Today, the leadership in the state House of Representatives and Senate released their supplemental fiscal year 2010 budgets. In 1994, the state’s per pupil spending was $3,707, adjusted for inflation. The state Senate’s proposed budget for 2010 is $3,815 per student, just $108 per student more than 16 years ago and down $311 from 2007.
While both budgets decrease K-12 public education funding, the Senate’s version would cut approximately $650 million for the 2010-11 school year. Below is a statement from State Superintendent Randy Dorn on the impact of the budgets:
Both chambers of the Legislature today made an attempt to lessen the blow to education funding. The Senate budget, however, still makes cuts to education that will have real impacts on real students. As this legislative session moves into its final days, I will urge the Legislature to support the House’s funding levels for our schools.
The Senate budget significantly cuts funding for the K-4 staffing ratio enhancement, reduces the funding districts have to hire classified staff and cuts funding for Initiative 728. What would these cuts mean to our schools? The elimination of about 2,500 teachers and more than 300 bus drivers, secretaries and other classified staff; the increasing of class sizes in our kindergarten through fourth grade; and the loss to school districts of more than 450,000 hours districts will have facilities maintenance and cleaning.
If I ask myself if today’s students have the same quality of education as their counterparts of three years ago, I would definitely say no. We are moving backward with education funding and putting more of a burden on local school districts. That’s just not right.
The bottom line is, we are now more dependent than ever on local levies for funding public education and that creates an alarming equity issue.
Even raising revenue doesn’t get us back to our 2007 funding levels, and those are the figures a King County Superior Court judge recently ruled weren’t enough to amply fund basic education.
Our education system is much more complex than when we first enacted education reform in 1994, and that’s about where the Senate’s proposed funding puts us. We have nearly 10 percent more low-income students and double the number of English-language learners (with 202 languages spoken by K-12 students). We have got to get serious about this. We’re asking educators to do much more with not nearly enough.
Let’s be clear, neither of these budgets meets our constitutional requirement to amply fund basic education. When we don’t put education funding first, students suffer. As the state’s education leader, I will let both chambers know their budgets continue to underfund education and do not ensure all our students are provided a meaningful, equitable education.