Education funding bill would reduce local levies, increase funding for nurses and other staff, and provide learning loss grants to districts

By: Emily Makings
12:27 pm
January 20, 2022

Senators Braun and Mullet have introduced SB 5922, which would make several changes to education funding. The bill would reduce the maximum local enrichment levy; increase local effort assistance (and extend it to charter schools); increase allocations for nurses, social workers, psychologists, and counselors; increase allocations for special education and highly capable programs; provide learning loss grants to districts; and incentivize year-round school.

Local Levies and Local Effort Assistance

As part of the McCleary decision on school funding, in 2017 the Legislature increased the state property tax and reduced the maximum allowed local enrichment levy (formerly known as maintenance and operations levies). Initially, for CY 2019, districts could levy up to the lesser of $1.50/$1,000 of assessed value or $2,500 per pupil. But the Legislature had second thoughts and acted to increase the allowed levy for CY 2020, to the lesser of $2.50/$1,000 or $2,500 per pupil. (The per-pupil maximum for Seattle Public Schools was set at $3,000.) (We discussed these changes in our 2020 report on the McCleary funding. The chart below shows how property tax collections have changed.)

Under SB 5922, for CY 2023, the maximum allowed local levy would return to the lesser of $1.50/$1,000 or $2,500 per pupil. (The per-pupil maximum for Seattle Public Schools would still be $3,000 per pupil.)

Additionally, the state funds local effort assistance (LEA) for school districts that are less able to raise local levies due to having higher than average property tax rates. Under current law, districts receive LEA when a $1.50/$1,000 levy does not generate at least $1,550 per pupil. Charter schools are not currently eligible to receive LEA.

SB 5922 would increase LEA so that districts receive it when a $1.50/$1,000 levy does not generate at least $2,000 per pupil. The bill would also make charter schools eligible for LEA.

Increased Funding Allocations

SB 5922 would increase various prototypical school funding model allocations. It would reduce class sizes for career and technical education (from 23 to 19) and skills centers (from 20 to 16). It would also increase allocations for school nurses, social workers, psychologists, and counselors. The increased allocations for these support staff are almost exactly the same as in SB 5595, which I wrote about here (including a table of the allocation changes). The only difference is that the allocation for elementary school guidance counselors would be 1.000 under SB 5922 and 0.993 under SB 5595. (The fiscal note for SB 5595 estimates that the proposal would increase appropriations by $173.9 million in 2021–23, by $616.0 million in 2023–25, and by $703.9 million in 2025–27. The increased allocations for nurses are phased in and would be fully implemented for a full biennium beginning with 2025–27—beyond the four-year budget outlook.)

Additionally, under SB 5922, for districts with at least 500 students and more than 15% of enrollment eligible for special education, the special education excess cost multiplier would be increased by 15% (up from 13.5%). SB 5922 would also increase allocations for the highly capable program so they are based on 7.0% of a district’s population (up from 5.0%).

Learning Loss

SB 5922 would provide learning loss grants to districts. The grants could be used to:

  • “Assess and identify student learning and well-being gaps”;
  • “Provide accelerated learning opportunities that address student learning and well-being gaps, which may include adopting a year-round school calendar, providing additional school days, or providing additional instructional time”;
  • “Assist students in meeting grade level expectations, meeting graduation requirements, or increasing assessment performance”; and
  • “Provide student well-being supports and extracurricular activities.”

For SY 2022–23, the grants would be $564 times the district’s average annual enrollment in SY 2021–22. For SY 2023–24, the grants would be $282 times enrollment in SY 2022–23.

Statewide enrollment for SY 2021–22 is 1,036,754. According to the November caseload forecast, enrollment for SY 2022–23 is expected to be 1,067,806. Given that, the cost of the grants would be $584.7 million in SY 2022–23 and $301.1 million in SY 2023–24. (The total cost would be $885.9 million.)

The eligible uses for these grants are similar to the criteria for the funding for accelerated learning opportunities in Gov. Inslee’s 2022 budget proposal (see Sec. 521(35) of the proposed budget bill.) Gov. Inslee proposed appropriating $746.0 million for this purpose.

School Year

Finally, SB 5922 would provide an incentive for school districts to move to year-round school. If a district implements a year-round calendar, the district’s base per-pupil allocation from the state would be multiplied by the district’s annual average enrollment and then multiplied by 0.05.

Categories: Budget , Education , Tax Policy.