Skip to main content

Originally published December 3, 2014 at 4:03 PM | Page modified December 4, 2014 at 9:05 AM

  • Share:
  • Comments
  • Print

Editorial: Education funding needs to be for more than K-12

As state lawmakers address mandates to boost funding for kindergarten through 12th grade schools, they must also consider the needs of early learning and higher education students.

Seattle Times Editorial

Reader Comments
Hide / Show comments
Cannot believe the continued stupidity of ST. I-1351 requires lowering off class size. So does the McCleary decision.... MORE
@dolphingirlxx It is called part of being a member of society. MORE
Start funding what is mandated first, then ask for more from us. Let's start with with paying for six periods of... MORE


MORE money will flow into Washington’s kindergarten through high-school programs in the next two years, but state lawmakers must ensure that doesn’t come at a cost to early and higher education.

The state’s education system should foster student success from ages 3 to 23, but unlike K-12, funding for pre-K and higher education arguably are not protected by the state Constitution.

During the 2013-2015 budget cycle, Washington put $15.3 billion or about 45 percent of total state spending into K-12 education. For the next two budget cycles, the Legislature faces the challenging task of managing two major demands for education funding.

The first is complying with the McCleary decision, a state Supreme Court ruling mandating the state to fully fund basic education, which requires close to $5.7 billion in additional funding during the next four years.

The second is Initiative 1351, a ballot measure voters approved in November that limits class sizes and calls for hiring 25,000 more school staff. The state Office of Financial Management estimates that would require an additional $4.7 billion to fund from 2015 to 2019.

Together, the mandates would require more than $10 billion in additional K-12 spending in the next four years.

Based on those estimates, education spending would balloon by 33 percent in the next two years compared with 2013-2015 spending levels.

Those additional expenses are larger than what the state spends in total on higher education: $3.1 billion or 9 percent of the 2013-2015 budget. In that same period, the state put $163 million into the Department of Early Learning.

Coming up with an extra $5 billion for each of the next two budget cycles won’t be easy. Lawmakers will have to decide what they can cut or how they can raise more revenue.

Cuts could hit other parts of the budget beyond higher education and early learning, such as corrections and social-service programs. Raising the sales tax another percentage point would be unpopular, but effective.

Pouring billions more into education sounds like a victory for students and advocates for the state’s public schools — but not without reforms.

Also, not sending students to kindergarten prepared to learn or limiting their options to continue learning after high school would diminish the gains from improving K-12 education.

When drafting the state’s next budget, lawmakers must concentrate on maintaining funding for students at all levels.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Blanca Torres, Robert J. Vickers, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

Four weeks for 99 cents of unlimited digital access to The Seattle Times. Try it now!

 Subscribe today!

Subscribe today!

99¢ for four weeks of unlimited digital access.



The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►