Tuesday, April 9, 2013

State Board speaks out on funding . . .

I found this post on the Washington State Board of Education site comparing K-12 funding in 1993 to 2013 interesting given the current rhetoric about the increases in dollars spent on K-12 education over time without increased accountability. They make the case that state funding results in the creation of a shaky foundation.  I would also suggest that over this same period of time there have been increases in accountability, but that would be for another post.

The chart above shows staffing formulas in place in 1993 and in 2013 that drive the majority of state funding to school systems in the state. (See the bottom of the post for additional information.)  The authors use the chart to begin the case that funding categories haven't changed much over time.

It turns out that the foundation of the budget, General Apportionment, hasn’t kept pace with the rise in inflation or increase in student enrollment since 1993. 

I believe that this may be misleading.  First, when enrollment goes up we do receive more funding through these apportionment formulas.  More students drive more dollars in each category.  Second, at one time the formula for K-4 CIS (Certified Instructional Staff or teachers) was actually 54 per 1000 full time students.  Over time, however, that number decreased to 53.2 then back to 49 in 2010/11 when legislators faced budget shortfalls.  They were able to make those cuts because increasing the staffing ratio to 54 was an enhancement to the "basic education" formula that was established in statute at 49.

When times were flush legislators recognized the need to staff those grades at a lower class size, but that action was not driven by a deep understanding and commitment.  It was a response to a need that made sense if revenue was available.  Deep commitments do not succumb to revenue shortfalls, those responsible search for adaptive solutions.  It is interesting to watch this now play out once again in Olympia with the focus on all day kindergarten and lowering K-3 class size.  Since these are driven by the new definition of "basic education" it  will be more difficult, once implemented, to take it away.

The post goes on to share comparisons of salaries and benefits and categorical programs over the same period of time.  It goes on to make the case that increases in state funding compared to inflation have not come in staffing or salary, but in these categorical programs.

K-3 CIS - Certified Instructional Staff ( Teachers)
4-12 CIS - Certified Instructional Staff ( Teachers)
K-12 CAS - Certified Administrative Staff
K-12 CS - Classified Staff (Clerical, Maintenance/Custodial)

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