In his annual speech to lawmakers, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called on the legislature to pour several billion dollars in additional dollars during the next five years into K-12 education in an effort to meet basic education funding mandates as ordered by the state’s Supreme Court.
The push, unveiled in the Democratic governor’s State of the State address in Olympia, was spurred by a ruling Jan. 9 from the court that although the state had taken meaningful steps to fully fund basic education by 2018 as required by law—lawmakers, for example, voted to provide nearly $1 billion of additional funds to public education in the 2013 session—it still was not moving fast enough.
K-12 public education makes up about 45 percent—or around $15 billion—of the total state budget of $37 billion for the 2013-15 biennium.
Gov. Inslee said he was rethinking his strategy of making 2014 a “hold steady” year to prepare for coming fiscal challenges. Instead, he said he would be proposing an investment of $200 million to fund cost-of-living adjustments for educators, including administrators and community and technical college workers, in the 2014-15 school year and for basic education costs.
Last June, the legislature voted to suspend cost-of-living raises for educators last June through mid-2015 in order to pass a budget deal agreed upon by the House and Senate.
Gov. Inslee encouraged lawmakers to close tax breaks and direct those funds toward the state’s public education system. He called for an additional $4 million to fund pre-K programs for about 500 more Washington state youngsters.
In addition, Gov. Inslee called on state senators to pass a Washington state version of the DREAM Act, which would allow all Washington high school graduates who are eligible for state-sponsored college scholarships to receive them, regardless of whether they are legal U.S. residents. The state House of Representatives passed the bill on Jan. 13.
“Students who work hard and succeed in school should know there is a slot in our higher education system for them and their financial aid will be available to them if they need it,” he said.
Watch the Full Address
A version of this article appeared in the January 22, 2014 edition of Education Week as Wash. Governor Pledges School Aid Boost