Seattle Public Schools officials announced Monday afternoon that they plan to file a legal brief in the Washington State Supreme Court this week outlining "substantial flaws" in the education funding plan included in the state legislature's state budget.
Legislators allotted about $7.3 billion to fund public schools in their hastily passed budget to fully fund basic education, per the state Supreme Court's 2012 McCleary ruling. Although that funding would cost Seattle homeowners' an additional $400 per year in property taxes, that money wouldn't benefit local schools. Instead, revenue would be distributed across less densely populated areas across Washington and "undercut Seattle's ability to raise local funds to pay for the needs of SPS students," SPS officials wrote in their statement.
In an August 7 letter to Seattle school staffers and parents, Seattle Superintendent Larry Nyland also noted that the state budget would result in budget deficits for Seattle schools, restrict Seattle school officials use of state funding, and fail to fully pay for teachers' salaries and services for special education and English Language Learner programs.
SPS officials plan to file an amicus brief by August 30, according to the statement.
“We are deeply troubled by the lack of understanding of what it takes for a school district to be able to provide a strong education for all students,” said Seattle School Board President Sue Peters.
The legislature's budget "does not come close to a fix" for fully funding basic education, Leslie Harris, vice president of the Seattle School Board, said in the statement.
"The legislature’s lack of substantive action not only violates our state Constitution, it violates the rights of every student," she said. "Our state cannot continue to turn its back on students.”
Seattle school officials aren't alone in their frustration. Public schools officials in Tacoma and Olympia also raised concerns that they will "face budget deficits under the state’s new school funding plan, with some saying they’ll be worse off than if lawmakers had done nothing," the News Tribune reported.
“Despite rhetoric that the Legislature’s action had improved education funding for our state’s children, our analysis clearly shows the opposite,” Tacoma Public Schools said in a statement.
“Tacoma Public Schools would have a better financial future if the Legislature had not made any changes in the funding formula for education.”
The district, which expects to have a budget of about $431 million next year, estimates it will get about $4 million less from the state in the 2018-19 school year under the new plan than it would have under the old formula. Tacoma officials expect that gap to be about $3.4 million in 2019-20, and about $4.4 million in 2020-21.