State budget gives FW schools clearer view of funding

With the release of Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget proposal, and the Washington State Senate budget last week, Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) own budget planning is getting a bit clearer.

“While we don’t know yet the final outcome of this legislative session, I believe it is safe to say we will see some increase in K-12 funding next year,” said Sally McLean, FWPS Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, during the school board’s April 9 meeting.

McLean compared and contrasted Inslee’s budget to the Senate budget, looking at four major components that the state is obligated to fund in the wake of last year’s State Supreme Court decision in McCleary vs. State of Washington. Those are expanding all-day kindergarten; K-3 class size reductions; materials, supplies and operational costs (MSOC) increases; and basic transportation funding.

“In our state, 22 percent of the poorest students are served in all-day kindergarten,” she said. “The governor’s budget proposes increasing that to 50.7 percent…The Senate budget released that at a lower amount, but still at an increase at 30 percent.”

In terms of Federal Way, Inslee’s budget would allow the district to offer all-day kindergarten in 14 of the district’s 23 elementary schools, while the Senate budget would allow that number to increase from six schools to eight.

For the K-3 class size reduction, only Inslee’s budget would bring that number down, while the Senate budget would keep it static at one teacher for every 24.1 students. Inslee’s budget would drop that ratio to one teacher per 20 students.

For the transportation funding, McLean noted that both the governor and Senate budgets indicate only that it would be “fully funded,” but that the mechanisms to achieve that fully funded status are yet to be described.

The MSOC funding, which is at $554.57 for districts, would increase to $788.90 under the governor’s proposal, and to $646.53 under the Senate proposal. McLean said the two proposals reached that increase in different ways, especially the Senate proposal.

“The Senate budget reduces substantially the MSOC funding for career and technical education (CTE),” she said. “If we were to lose half of our CTE funding, that would have an impact, or cause us to have a discussion on whether we’d (continue) to fund it at that higher rate or not.”

McLean noted that both budget proposals would also increase funding for Learning Assistance Programs (LAP), which are aimed at helping students who need supplemental instruction in reading or math. Once again, the mechanisms to increase the funding are arrived at in very different ways in the two proposals. McLean said the Senate budget achieves its increase by eliminating other supplemental learning programs currently in existence.

Even though the picture is clearer for the district, unknowns still remain, McLean cautioned.

“We still have some significant unknowns at this time. We don’t know what’s in the House budget (released April 10). We won’t really know what’s in the final budget until the day after the Legislature adjourns, which is currently April 28,” she said. “We’re not sure what sort of requirements might come out of this legislative session.”

McLean also noted that with the budget fights that have marked the last few years in Olympia, she feels “hopeful, but not optimistic” that the Legislature will adjourn on time, and allow the district to be able to present its budget on May 28.


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