Across Washington, school officials are putting their own math skills to work as they try to figure out what the state’s new school funding plan means for their budgets. For guidance, they’re turning to the state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, who said he’s still working through the numbers himself.
Reykdal hopes to publish an analysis in about a week. He said one thing is clear: Districts that have had a tough time passing local school levies in the past will get a boost from the state. For places that have relied heavily on local tax measures, it’s a little more complicated.
“I think it’s fair to say that every district is going to have more resources,” Reykdal said. “That’s different than would they have had even more resources if we had stuck with the current law and the current scheme.”
That’s because the plan hikes the state property tax, but caps the amount of money districts can get from local levies.
Reykdal said the property tax would not have been his first choice because of the burden it places on lower- and middle-income people. But he said this was a hard-fought battle in a legislature where Democrats have a slim majority in the House and Republicans narrowly control the Senate. As a former Democratic state representative, Reykdal speaks from experience.
“It is so evenly split right now that that’s the kind of deal you can get done,” he said.
Reykdal praised lawmakers for choosing to spend about $500 million over the next four years to help schools with a high concentration of students living in poverty. But he also said that’s probably still not enough to get graduation rates to 100 percent.
“$500 million isn’t going to fix all our problems, but it’s a tremendous start,” he said.
The school funding plan still has to be approved by the Washington state Supreme Court. Five years ago, the high court ruled that the state was failing to fully fund basic education.