So…Washington States Supreme Court held, in the McCleary decision, that the State wasn’t meeting its Constitutional mandate to fully fund schools. After playing with the situation for a few years the Legislature passed a MASSIVE increase in state property taxes of almost $1/$1000 of assessed value in 2018. Property owners saw their taxes rise $500-$750-$1000-$1500 or more. The State increased school district funding but required districts to reduce their maintenance and operations levies to a max of $1.50/$1000 effective Jan 1, 2019.
How much money has the State put into K-12 education over the past ~30 years?
The Seattle Times (as liberal a newspaper as there is in Washington State) just published a story that can be found in this link: Seattle Times We’ve pulled some pieces of information from that story below. Please read their entire article to make sure you are getting their views.
The following graph shows the change in funding from 1980 projected through 2021. Please take a close look:
As you can see, in 1980, 49% of the State budget went to K-12 education. Fast forward to 2018 and we are back at 49% of the State budget. The percent of the budget got as low as 40% and is projected to hit 54% by 2021 based on current laws. In 2018 there will be over $10 billion in funding. There are ~1,115,000 students in K-12 in Washington State. That works out to ~$9,058 per student. This does NOT include local levy monies. Some districts have levies for “Enrichment” (= the old maintenance and operations) plus technology levies. Depending on the school district that can add another $2,000 to $4,000 per student per year = $11,000 to $13,000 range per district. So over 50% of the entire State budget moving forward.
Most school districts are already forecasting multimillion-dollar shortfalls for years to come. Will lawmakers roll back parts of their court-ordered plan to increase state spending on education? Less than a year has passed since the Legislature injected nearly $1 billion into Washington’s public-school system. But districts from Seattle to Vancouver have warned that unless lawmakers offer them a lifeline, their financial straits could force them to cut budgets and lay off staff.
How did we get here?
Last year, the state Supreme Court granted its blessing to the conclusion of the decade long school-finance case known as McCleary. The case officially closed in June, after legislators agreed to pour an additional $776 million — for teacher and other school staff salaries — into local district coffers. “It’s done,” declared one of the plaintiffs whose family was the namesake of the lawsuit.
Still, 191 of the state’s 295 school districts are already in the red, according to a Seattle Times analysis of districts’ own financial projections.
As of late 2018, 253 of the 295 districts expect to face a budget shortfall this upcoming school year, according to their four-year spending plans. More than a third of all districts anticipate drawing down their entire cash reserves through 2022. And though school districts are required by law to have balanced budgets, some even project their reserves will fall into negative territory.
Another look at the spending on K-12 schools shows….
Have results changed? Have students performed better on tests? The simple answer is…NO. Actually test scores on the annual SBAc show large declines across the board
So districts are going to go into the RED…showing deficits. Some already are. The short-term driver of deficits? Wage increases. We could get into a discussion about value and who’s owed what…but the elephant in the room is personnel costs which account for ~80% of every school districts budget.
- Raise taxes more
- Cut costs…which means cutting personnel.f
There is a big gorilla in the room that no one’s talking about…property value declines. The economy is cyclical. Every 8-12 years the economy retracts (called a recession) and sometimes retracts harder (2007-2008 is a recent example). In this last retraction property values dropped as much as 30-40%. Since the legislature tied school funding to property values (called assessed values) that means a decline in values will reduce taxes due from property owners. If property values dropped by 30% in say 2020 the State and local school districts would collectively receive ~$3-5 BILLION less. What would that mean? Cut personnel even more…OR…raise tax rates. People may have an issue to paying even more as their value drop and their income gets stretched.
What do you see in the future? In the near term school districts will be begging the State for more money or to approve higher levy rates and unions will demand more money and taxpayers will scream they have nothing left to give…and this assumes the Democrats do NOT get an income tax, capital gains tax or carbon tax or new transportation taxes….it’s up to you to speak up.