Olympia - August 23, 2010 - Earlier this month, state agencies were asked to prepare budgets with six percent cuts now and an additional four percent for the next biennium. Those cuts will include education. They will include cuts to all-day kindergarten, cuts to extra teachers in early grades and cuts to food services.
I strongly oppose any and all further cuts to education, and I call on the Governor and the Legislature to do whatever is necessary to avoid the cuts.
The lagging economy has taken its toll on everyone and everything. We are facing dire times – the most dire in the three decades I’ve been involved in education.
But now is the time to recommit to education, not to run away from it.
I took office thinking that the education budget would continue at its maintenance level. During the past two years, state funding for our public schools has been cut by $1.9 billion. The federal money we received during that time has helped some, but that money won’t last forever. When it ends, we’ll be faced with a very large funding cliff.
In addition, the state has shifted its financial responsibility to local districts. Initiative 728, for example, was supposed to give about $450 per student to help reduce class sizes and to provide extra help for students and professional development for teachers. Washington has about one million students, so that’s $450 million the state isn’t funding.
Where is that money coming from? Local levies. The money that was the state’s responsibility is coming out of taxpayer’s pockets.
Our current funding system is based in part on the concept of “basic education.” Once a program is placed under that umbrella, funding for it is supposed to be provided in full. But this hasn’t happened. In February, the King County Superior Court reaffirmed that the state underfunds basic education.
Also, there isn’t a single educator in Washington who will tell you that basic education covers all our students’ needs. Additional cuts will eliminate teachers and paraprofessionals and classified employees, which will lead to fewer students getting individualized help. The students most at risk will fall farther behind.
Funding education is not only the paramount duty of the state, it’s the right thing to do. More cuts will continue to hurt Washington’s students.