The Washington State Constitution calls making “ample provision” for the education of its children its “paramount duty.”
But of all the departments in the state, K-12 education took the biggest hit, says Spokane Public Schools Associate Superintendent Mark Anderson. About $2.5 billion in education funding was cut.
Now, Spokane Public Schools and a network of other school districts are suing the state for failing to provide those ample provisions.
The governor recommended a pay freeze for teachers, but to save other services the Legislature went further, trimming funding for teacher and classified salaries by almost 2 percent and administrative salaries by 3 percent. The state leaves the districts with the responsibility of negotiating with their local unions to cut these salaries. The Legislature also sliced large amounts of funding for alternative learning programs, like the Enrichment Cooperative, which helps educate home-schoolers.
And the program to provide funding for lower class sizes, cut mid-year, was not restored.
There is one bright spot: A new program will help keep kindergarten through third-grade classes at 24 students per teacher at elementary schools where over 50 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch. That applies to about 23 of Spokane Public Schools’ 34 elementary schools.
As of press time, Spokane Public Schools hadn’t yet determined how they would deal with the $9 to $12 million budget cuts.
“In our opinion, they further eroded their constitutional education obligation,” Anderson says.