Enrollment stabilization or accelerated learning opportunities?

By: Emily Makings
10:58 am
January 10, 2022

A summary document of Gov. Inslee’s 2022 supplemental budget proposal notes, “The state’s K-12 allocations during the pandemic have been reduced due to declining enrollments. Inslee proposes reinvesting more than $900 million of those funds to help schools address students’ social and emotional and academic needs.”

Indeed, enrollment is still down significantly compared to school year 2019–20. Gov. Inslee’s proposal estimates that enrollment and workload adjustments reduce the maintenance level (the cost of continuing current services, adjusted for inflation and enrollment) for public schools by $1.119 billion in 2021–23. As I’ve written, it is not clear that this is a temporary decline.

The enacted 2021 supplemental and 2021–23 biennial budget appropriated a total of $123.7 million for enrollment stabilization for SY 2020–21. (At the time, the caseload forecast estimated that enrollments would bounce back in SY 2021–22.) That funding was based on how much a district would have received for SY 2020–21 if enrollment had been at SY 2019–20 levels. Importantly, the calculation incorporated federal relief funds for districts—a district would get state funds to the extent that its federal relief didn’t cover the full cost of the enrollment decline.

As noted above, Gov. Inslee’s proposed budget would use some of the enrollment savings to fund additional school nurses and other support staff, which I wrote about here. He would also appropriate $746.0 million for accelerated learning opportunities—instead of providing enrollment stabilization. Accelerated learning opportunity funds could be used by districts for additional instruction, student well-being support, and extracurricular activities.

Meanwhile, in November, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction asked the Legislature for enrollment stabilization funding for SY 2021–22. OSPI’s proposal asked for $522.3 million to give districts about 90% of their lost funding (compared to SY 2019–20).

SB 5563 (and companion HB 1590) would provide enrollment stabilization to districts for SY 2021–22 (compared to SY 2019–20). There’s no fiscal note yet, but SB 5563 will be heard by the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K–12 Education on Jan. 12.

Categories: Budget , Education.