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Seattle Schools Official Says State’s Education Funding Plan Still Falls Short

Lawmakers in Olympia reached an agreement on education funding more than five years after the state supreme court's McCleary decision

The Seattle school board has adopted a budget for the coming school year. They managed to plug holes to fill a deficit once projected to be $74 million, but a district official said that she’s concerned that in the long term, the state’s new education funding plan doesn’t go far enough.

State lawmakers narrowly avoided a partial government shutdown when they reached an agreement last month to increase spending on public education.

The deal came more than five years after the state Supreme Court ruled in McCleary v. State of Washington that the state was failing to fully fund basic education.

JoLynn Berge, assistant superintendent for business and finance for Seattle Public Schools, said the state’s funding agreement falls short.

“McCleary was not fully funded with what they’ve put out in this plan. It was not,” she told school board members. “It was a step in the right direction, but there’s still a ways to go.”

Lawmakers agreed to hike the state property tax and then cap the amount of money districts can raise through local levies. Berge said the plan doesn’t provide enough money for special education, and with the change in how levies are used, the district won’t be able to raise extra dollars for special education.

The district plans to put out a more detailed response to the state funding plan next week.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.