New state budget addresses education

state budget graphics
Matthew Rietveld / The Watchdog

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee recently signed off on a 43.7 billion dollar budget that addresses funding public schools in the state. In a press release, Governor Inslee said “I believe this budget at long last will meet our constitutional obligations to fully and fairly fund basic education.” The budget, although going primarily to K-12 education, will set aside some money towards the higher learning system. Over the next two years, 1.8 billion dollars will be used in public schools around the state as a part of the 7.3 billion dollars that will be spent over the next four years.

The public education budget has been increased largely due to a Supreme Court ruling that Washington had not sufficiently funded basic education. While the state continuously made promises that always fell through, the court ruled that there would be a 100,000 dollar fine for every day that something was not done to improve the system.

Over the past couple of months, officials have been unable to come to an agreement on the two-year budget for the state, putting the government in risk of a partial shutdown. To prevent this, the bill was expedited in its development. It was signed by Governor Inslee less than an hour before the deadline that the legislation was to be voted on.

With a new budget coming into play, the question will arise as to where the money is coming from. In this specific situation, the public schools of Washington will be receiving money from property owners in the state whose taxes will be increased to accommodate for the raised budget.

While the new bill is directed toward public elementary, middle and high schools, it is changing the expectation around the state for the quality of schools, whether the schools are public or private or colleges and universities. Bellevue College – as well as other higher education schools – are still funded at the 2007 level with the possibility of increased funding consistently low. In order to reach the higher standards that this new bill has set, Bellevue College would have to raise its tuition prices by two percent. Jill Wakefield, former President of Bellevue College, disagrees with this decision and believes that the college “shouldn’t place the budget on the backs of [the] students,” and that there needs to be more “work done to fund higher education in state.”

While this particular bill is not making any leaps toward helping college students pay for a higher education, other states have been taking large steps in that direction. New York recently passed a bill that makes tuition a thing of the past. The eastern state is now paying the tuition of its students who are attending any of their state colleges.

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