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Rolfes says education needs $1 billion more a year

POULSBO — If the Washington State Legislature were to receive an “A” grade on how well it funds education, it would need to come up with at least $1 billion in additional funding each year.

That’s according to state Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, who said the challenge is to find more funding for public schools without weakening the rest of the state.

Rolfes, a member of the Joint Task Force on Education Funding, gave a short presentation on education funding Tuesday during the Legislative Roundtable at the North Kitsap School District administrative building.

Rolfes was joined by Reps. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, and Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island.

Rolfes showed a funding model that would increase money provided to public education until the 2018-19 fiscal year. If all went well, funding would be increased by $43.6 million this year, $1.05 billion in 2014-15, $2.5 billion in 2016-17, $3.3 billion in 2018-19.

The increased funding model is under the assumption that: — Each area of education with a funding increase is implemented linearly.— The base value from which the estimated model is built is the current enacted budget.— Caseload growth is based on the June 2012 Caseload Forecast.— K-12 salary reduction in the 2011-13 biennium is restored (1.9 percent for CIS, 3 percent for administrative and classified staff).

The revisions to the definition of basic education (increase in instructional time from 1,000 hours to 1,080 hours and increased graduation credit requirements) are not included in the model.

The Legislature must fully fund basic education by the 2018-19 school year.

In the 2011-13 biennium, the Legislature appropriated $13.6 billion in funding for public schools from the near-general fund. The near-general fund is a combination of the state general fund and the education legacy trust account — they are referred together because fund transfers between the two are common.

Human services accounted for $11.4 billion of the near-general fund.

Higher education received $2.6 billion.

Debt service, pensions, etc, received $2.3 billion.

General government received $800 million. Natural resources received $300 million.

Additionally, increasing funding transportation must be done by the 2013-15 biennium.

Average class sizes for kindergarten through third grade must be no more than 17 full-time equivalent students per teacher in the 2017-18 year. All-day kindergarten must be available statewide.

Funding for maintenance, supplies and operating costs (MSOC) must be allocated with adjustments annually for inflation.

In order for the state to increase education funding, it’s going to require an increased operating budget. The budget will need to increase by about $37 billion in order to increase funding to education and not make budget cuts.

To keep state contributions where they are currently, without cutting but not increasing education funding, would cost about $17 billion in additional revenue.

If revenue is not increased but funding to education does, it will require between $1.6 billion to $3.5 billion in cuts.

In order to fully fund everything, Washington needs an income tax, Appleton said.

“It’s the only thing that will make us whole again,” she said.

Other ways to increase state tax revenue would be: increase tax rates (sales and use tax, business and occupation tax, property tax); expand tax base (repealing or narrowing tax preferences); impose new taxes, such as income tax.

However, Washington voters reaffirmed the Legislature needs a two-thirds vote to increase taxes. Initiative 1185 limits the financial burden it places on taxpayers. Voters have enacted or reaffirmed the two-thirds vote four times, first in 1993. It’s nearly a 20-year-old law.

While the state is working to fully fund basic education, the North Kitsap School District is still struggling with decreasing enrollment.

According to documents on the district’s website, 469 students live within NKSD’s boundaries but opt to attend other districts. NKSD receives 78 students from other districts.

Central Kitsap receives the highest number of students from NKSD — 260 as of the October count.

School districts in Washington receive an average of $5,800 in funding per student.

Schools receive funding from the state, local taxes, federal government and other revenues and reserves.

During the 2010-11 school year, about $6.4 billion of school district budgets came from state sources, $1.8 billion came from local taxes, $1.2 billion came from the federal government, and more than $400 million came from other revenues and reserves.

 

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