Hasegawa: Basic education still not fully funded

July 3rd, 2013|

One of my keener disappointments in the final days of the 2013 Legislature was the failure to fully and permanently fund basic education as required by the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling.

Rather than create a permanent revenue stream by closing some senseless tax loopholes, the Republican majority in the Senate insisted on employing temporary accounting gimmicks that don’t even fully fund education for the next biennium. Though the Republicans will tell you differently, the math is spelled out pretty simply in a recent public statement by state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn.

Among other things, Superintendent Dorn points out that the budget’s $955 million increase in education funds is only about two-thirds of the $1.4 billion that is actually needed to fully fund education for the biennium. What’s more, the budget once again punted on funding voter-approved initiatives to lower class sizes and increase teacher pay; if Republicans had honored the will of the people and covered those expenses, that cost would have reduced the overall increase in funds available to satisfy the McCleary requirements to just $500 million. In other words, the teachers themselves are self-funding a large portion of the additional money we’re putting into basic education.

Another budget gimmick used was to divert $277 million from the Public Works Assistance Account (PWAA), which goes to funding needed basic infrastructure like water, sewer, roads maintenance and the like. The Legislature also diverted future funding streams for the PWAA for six years. Infrastructure support is already underfunded — now we are drastically underfunding and placing public health in jeopardy, not to mention all the lost jobs from these diversions.

We have five more years to provide full state funding for education but we are about $7 billion short. So don’t let anyone tell you that the state has fully funded basic education. This year’s budget was just a down payment.

I highly recommend reading Superintendent Dorn’s full statement, which you can find here.

— Bob