Legislative priorities for schools l Mukilteo Schools

By Dr. Marci Larsen, Superintendent | Mar 06, 2019

About three-quarters of our operating revenue comes from the state of Washington, so it only makes sense that we would pay a great deal of attention to what is going on in Olympia when the Legislature is in session. The lawmakers are considering dozens of bills about public education and we will be watching what happens regarding many different issues, but I wanted to share with you a couple of topics that are particularly important to us.

During the past few years, the state Legislature has passed several bills aimed at satisfying the constitutional requirement to fully fund public education. Landmark legislation was passed during the last two sessions to accomplish just that and, for the most part, the state is now funding much more of the full cost of providing basic education.

The job isn’t quite done, however. Most notably, the state still isn’t covering the full cost of providing the special education services that are required by state and federal law. School districts, and their taxpayers, are still picking up much of that cost. According to a study conducted by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, school districts statewide are paying more than $308 million for special education services not funded by the state.

The Mukilteo School District is no exception. Last year, we spent $5.6 million more on mandatory special education services that we received in state and federal funding. In other words, for the more than 2,000 students receiving those services, the state’s contribution has fallen 20 percent short of the actual cost of this component of basic education.

Another issue that we will be watching is the possibility of legislation that would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment to change the way school construction bond elections are held. Right now, a supermajority of 60 percent of voters must approve a ballot measure for bonds that would finance the construction or renovation of school facilities.

During the last 25 years, every bond and levy put before the voters in this school district has received majority approval. Nevertheless, seven bond measures have failed during that time because they didn’t get a supermajority. In 2006 and 2008, three bond measures failed even though they had support from more than 55 percent of voters.

A bond proposal was finally passed in 2014, but in the meantime our schools struggled to accommodate the community’s growth. During that time, more than 9,000 students passed through our doors without benefitting from the wishes that had been expressed by a clear majority of voters. Our kindergarteners, for instance, didn’t have the advantage of full-day classes because there weren’t enough classrooms.

Our state Senators and our local Representatives to the House have been very supportive of schools for many years. We’ve had an opportunity to speak with them about these issues and several others. Although they will have many important decisions to make during this legislative session regarding a wide variety of other issues, we’re confident they will do the right thing when it comes to schools.

 

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