Advocating for a Pro-Education Budget
Using our union voice to advocate for a state budget focused on safety and recovering from the pandemic is critical to the success of our students and schools. Last week our state House and Senate released their budget proposals and both reflected our priorities of fully funded, equitable schools that are resourced to recover the pandemic.
Fully funding schools
This past fall the Governor issued an executive order allowing school districts to change the pupil transportation model to bring school to student’s homes. However because transportation funding is based on students carried our districts saw significant decreases in their state allocations last year. The House and Senate have still to agree on how to reimburse school districts for these expenses. The Senate budget proposal includes additional state funding for the current school year, but did not adopt a policy to allocate the funds to school districts. The House requires school districts to use their federal recovery funds to backfill this revenue loss before receiving any state funding.
Expanding student supports
Both budgets also include increased funding for needed student supports. They restore the previously vetoed state funding for half of a guidance counselor in each high poverty elementary school in the prototypical school funding model. The House expands this proposal to high poverty middle and high schools as well. The House budget includes $11 million in additional funds to expand the nurse corps program to provide the equivalent to one nurse one day a week in rural schools. WEA will continue to advocate for funding for nurses in all schools.
Supporting professional development and retention
The budgets include funding for educator professional development. The House and Senate budgets restore the funding for two professional learning days for the paraeducator certification program that was vetoed from the last budget. Both budgets also include three professional development days for certificated staff, with one dedicated to anti-racism and cultural competency.
K-12 inflationary increases to the state salary allocation are proposed to be funded at 2% for 2021-2022 and 1.6% for 2022-2023.
Funding higher education
The proposals also keep us on track for quality higher education by eliminating previously proposed furloughs. They also add a cost-of-living increase for community and technical college educators in the next biennium, as required by Initiative 732, at 1.7% and 2.2%. For CTCs, both budgets also include funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and $10 million for the Job Skills program.
The House Appropriations committee added to the House budget proposal a 1.5% cost of living adjustment for TRS and PERS Plan 1 members.
WEA members shared our concerns with lawmakers in Olympia throughout the 2021 legislative session and the budget proposals reflect that feedback. While we will continue working to increase education funding with a focus on the highest-poverty schools, we are heartened that lawmakers crafted budgets that will adequately support our students in these uncertain times.