From Stanwood-Camano School District
As mentioned in previous budget updates, there remains plenty of uncertainty surrounding the amount of money we expect from our primary funding source: the state.
The uncertainty is largely because the state legislature is currently in session.
Legislators have introduced about 1,600 bills since January. Several of these bills would impact our finances for the 2023-24 school year. While we are keeping a watchful eye on Olympia, we also must begin drafting a budget based on what we know now — even if our funding changes in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Some of the many items we’re watching this legislative session are:
Special Education funding: Currently, state funding for students with disabilities is capped at 13.5% of K-12 enrollment (preschool funding is not capped). That means, if a district has a population of students requiring special education services over 13.5% of their K-12 student population, the district pays the costs over that threshold from other sources in their general fund. Several bills aim to address this. Proposals range from raising the funding cap to eliminating the cap altogether. Even if legislators were to remove the cap that limits the number of students funded, the state would still not fully cover all special education costs for the students that are funded. There are other legislative bills that address this issue, but the fiscal impact varies widely.
Free school meals: Supporters of these bills simply argue that hungry kids can’t learn. Bills would make feeding students a part of the state’s program of basic education. A recent change to a House bill aiming to increase funding for meals limits participation to elementary schools and phases in the funding. As a result, our district would not be eligible for the funds until the 2024-25 school year because the district’s free-and-reduced lunch percentage is less than 40%.
Basic education funding updates: Legislators are expected to review and possibly “rebase” funding for basic education — including salary allocations, regionalization factors, inflationary measures, and other economic information. Districts are hoping action will be taken to address the relatively stagnant funding from the state, which has become a large driver in school budget gaps across the state — including here.
The state legislative session is scheduled to end April 23. A lot can change between now and then. And we will adapt our draft budget as quickly as possible to reflect any changes.
If you would like to read more about bills or contact state legislators, please visit https://leg.wa.gov.
In next week’s budget report, we will explain some common questions surrounding school budgets and some of the financial misconceptions, mandates, and limitations.