Fact checking the Washington Policy Center's claims about education funding

The right wing Washington Policy Center has the following to say about the state education budget: “Washington’s school children had little to celebrate as lawmakers added $1.5 billion in new spending to an inefficient, unreformed K-12 public education system” (Key education reforms die leaving Washington’s school children little to celebrate).

Is the $1.5 billion figure for K-12 correct?

K12 education

Apparently not.

The Seattle Times says the budget “adds $1 billion to basic education, a leap toward fulfilling the Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling requiring the state to fully fund schools.”

According to Goldy in the Stranger, the budget lists

$295 million in policy compensation changes—mostly the money saved by once again suspending cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for teachers. The actual “Total Policy Changes” as listed on the legislature’s own budget document (pdf) is $648,594,000. That’s how much more money we’re really putting into our K-12 schools: $648.6 million… unless, of course, you don’t consider teacher pay to be a legitimate cost of operating public schools.      FYI, teachers will now go six years without a COLA raise, leaving them 16 percent behind inflation.  (Source: Surprise: The Billion Dollars in New Money for K-12 Schools Isn’t Really a Billion Dollars!)

House budget leader Ross Hunter wrote on his facebook page, “$1 billion for K12, 12% increase for higher ed.” [And in response to my query about Goldy’s claim, he defended the $1 billion figure: “A billion dollars in new money went into K12. We did not give teachers a cost of living increase. We didn’t give anyone, including legislators, a cost of living increase. I can’t imagine that we don’t do them in the next budget – we are now soundly out of the recession.”]

This Week In Olympia With Austin Jenkins reports that the legislature paid $1 billion, not $1.5 billion. (Listen to the podcast with Ross Reynolds.)

In the McCleary decision, the state Supreme Court demanded that the legislature spend $4.5 billion more on education.

Julianna Krueger Dauble of the Washington Education Association writes, “The legislature claims to put $1 billion into education. Don’t believe the hype! It is largely PAID FOR by teachers.”

Former legislator Brendan Williams says:

I fear we’re further from implementing the McCleary mandate than at session’s start, given unsustainable fund transfers, reliance (again) upon suspending funding for teacher pay increases, the July 1 expiration of taxes raised in 2010, and the message the public now receives from chortling Republicans like Gary Alexander and Don Benton that new taxes were never necessary. There is no more baling wire left. We need revenue. Come 2015 what are we going to do — raid public works again, deny teachers’ pay increases again, keep nursing home costs based on 2007 costs again (through 2017 this time), etc.?

I submitted a comment to Washington Policy Center’s little article asking them to defend their claim of $1.5 billion in new funding. I’ll be curious to see whether they approve the comment and respond.

Washington Policy Center also says that only 59 cents per dollar reach the classroom. Is that true?  And is it true that Washington public schools are inefficient? How do they compare to other states?  Stay tuned for more fact checking.

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