The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2003 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Washington legislators covered a lot of ground on education in their 2005 session, as Democrats in control of both chambers increased school aid and refined laws on school governance.
Finding a link between education and the economy, legislators raised state funding for school districts to $5.7 billion for fiscal 2006 and to $5.9 billion for fiscal 2007, a total hike of more than 9 percent over the current two-year budget. (“New Washington Governor Delivers on Education,” this issue.)
Lawmakers also dipped into state coffers to pay for cost-of-living increases for teachers, raising pay by 1.2 percent in fiscal 2006 and by 1.7 percent in 2007, bringing back to life Initiative 732, one of two education ballot measures passed in 2000 and which legislators stopped funding in 2002.
The other initiative—I-728—was also reanimated by an infusion of money. Initiative 728, which gives districts extra aid for an assortment of school improvements, is being funded by a 60-cent increase in the state cigarette tax and reinstatement of an amended version of Washington’s estate tax law.
Legislators approved freshman Gov. Christine Gregoire’s plan to finance a study of education that will span preschool through college, and they eliminated the state’s Academic Achievement and Accountability Commission, which has seen its role supplanted by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.