Among large King County school districts, Seattle Public Schools looks like it would collect the most money per student when the state’s McCleary plan is fully phased in. But there’s a lot that’s not included in new numbers breaking down who gets what in the $7.3 billion funding package.
For weeks, school finance gurus in Olympia have scrambled to make sense of how the Washington Legislature changed public education funding in its hastily prepared and passed state budget.
Their understanding is a lot clearer now, and on Monday, number crunchers at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction released new spreadsheets showing exactly who gets what in the plan to spend $7.3 billion on public schools over the next four years.
The data combines state and local revenues and reports the total on a per-student basis for each of the state’s 295 districts. But while all of them appear to come out ahead, some are still hesitating to celebrate.
What the numbers tell us:
Everybody gets more money — maybe (see below).
Seattle Public Schools comes out on top among the largest districts in King County, collecting nearly $14,500 per student once the McCleary plan reaches full funding in the 2020-21 school year.
And some districts that enroll a large share of students living in poverty — Highline, Renton and Tukwila — will bank more money per kid than affluent districts like Bellevue, Northshore and Shoreline.
Still, districts in wealthier areas can’t complain: Lake Washington, for example, will enjoy a 42 percent boost to its state and local revenues — the highest increase of all King County districts. Tukwila, where nearly three quarters of students live in poverty, will get just a 19 percent increase to its per-pupil funding.
What the numbers don’t tell us:
Federal funds, such as money to support high-poverty schools, are not included in the total revenue data, or grants districts receive from any number of sources. The state also didn’t include money it gives out to districts based on factors that aren’t easily determined in advance, such as salary bonuses for nationally certified teachers.
District officials also have bristled at the idea that everyone’s a winner in the McCleary plan. They argue lawmakers simply swapped local revenues for state spending, so districts won’t be getting as much net new money as the data suggests.
OSPI, in fact, estimated the loss of local revenue actually brings the Legislature’s total $7.3 billion price tag for public education to just $5.6 billion through 2021.
What else we need to know:
According to OSPI, the state Department of Revenue soon will release a more thorough analysis of net new spending with a breakdown of how a mandated drop in local levy rates and a hike in the state property affects each district.