Finding: State budget increases show Washington’s public schools are not underfunded
School superintendents are receiving $3.8 billion more and still seek budget increases
Background – recent increases in public spending on schools
In recent years, the state legislature has enacted massive increases in state spending for public schools. In the 2017-19 state budget school district superintendents are receiving an increase of $3.8 billion from the legislature, bringing average per-student spending to $13,243, more than the tuition at many private schools.
Superintendents will receive billions of additional tax dollars in the 2019-21 state budget. These dollars represent the largest increase in state history, and they place Washington state among the most generously-funded schools in the country.
The legislature has been sharply increasing state spending on public school districts since the 2012 ruling of the state supreme court in McCleary v. State of Washington. The legislature delegated this task to the Education Funding Task Force, a bipartisan committee representing Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate.
Superintendents still seek more funding
After three special sessions, the legislature in 2017 passed EHB 2242, the highly complex and interconnected product of the Education Funding Task Force. This law re-organizes the structure of public education funding to conform to the requirements of the McCleary case and to further increase the tax funding K-12 school superintendents receive by billions of dollars.
On November 15, 2017, the state supreme court acknowledged the legislature had met its constitutional duty to fund the schools. Yet school district superintendents are still traveling to Olympia to complain that their budgets are underfunded.
This Legislative Memo reports the facts of recent school spending increases, with an analysis of the reasons why some superintendents say they are still dissatisfied with the increase in new state revenue they are receiving.