By any measure, the state is not meeting its constitutional "paramount duty" to "make ample provision" for basic K–12 education. "We do not believe this conclusion comes as a surprise," the Washington State Supreme Court bluntly wrote last week in an 8–0 opinion. But by exactly how much are our kids getting ripped off?
The state legislature allocated $12.2 billion to fund basic K–12 education in the 2009–2011 biennial, about $2 billion less than what it actually costs school districts to provide these services, a shortfall that consumes up to 81 percent of local school levies. But according to the legislature's own Basic Education Finance Task Force, fully implementing planned reforms would cost as much as an additional $6.9 billion per biennium. Which means we're actually underfunding basic education by $8.9 billion. Ouch.