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Do Washington schools already have enough funding?

LISTEN: Washington Policy Center's Liv Finne says schools are not underfunded

With hefty increases expected, Washington homeowners are nervous about the property tax bill arriving in their mailboxes soon. Much of the increase covers funding for K-12 education. But one education expert says that schools already have enough money.

“You’ll notice that the word ‘underfunded,’ it is not clear what that means, and that is what this whole McCleary decision has been based upon …” Liv Finne told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “This year, on average statewide, the schools are receiving $13,243 per student … in places like Seattle it’s up to $16,000 per student.”

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That’s more than enough, Finn said. She is director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center where she recently authored an article titled, “Finding: State budget increases show Washington’s public schools are not underfunded.” Washington’s schools are getting a $3.8 billion boost to bring funding up to par. A lot of that goes to increased teachers pay and other educational needs.

Washington education funding

Finn argues that schools already have the money they need as Washington moves toward becoming the state with the 5th highest cost of public education. The real problem lies with the management. She points to private schools, which spend less per student. Also, consider the public charter schools — required to accept all students — which pay 20 percent less than their counterparts despite receiving no levy revenue or capital funding for their buildings.

“What I really resent is districts that say they don’t have enough money and then they hire central office staff at a rapid clip – staff that never sees any students – and those people are paid well over $100,000 a year,” Finne said. “I think that is unfair and deeply disrespectful to the property taxpayers in this state.”

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Those property taxpayers will also be asked to vote on school levies to further fund education. This vote comes a day before tax bills are mailed out, which Finne says is a tactic.

“Districts have been doing this since time immemorial; they’ve been scheduling these February votes with that purpose in mind — when people don’t vote, or turn out, and don’t watch what’s going on,” Finne said. “This has all been a big game they’ve been playing for years and years.”

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