Budget Process Gets Under Way
There's some good news regarding the 2012-2013 school year budget for Federal Way Public Schools. The first piece of good news is that the passage of the educational programs and operations (EP&O) levy on Feb. 14 gives the school district a more stable base on which to build its budget for the coming school year.
Given the state economic forecast last fall, it appeared that cuts to K-12 education were inevitable again in this year's round of state budget cuts—and that Local Effort Assistance (LEA) funding was one of the likely places the legislature would make those cuts. With that in mind, the district built an additional $8 million into the levy to protect its programs from the potential loss of this crucial funding.
However, if LEA funding is preserved in whole or part by the legislature, the amount collected for the EP&O levy will be reduced by the amount of LEA funding received by the district.
Now, it appears those cuts in state funding may not be quite so certain. A revised economic forecast was released by the state in January, indicating that the state's economy has started to make a gradual recovery. More good news—the state Supreme Court issued a decision in the NEWS lawsuit, concluding that the state has not been meeting its constitutional duty to fully fund K-12 education before all other services. Although the court has given the state until 2018 to comply, it also prohibited the Legislature from eliminating or cutting funding for reasons unrelated to educational policy.
We will continue to follow the Legislature as it debates K-12 funding. This is a short session and is scheduled to adjourn March 8, which leaves the district two months to gather input and create a recommended budget by May 8.
You can learn more by watching Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Sally McLean's budget presentations at the regularly scheduled board meetings. Board meetings are broadcast live on cable TV 21 in Federal Way City limits, and are streamed online at mms://media.cityoffederalway.com/Live. You can also watch or listen to past board meetings at www.fwps.org/info/board/.
NEWS coalition wins Supreme Court case
In 2007, Federal Way Public Schools joined a coalition of 379 other school districts and education associations and community groups known as The Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS). The goal: To force the State of Washington to address a long-outdated state funding system that fails to fully fund even the basic elements of a high quality 21st century education.
King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick ruled in favor of the NEWS coalition in 2010, a decision appealed by the state's attorney general. In January 2012, the Supreme Court also sided with the NEWS coalition. As NEWS lead attorney Tom Ahearne summarized: "The highest court in our state has clearly told our Legislature, once and for all, that the state is violating its constitutional duty to the people of Washington—and has declared that the court will retain jurisdiction to enforce its ruling rather than sit on the sidelines and 'hope' that the Legislature someday complies."
Read more at: www.waschoolexcellence.org/whats_new/143.