House Democrats’ proposed budget would cut Charter School Commission funding

Feb 23, 2016

Yesterday, House Democratic leaders introduced a proposed supplemental budget to make spending changes for the rest of fiscal year 2016 and for fiscal year 2017. The text of the proposed bill is available here.  Section 517 of the bill would cut funding for the Washington State Charter School Commission from $1.5 million to $926,000, a 38% reduction. Here is what it says in the proposed budget (figures shown in parentheses represent current funding levels):


General Fund—State Appropriation (FY 2016) . . . . . . (($490,000))


General Fund—State Appropriation (FY 2017) . . . . . . (($336,000))


Charter Schools Oversight Account—State Appropriation. (($737,000))


TOTAL APPROPRIATION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . (($1,563,000)) $926,000


The Charter School Oversight Account is the one established by the voter-approved charter school law to receive the four percent of charter school funding to pay for central administration. (In traditional public school budgets an average of 40% is devoted to central administration.) 

This 4% fee pays the costs of the Washington State Charter School Commission, which provides state accountability and oversight for charter schools. The Commission is budgeted at $737,000 in the 2015-17 biennial budget. The proposed House Democratic budget would cut that to $100,000.

One view is that the cut to the Commission should be of little concern because the budget funds current obligations only, and charter schools are no longer a priority because the supreme court cancelled their funding.

Others say the House Democrats’ budget is a cause for worry, because the budget assumes the passage of other bills, known in the jargon as “Necessary to Implement the Budget,” that indicate what state programs should receive full funding. So the House Democratic budget could have included full funding for the Charter School Commission if the sponsors had assumed passage of SB 6194/HB 2367, the bills to save charter schools. SB 6194 has already passed the state Senate, and it is now being discussed in the House of Representatives. 

The budget process is certainly fluid and dynamic, and circumstances can change overnight. Nevertheless, the current draft of the House Democrats’ proposed budget seems to assume that more charter schools would not receive funding in the future, exactly the opposite of what a large group of bipartisan lawmakers in both houses are working to achieve.

This report is part of WPC’s Charter School Follow-Up Project  



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