SB 6362 would cut Running Start education funding by $30 million a year

Feb 27, 2018

The main education funding bill now moving through the legislature, SB 6362, includes a provision, Section 407, that would cut Running Start funding by $30 million a year.  The funding cut targets students seeking to finish their GED or high school diploma and get on track for college.

The Running Start program provides educational funding for about 26,000 high school juniors and seniors by allowing them to take courses at community and technical colleges.  The program has been in place for 27 years, and has helped thousands of Washington young people get a strong start on higher education.

The program is especially useful to students who have dropped out of traditional public schools.  Running Start gives a student a second chance, the opportunity to complete high school at a local community college, then move on to college-level courses.

It also provides students with affordable access to college.  The popular program continues to grow each year as college costs rise.  Overall, Running Start is one of the most successful and popular educational programs in the state.

SB 6362 seeks to cut Running Start by freezing the rate per student.  Public education administrators report the bill would result in a $16 million revenue reduction for Running Start next year, and $30 million revenue reduction for every year after.

SB 6362 has passed the Senate and is currently being considered in the House.

In committee testimony, representatives of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges expressed their grave concerns about Section 407:

“Running Start students are K-12 students and funding for their basic education should follow them to their respective community and technical college campus. This has been a policy position of the legislature, OSPI and SBCTC since the creation of the Running Start program 27 years ago.

“In addition, it’s a great investment for the state because you get four years of educational attainment for two years of investment.

In addition, Running Start saves the average family $34,000 in higher education expense…  If this bill moves forward as currently written our ability and willingness to maintain and sustain robust Running Start programs in every legislative district in the state will be compromised. We respectfully request that you strike Section 407.” 

(Source: Timothy Stokes, President, South Sound Community College, Chair of Community and Technical College Legislative Affairs Committee .  At 4:07:52)

Public education faces many problems, from lack of school choice to persistent achievement gaps to high drop-out rates.  Yet here is one program everyone agrees is working and enjoys broad bi-partisan support.  That’s Running Start.  Why in the world would any lawmaker vote to cut it?

In a divisive time of sharp debate over the direction of public education, shouldn’t we at least fully fund one program we can all agree is working for students?