighten their children’s minds.[2]

Yet, whether poor or rich, all parents have the same educational goals and desires for their children.

In our own state, you might be amazed at how many poor school districts vote to raise taxes for schools at tax rates that are well above average. I found 107 school districts in Washington state with above-average poverty rates AND above-average levy rates for schools! These 107 school districts with high poverty rates accounted for almost 46% of the state’s student population in school year 2015-16.[3]

And all children are worthy and capable and desirous of an education that will prepare them for our increasingly complex world.

Perhaps you’ve read one of several news stories describing how a happenstance influx of resources into a poor school in our state has dramatically changed the trajectory of the students’ academic careers.[4]

Yes, targeting additional funding to students in poverty can make a difference.

Our state has the power to do this and to bring about a positive and permanent change in the course of many students’ lives.

School districts and the communities they encompass are waiting with thoughtful plans for using these funds.[5]

HOME Next: State Tries to Avoid Compliance

[1] Here is what one well-known school finance expert, Jennifer Imazeki, said about weights for students in poverty and students learning English in her April 11, 2013 blog.

“What are the right weights?

Imazeki (2007) synthesizes the estimates of the marginal cost for poverty and English learners from 16 costing-out studies (i.e., studies that attempt to estimate the costs of achieving an ‘adequate’ level of education). In add-on pupil weight terms, the estimates for poverty range from 0.30 to 1.22.”

“The Getting Down to Facts cost studies done specifically for California (Chambers et al. 2007, Sonstelie 2007, and Imazeki 2007) all establish pupil weights for poverty of at least 30%.”

“The estimates for English Learners range from 0.24 to 1.01. In addition, much of the research that has been in done in various states on the costs of services for English Learners finds marginal costs in the range of 20 to 30 percent. A large determinant of costs is the instructional approach used (e.g., separate ESL instruction versus immersion).”

[2] This understanding of the impacts of poverty on students is well explained in: Gorski, P. C. (2013). Reading and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap (Multcultural Education Series, James A. Banks, Editor). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

[3]107 School Districts in Washington State have High Poverty Rates AND High Levy Tax Rates

[4] Read about how AVID,

the International Baccalaureate Program,

and other grants and money helped finance academic improvements in struggling schools

[5] For example: Read about the frustrations and plans of Principal Isaiah Johnson of Cascade Middle School in Auburn.

Too Little for Poor Students & Others

State Budget Does Not Do Enough for Students in Poverty and Other High-Need, High-Cost Students Part 1
The table above shows, for each finance plan, the additional funding targeted to each of six different types of high-need, high-cost students. Such students are typically recognized as needing extra funds in most state school finance system.

As the table shows, the State Budget amount for each of these students in FY 2019 is much less than the per student amount recommended by the QEC Fully-Funded Plan for the same year.

Some shortfalls are much larger than others. For example, the State Budget Fy 2019 Plan only targets an additional $744 to each poor student, while the QEC Fully-Funded FY 2019 Plan targets an additional $3,103.

How well do these plans target these high-need students? One measure of fairness is to compare the per-student funding of the high-need, high-cost students to the guaranteed per-student funding, which is the amount of funds the state guarantees to each student. [1] Education experts have developed a consensus around how much additional funding is needed to educated certain high-need students compared to the base or guaranteed amount of funding that every student receives.

Using the calculated guaranteed amount for each model, I calculated the additional amount or weight attached to each type of high-cost, high-need student. The results are shown in the table below and in the ensuing charts. So, for example, to students in poverty, the state budget for FY 2019 targets an additional 9.21% of its guaranteed amount, while the QEC Fully-Funded FY 2019 plan targets an additional 25.80% of its guaranteed amount. You can see that the quantity of both the guaranteed amount and the targeting percentage makes a difference in the additional amount that’s actually targeted.

In no instance does the State Budget FY 2019 targeted amounts match the QEC Fully-Funded FY 2019 targeted amount.

Although all these categories of students deserve and need additional funding, I would like to emphasize the great need and urgency to fund our students in poverty – and explain the surprising result that the State FY 2019 budget targets students in poverty less than such targeting in the Current State FY 2017 budget. Go to: Urgent Need for Poor Students

Does Not Fully Fund Basic Ed

State Budget Does Not Fully Fund Basic Education

Washington State needs to increase its funding for public schools in fiscal year 2019 by about $6.5 billion over the budgeted amount if it seeks to fully fund basic education and comply with the deadline set by the McCleary Court order.

The total state spending on public schools in fiscal year 2019 should be about $18.5 billion.[1]

This amount equates to an average state funding per student of $17,075.[2]

This recommendation is based on an analysis of the education budget signed into law by Governor Inslee on June 30 and detailed in SSB 5883 and HB 2242. I compared the State’s education budget for FY 2019 to the State’s Current (FY 2017) funding plan and to the one I developed based on studies required by the state legislature and subsequently completed or overseen by the Quality Education Council (QEC) and/or the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).[3] The resulting plan is termed the QEC-Fully Funded plan for FY 2019.
Yes, $18.5 billion is a whopping, big amount. But, the QEC Fully-Funded FY 2019 Plan shows the results of BOTH the QEC-recommended staffing & resource levels AND the QEC-recommended staff salaries. I know of no other full-funding analysis that shows the impact of BOTH recommended features.
To compare the substantial differences in how the three Funding Plans staff schools, pay for resources and allocate salaries, go to Full-Funding Study: Staff, Resources & Salaries.

The state-wide funding results of this comparative analysis are shown in the table below. As indicated, full funding of education in FY 2019 as called for by QEC is about $18.46 billion – about $6.48 billion more than the $11.98 billion the state plan budgeted for FY 2019. About double the current state FY 2017 budget for public schools

The QEC plan is used as a comparative benchmark because it is based on the most recent and most comprehensive cost estimates of educating students in our state.[4] Furthermore, the QEC studies were requested by the state legislature and managed by state education officials.
Based on this analysis and comparison, I can say with confidence that, without the additional state funds, the State’s education budget for fiscal year 2019 is NOT ample enough to meet the state’s paramount duty by September 2018 as required by the state’s Supreme Court.

HOME Next: Too Little for Poor Students and Others

[1] Why Only State Funds, Not Federal or Local Funds, Can Close the Gap

[2] $17,075 per Student is a Reasonable State Average in School Year 2018-19: Here’s Why

[3] Quality Education Council and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction studies used as sources for developing the QEC-Full Funding model.

[4] Discussion of Using QEC Cost Estimates as Benchmarks

Falls Short of McCleary Deadline

State Budget Falls Short of McCleary Deadline State Education Budget DOES NOT Fully Fund Basic Education by the McCleary Court Deadline of Sept. 1, 2018. The budget is too little …. The table below shows the 2017-19 Biennium increase budgeted for Basic Education programs is about $1.6 billion. Everything else in the much-touted $7.3 billion increase in the budget for education is either for a NON-basic education program or is a NON-binding hope in the state’s 2019-21 biennium budget. And too late … The timeline below compares state biennia, calendar years, state fiscal years and school years. The court deadline in red falls in September 2018, the beginning of school year 2018-19, which is two months into state fiscal year 2019. The state’s budgeted increase for education (about $1.8 billion) is completed at the end of fiscal year 2019 on June 30. To achieve the $7.3 billion increase in education, an additional $5.5 billion is needed in the 2019-21 biennial budget – a budget that actually doesn’t exist yet. And even then, the promised $7.3 billion budget goal won’t be completed until June 30, 2021, the end of fiscal year 2021 and well after the September 2018 court deadline.