This will be a difficult year for short-term funding of education in Washington, and in almost all of the other states. In 2009 we cut everything that moved in the budget, but made the smallest cuts in the K-12 budget. I expect this to be true in 2010 as well, and will work hard to keep it that way.
Last year we passed HB2261, the start of a long-term process to re-write how our state funds public education. As is typical, I am willing to make changes more rapidly than many of my co-workers, and much more rapidly than the many, many vested interests in the existing system. I’m learning to be more patient, though it’s very painful. In reality, getting it right is pretty important. Last year we approved the outline for about half of the changes that need to happen, and set up a process to get the other parts closer to decisions.
First, the legislature agreed that we would adopt the “model school proposal” for laying out how much money is necessary to fund a school. I wrote about this extensively last year, and would urge you to review the proposal by reading one of the two following links:
A task force was created to implement the model schools part, with a report due in December. This leaves enough time to work out the details in legislation before the session so we can get it done this year. I’m a little nervous about what will happen – the process gets resolved this week. I’ll write about what they do next week.
Compensation, in particular any changes to the current seniority and education-based system that might make it more based on demonstrated performance are the work of a task force that starts this spring. We may want to accelerate this in response to the race to the top funding proposal.
The balance between local levies and state funding is also outstanding, and the subject of a workgroup this summer. This is particularly complex, with significant differences of opinion based on where in the state you live.
All of this is almost made moot by the dramatic decline in revenue the state is experiencing. Last year we cut $1.5 billion from the K-12 budget, and I can see further cuts coming this year given the dramatic decline we are experiencing in revenue overall. Trying to do the planning on how we will come out of this recession in a smart way is critical, and that will be the result of the entire project. I’m hopefully optimistic.