You have probably heard conflicting messages lately about McCleary and state education funding — from “We fixed it!” to “Brace for massive budget cuts and layoffs.” You may be wondering what the real budget picture is for Highline.
I want to bring you up to speed.
It is true that the state increased funding to school districts this year, but that increase is funded through a property tax swap: property tax dollars that used to be under local control (our levy) were in essence redirected to the state. This cuts our levy funding from $62 million in 2018 to less than $32 million in 2019.
We planned for this and minimized budget cuts for 2018-19 (remember, we stored away our acorns last year?); however, next year will be a different story unless the legislature makes changes this session.
The fact is that public schools are not yet fully funded by the state. The legislature’s definition of basic education falls far short of what it actually takes to educate our students.
For example, this year we anticipate spending $11 million more than the state provides for special education services. Another example: the state funds 44 counselors, nurses, social workers and other positions to serve students’ physical and mental health; Highline employs an additional 47 positions. Unless the law changes, our levy funding will be slashed by almost half next year and we will not have enough money to fill all the gaps.
In addition, our enrollment is expected to dip again slightly (a countywide trend). Our demographer, who is historically spot on, is not yet sure why the normal trends are not holding but suspects that rising housing costs are a factor.
If the legislature does not act, we will face major budget cuts. We will keep you informed as we build our budget for 2019-20.
Susan Enfield, Ed.D.
Highline Public Schools