Washington State is cutting its budget. Again. On Thursday Governor Christine Gregoire released a list of potential cuts to be considered when the state legislature returns to Olympia to plug the latest $1.4 billion hole in our state budget. To do so they need to cut roughly $2 billion dollars (to have a reserve) from the state budget. That means that roughly 20% of the state’s discretionary budget needs to be cut. Among the largest possible cuts to education are:
- Eliminate State Need Grant financial aid to students – $303 million (when college tuition has jumped 8.3% in the last year)
- Reduce state support to colleges and universities by 20 percent – $222 million (which would exacerbate the tuition problem mentioned above)
- Eliminate school bus transportation – $220 million (except for that required by law)
- Increase class size by two students in grades 4-12 – $137 million (on top of previous increases)
- Reduce school year by one week — from 180 to 175 days – $125.0 million
- Eliminate full-day kindergarten – $38 million (so much for emphasizing early learning)
Not all of these will be adopted, but with all the belt tightening since 2009 (according to the governor’s Fact Sheet $18 billion has been cut so far from the general budget) it is difficult to justify why any one of these should be cut while the others survive. The state court system has already ruled that Washington is not living up to its constitutional duty to adequately fund public education. (It was called the NEWS lawsuit; the state has appealed the ruling.) In January of 2009, the state’s own Joint Task Force on Basic Education Funding concluded that “…all current K–12 funding should be retained. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the state’s K–12 system is underfunded. To make cuts to the education of the state’s children would be contrary to the paramount duty that is so clearly stated in our Washington State Constitution.”
Unless the Obama administration’s jobs bill magically gains traction in the other Washington, it appears there isn’t any help coming from the federal level.
Normally at this point in an article I would find the silver lining. But I’m not finding one here. Is there one out there somewhere? Are any states turning around their education funding? Or are other states in the same situation as Washington? Can anyone put an optimist’s spin on these numbers?