The trial between school groups and the state started Monday, potentially starting education reform in the state.
Network for Excellence in Washington Schools, a coalition of school groups and districts (including Bellingham), is arguing the state doesn’t live up to the Constitution in how it funds education. By law, the state must provide “ample” funding for “basic education.” To read the Seattle Times story about the history of the case, click here. To see my previous School Days posts, click here or here.
Of course, not everyone thinks schools are underfunded. The Washington Policy Center posted this blog yesterday, outlining how schools have received nothing but loads of money. The conservative group argues that public schools receive about $10,000 per pupil per year, which is 1/3 more than private schools spend per student (the actual general fund money the district receives per student is about $5,000; other state special program funding may bring the total to $10,000, but I’m not sure), the number of employees has risen faster than the number of students, the Legislature increased education funding by 2.8 percent even in a tight budget and more than half of school district employees are not teachers.
The debate over education funding is really about the definition of “basic education.” Some of what students and parents expect to see and have access to at school — including computers, music classes, athletics, small class sizes, field trips, technology-related courses, specialty classes, pre-school and all-day kindergarten — are not deemed “basic education” and therefore aren’t funded by the state. However, this past winter and spring, as school districts were trying to slash budgets, these are the things parents and teachers didn’t want to see cut.
So where’s the balance? Any thoughts about how we can fix education funding and spending?
State officials, including Superintendent Randy Dorn, are working on answering some of the questions about what basic education should include and how it should be funded, as outlined in the reform bill that was passed by the Legislature last spring. State Sen. Kevin Ranker recently spent time with teachers in Anacortes to get input from them about how reform should be handled in the state.
“A lot of teachers are concerned about compensation and certification, but the overriding concern was about how we go about funding the world-class education that our children need and deserve,” Ranker said. “This is why the reform bill is so critical. Even during this recession we need to be looking forward and figuring out hte best investmnet for the students in our classrooms.”