Education funding reform: Federal Way schools watch state

Federal Way Public Schools will continue to keep an eye on education funding issues throughout 2012, said school board member and legislative liaison Ed Barney.

At the board's Jan. 10 meeting, Barney touched on the Washington State Supreme Court ruling that the state Legislature has failed to meet its constitutional obligation in funding public education in the state. Barney said the Jan. 5 ruling is a step forward.

"Last Thursday, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the state had not complied with its obligation for public school education, and the court has deferred it to the Legislature to fix the problem. The state has been given until 2018 to make those reforms," Barney said. "The 85-page opinion said, however, that the judiciary would keep an eye on the lawmakers to make sure they fully implement education reforms by 2018. I think they're stuck with that date, which is good, because now they'll have to move forward."

State superintendent Randy Dorn says he plans on keeping a close eye on the Legislature and its efforts to fund education in the state. In a Jan. 5 response, Dorn said he was happy to see the State Supreme Court vote in favor of the students, and he stands ready to keep fighting.

"(The) unanimous ruling by the State Supreme Court is a clear victory for the students of Washington State," Dorn said. "The ruling confirms what I have been saying for many years: education funding has not been adequate, and further cuts are out of the question. The court could not have been clearer about this when it wrote 'The state has failed to meet its duty under article IX, section 1, by consistently providing school districts with a level of resources that falls short of the actual costs of the basic education program.'"

"I am also glad that the court will continue to monitor the case, and I stand ready to help the Legislature identify the basic elements of basic education that remain unfunded or inappropriately funded," Dorn added.

Outside of the Supreme Court case, Barney also touched on Gov. Christine Gregoire's State of the State Address, given on Jan. 10. In her address, Gregoire once again pushed for a three-year, half-cent tax increase to help continue funding public education. One of the mechanisms that this is done through is what's known as Levy Equalization funds, or Local Effort Assistance (LEA) funds, a revenue stream that puts approximately $7 million in the Federal Way Public Schools coffers each year. Barney shared statistics on LEA funds and district's in the state.

"We have a lot of things moving along in the state, and hopefully, we'll be able to not see any cuts in the levy equalization. 90 districts do not rely on LEA. Out of the 256 (districts in the state), there's 166 that are heavily reliant on LEA funds to fund basic education," Barney said.


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