Olympia - July 22, 2010 - A number of recent media reports have given the impression that education will be protected if Gov. Gregoire imposes “across the board” budget cuts. I want to make sure that the public knows that those cuts will negatively impact education in this state.
I was in the Legislature and understand the difficulties in making budget decisions. But education cuts will hurt our students and our communities, and they will impact our long-term economic competitiveness.
The first section of Article IX of the Washington State Constitution states that “ample provisions for the education of all children” in Washington is “the paramount duty of the state.” After years of underfunding by the state, a series of court cases in the 1970s and 1980s clarified “ample provisions.” The result was a basic education system comprised of six categories: general apportionment, special education, bilingual education, institutional education, Learning Assistance Program (LAP) and pupil transportation.
Each of the six must be fully funded. But nothing else in education is protected. During the 2010 Legislative session, legislators faced huge budget deficits, and made a number of cuts to state-funded education programs. Despite the challenging times, the Legislature felt that a number of non-basic education programs were important enough to fund, programs such as full-day kindergarten, levy equalization, funding for reading support, school nursing support and food services. One specific program, for example, allowed students who qualified for reduced meals to receive them for free.
All of these programs will be subjected to across-the-board cuts if the Governor utilizes her authority to make such cuts. And these are programs that largely serve our students and schools most in need of additional funding.
While no one yet knows whether the federal government will provide the Medicaid funds that had been anticipated by the state, we do know that education is already underfunded by the state, as the King County Superior Court ruled in February. An additional three to five percent cut to programs that support basic education will force districts either to cut these much-needed programs or find the money elsewhere. The students of our state don’t deserve that.
The OSPI Communications Office serves as the central point of contact for local, regional and national media covering K-12 education issues.