Education funding and revenue

Supreme Court orders Legislature to fully fund K-12!

Preamble, Article IX, Washington Constitution: 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.

In its January, 2012 McCleary decision, the state Supreme Court ordered the state to fully fund K-12 public schools as required by the Washington Constitution.

The Washington Supreme Court’s latest school funding critique, released in January of 2014, confirms what teachers already know – the Legislature is falling far short of funding the quality public education students deserve, and the state is failing to make adequate progress toward the 2017-18 deadline for fully funding K-12 public schools. The court has ordered the Legislature to submit a funding plan no later than April. The supplemental passed in March has little new funding for basic education and no funding for smaller class sizes or educator COLAs.

Washington Education Association President Kim Mead said Washington’s students and school employees deserve fully funded schools, not more unfulfilled promises.

“The Supreme Court’s original McCleary decision was clear, and so is the Court’s latest report – the state is failing to fully fund K-12 public schools and the education our students deserve,” Mead said. “The Supreme Court’s deadline for fully funding public education is 2018. At this pace, the Legislature won’t meet the requirement to amply fund education for another 20 years. Our kids can’t wait that long. Their futures are at stake.”

Mead said the Court’s latest rebuke of the Legislature is no surprise. Washington’s class sizes are 47th out of 50 states, Washington’s teachers are the lowest paid among Pacific states and educators have gone nearly six years without a state cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Since the McCleary decision in 2012, those statistics have gotten worse – not better.

“…nothing could be more basic than adequate pay,” the Court majority wrote. “The inescapable fact is that salaries for educators in Washington are no better now than when this case went to trial.”

The Court also wrote: “The Legislature is embarking on a short session in 2014, where it has an opportunity to take a significant step forward … The need for immediate action could not be more apparent.”

Educators agree, and dozens of educators will be in Olympia on Monday, the first day of the legislative session, to lobby for the restoration of the educator COLA. Email your legislators and urge them to restore the COLA!

The Court ordered the Legislature to develop a plan by April 2014 for how the state will fully fund K-12 education – including educator salaries — by the 2017-18 school year. “… the pace of progress must quicken,” the Court wrote.

Mead said educators expect lawmakers to make a good faith effort toward increasing school funding as the Supreme Court ordered. She called on the House, the Senate, Gov. Jay Inslee and legislators from both major parties to find funding solutions now instead of waiting until the next biennium. Inslee has proposed increasing K-12 funding by $200 million this year, including money to restore educator COLAs.

“There’s no doubt fully funding our K-12 public schools is a monumental task, but it’s the state’s constitutional paramount duty,” Mead said. “Instead of more delays and excuses, we need leadership and solutions.”

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WEA supports proposed changes in educator pay

As part of its efforts to comply with the McCleary Supreme Court decision, the Legislature created a committee to recommend changes on how educators are paid. The Compensation Technical Work Group recommendations include increasing beginning teacher pay to about $48,000 a year. WEA supports the recommendations in their current form and believes they should be funded as part of the McCleary order. Read the complete educator pay recommendations.

Washington is 43rd in student spending, $2,700 below national average

Adjusted for regional cost-differences, Washington now ranks 43rd in student spending. Only seven states invest less per child. The statistic, based on a new report from Education Week, shows Washington’s ranking fell by one slot and that spending in Washington decreased by $184 per-student from the previous report. The new numbers, which are from 2010, show Washington spends $2,679 less per student compared to the national average. Washington is one of only 19 states whose per-pupil funding declined year-over-year from 2009.

Over the last four years, the state has cut approximately $2.6 billion from the K-12 schools budget.

Washington teacher salaries are losing ground

The National Education Association has released its current Rankings & Estimates of state school statistics.

OSPI reports Washington’s average classroom teacher salary of $52,212 for 2011-12. This is a decrease of 1.3 percent ($714) from the 2010-11 reported salary of $52,926.

NEA’s report shows the 2010-11 average salary of $52,926 ranks 21st nationally (down from $53,003 and 19th in 2009-10).

Washington’s reported salary of $52,926 is –

• $2,697 (4.8 percent) BELOW the national average (50 states and DC) of $55,623

• $11,378 (17.7 percent) BELOW the WEST COAST weighted average (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington) of $64,304

Read the full NEA report.


More facts on funding and revenue

“No denying it: At least $10 billion has been cut from the state budget.” Read this report from the Washington State Budget & Policy Center.

Cut deeper or close tax loopholes? Read this compelling comparison from the Our Economic Future Coalition.

Share these news links

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Tight Budgets Mean Squeeze in Classrooms