Washington ratifies budgets on a two-year cycle, beginning on July 1 of every odd year. The previously approved budget from 2019-2021 will be in effect from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2021. Last spring, Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington Legislature ratified a two-year state budget that will expand behavioral health, finance improvements to education, create affordable housing, increase Orca recovery and support climate action.1 However, Washington's current 2019-2021 budget will endure a $4.5 billion shortfall forecasted by the state's Economic and Revenue Council.2 Additionally, the state's 2021-2023 budget is expected to shrink by an additional $4.3 billion, more significant than the February estimate.3 Like many other states, Washington's deficit is due to the economic impact associated with closures due to the Covid-19, which led to record unemployment and reduced consumer spending4, which Washington relies heavily on to generate revenue. Such closures forced state economies to constrict, which caused massive budgetary deficits across the country.5
Currently, Washington's Major General Fund-State (GF-S) revenue collections are $464.8 million lower than the previous forecast made in February; approximately half of the deficit is due to deferrals for property tax to alleviate the economic woes of Covid-19.6 In early March, lawmakers in Washington approved a $1 billion supplemental operating budget to address Covid-19, homelessness and affordable housing issues. The governor's focus has shifted to other vulnerable populations and economic lag areas since the education system did not endure significant budget cuts this fiscal cycle.
funding priorities for p-12 and/or higher education
In an effort to grow the economy, state spending increased by approximately 14 percent over the previous biennium. Experts urge Washington to continue investing in its [End Page 372] citizens. Though the state is in the midst of a recession, historically, states recover sooner from recessions when they circulate cash to its citizens instead of laying them off due to adverse economic forces.7 Currently, Washington's budget is not balanced, and there will not be a special session to do so. Therefore, the figures outlined below are projections based on the previous biennial budget enacted on July 1, 2019. Washington's funding priorities are as follows:
1) Public Education (P-12 and Higher Education) – $46.1 billion; 2) Human Services – $45.3 billion; 3) Transportation - $8.869 billion; 4) General Government Fund - $5.295 billion; 5) All Other Expenditures - $4.730 billion ; 6) Natural Resources - $2.165 billion
changes to funding formula p-12 and/or higher education
Washington overhauled its funding formula in 2017. Then, the approach created a two-tier cap on local levies to counterbalance an increase in the statewide property-tax rate for education funding.8 In 2019, due to unfavorable financial projections of the two-tier cap lawmakers increased the levy ceiling to give taxpayers relief. Even with the change to the formula, many analysts feared school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income status and disabilities would strain to balance the cut in their localities.9 Lawmakers in the state are considering changing the formula again to rectify the disparities among districts to account for poverty and students with disabilities.
pressing state issues affecting p-12 and/or higher education funding
One of the State's most pressing issues is the response to Covid-19. As a response, the State passed House Bill (HB) 2965 provided $200 million from state reserves to aid local governments and federally recognized indigenous tribes to combat Covid-19.10 Additionally, HB2965 provided $25 million for unemployment insurance due to employees losing their jobs during the outbreak.11 Additional issues, such as homelessness, diversity and inclusion, workforce investment, and early learning, are other items the supplemental budget of Washington addressed by design.
exclusive to p-12: what are the alternatives to traditional public schools offered by the state? what does the trend in funding look like for these alternatives?
Washington offers multiple accredited alternatives to traditional P-12 public schools. For example, Washington offers online learning, home-based instruction, the Highly Capable program, and the...