Superintendent Reykdal’s Budget Moves K–12 Education Forward

The proposal aims to close opportunity gaps by increasing spending on comprehensive supports, pathways to graduation, and creating a new model for funding elementary school buildings.

Infographic: 2019–2021 Budget Proposal: transforming education by closing gaps and supporting all students.

More nurses and middle school counselors. Dual language education. Increased funding for students with disabilities.

These and other items are included in Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal’s requests for the 2019–21 Operating and Capital Budgets.

“The Legislature has made great strides in education funding,” Reykdal said. “But we can’t continue to use a 10-year-old funding model that was not enough even at the time it was created. Our students deserve an education system that does not allow opportunity gaps to persist. That can only happen if our system provides equitable opportunities and individual learning pathways for each student.”

Budget proposal

Following two surveys of the public, Reykdal’s budget priorities center on six foundational ideas. Most of them will prioritize schools who are most in need of support before being phased-in to full funding across all buildings. A summary of a few of the proposals is below.

  • Inclusive and effective learning and teaching. $180 million would increase funding for students with disabilities and provide additional professional learning days for all school staff.
  • Comprehensive supports. $60 million would provide more school nurses, middle school counselors, and family and community engagement coordinators.
  • Multiple pathways to graduation. $65 million would expand dual credit and career and technical education (CTE) programs, including opportunities for students to receive required academic credits in CTE courses.
  • Expanded learning opportunities. $10 million would fund a pilot program for school districts or tribal compact schools to extend or expand the school day or year, or switch to a year-round schedule.
  • Safe and effective school facilities. $400 million would allow OSPI to create a new funding model for elementary schools, which will build capacity to meet the state’s K–3 class size ratios. The proposal would also create a new program to assist primarily rural schools in preserving and maintaining buildings.
  • Dual language. $14 million would allow 12 additional school districts and tribal compact schools to receive competitive grant funding for dual language programs. Funding would also expand capacity to teach in these programs by providing stipends and bonuses to bilingual teachers and paraeducators.

Reykdal outlined many of these ideas when he unveiled his long-term vision for K–12 education in May 2017.

“We have to look years into the future,” he said. “The old model of basic education was only the first step. We need to shift our focus onto what will transform our educational system. Our system can only claim success if it truly provides equitable opportunity and an unprecedented embrace of individual learning pathways for each student.”

Bringing balance to local funding

Another key aspect of Reykdal’s budget priorities involves addressing inequities created by recent changes to education funding.

Last year, the Legislature capped the amount of money school districts can raise through local levies. State law now allows districts to collect no more than the lesser of two amounts: $2,500 per student or $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value in the district.

Reykdal proposes a much simpler levy plan, where total levy authority cannot exceed 22 percent of a school district’s state and federal revenues.

“Without critical changes, the reduction in levies will leave some districts in a very tough financial situation,” said Reykdal. “We were never comfortable with taking away the ability of local communities to enhance their schools. Local levies typically fund afterschool programs, early learning, and other vital programs. School districts need to have more flexibility so they can meet the individual needs of their communities.”

Reykdal will propose a capital gains tax, which will generate about $1 billion per year. Under Reykdal’s proposal, half of that money will go toward reducing state property taxes to ease the burden on homeowners if districts want to increase levies. The other half will be spent on OSPI’s proposed budget priorities.

Reykdal also urged the Legislature to reexamine its regionalization model, which provides more money for some districts with higher property values. Reykdal said the model was a unique calculation for each district and not regionally based.

“Educators do not necessarily live in the districts where they teach,” he said. “The new model creates funding levels for neighboring districts that share no real differences in housing values or cost of living. Southwest Washington was hit particularly hard by this model.”

Second budget survey results

A survey taken this past spring asked Washingtonians to identify their priorities in K–12 education. A second survey, completed at the end of the summer, asked the public to allocate funding to the top seven categories identified in the first survey by more than 30,000 respondents.

Those taking the second survey allocated more than half of the total funding to the following three categories: student support services (21.1 percent), class size reductions (18.3 percent), and effective buildings and facilities for learning (14.7 percent).

Comparison of Budget Allocations Across Respondent Type

*n=sample size

*The “Other Educators” grouping includes survey participants who indicated they are a superintendent, school board director, principal, school or district administrator, classified employee, paraeducator, educational staff associate, non-profit employee working with schools, or other.

“The public has been very clear about what is important to them,” Reykdal said. “This input was invaluable to us as we built our budget requests.”

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