On Feb. 16, the Washington state Economic and Forecast Council reported that revenue projections had increased by $96 million compared to previous projections in November. Below is State Superintendent Randy Dorn’s statement on how the projections, among other recent issues, should impact education funding:
OLYMPIA - February 17, 2012 - It has been a long time since I’ve heard good news on the economic front, so the revenue forecast, coupled with a projected decrease in caseloads, creates great potential for the students in our state.
As I have said many times already: there should be no further cuts to education. But the good news -- with the January Supreme Court decision, McCleary vs. State, that the state isn’t meeting its Constitutional obligation regarding education funding -- allows me to add to my initial statement.
Not only should there be no further cuts, we should begin investing more in education. The Supreme Court said as much in McCleary. We cannot afford to go backward any longer. To make real changes and real reform, we need to provide ample resources. Our educators have been doing more with less. Now we need to allow them to do more with more.
I understand that the current resource picture makes it difficult to make significant forward progress, and I understand that the budget isn't balanced and that legislators have much work to do. For the current budget, I’m simply asking that we put education first -- in accordance with the constitutional requirement -- and make no further cuts.
But make no mistake: we need to make new investments soon -- with or without additional resources. I call on legislators either to find new revenue or prioritize spending for the following investments as soon as possible:
- State funding for full-day kindergarten for all students. The cost is estimated to be an additional $130 million for next year.
- Lower class sizes in Grades K through 3. This essentially restores the enhancement that had been provided to school districts for additional teachers in the early grades. This will help us sustain the gains we make by implementing full-day kindergarten and help struggling students get the help they need to not fall behind. Lowering class sizes to an average of 22 students is estimated to cost $120 million next year.
- Fully fund student transportation. This is a basic need. Full funding will allow districts to reprioritize their local funding to support basic education enhancements, including music, art, sports and other extracurricular activities, and programs that meet individual needs of students, including linking students to social and health services. Funding student transportation fully is estimated to cost $110 million next year.
- Fund basic technology supplies, materials and operating costs. Technology is increasingly a part of our everyday world, but our schools aren’t keeping pace. An initial investment of $50 per student would double the funding we currently provide for this function. No matter where the funding goes, it could make a big difference for our students, and our state being competitive in today’s world. Fifty dollars per student equates to about $50 million.
As a former legislator, I know how difficult it is to prioritize the many needs of our citizens. But it is clear in our Constitution, and in McCleary, that funding basic education is not an option. It is a requirement and a moral imperative. The students of Washington deserve it.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.
OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at (360) 725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.
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The OSPI Communications Office serves as the central point of contact for local, regional and national media covering K-12 education issues.