Bill to increase school staff introduced in the Legislature

New formula recommended

Bill to increase school staff introduced in the Legislature

Ten years ago the Legislature implemented a statewide formula to determine how much state funding each school serving students in grades K–12 should receive to pay for staff, materials, programming and other items.

Last year, the Legislature tasked the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) with convening a workgroup of K–12 education stakeholders to make recommendations for updating the formula to meet current needs.

The Staffing Enrichment Workgroup recommended the Legislature increase the levels of various school staff, ensure all school staff are provided professional development on key topics like cultural responsiveness and increase flexibility for local schools while maintaining accountability, according to an OSPI news release. All recommendations would be phased-in over six years.

This week, OSPI put the workgroup’s recommendations forward in Senate Bill 6615, which is sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, the chair of the Senate Early Learning and K–12 Education Committee.

“The current staffing values in the state’s funding formula are largely based on a study done in 1975,” said Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Instruction, in the news release. “The Legislature asked us to pull together this workgroup because they know changes to the funding formula are vital for our students, educators, and communities.”

“Educators continue to tell us that students are coming to school with more mental, emotional and behavioral health needs than ever before,” Reykdal said. “The workgroup took that into consideration by asking the Legislature to prioritize their investments there first.”

The bill first asks legislators to provide funding for more counselors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, principals, librarians, paraeducators, family involvement coordinators and other building support staff.

Then, the bill calls for a reduction in the number of students per classroom, aligning with Initiative 1351 passed by Washington’s voters in 2014.

Finally, the bill would require the Legislature fund additional professional learning days for all school staff until all staff are provided 10 days of learning.

About the funding formula

The state’s K–12 education funding formula, called the Prototypical School Funding Model (PSFM), was adopted by the Legislature in 2010 (House Bill 2776).

The PSFM is a funding allocation model. Legislators allocate funding to schools for specified purposes in the law. However, local school districts have a large amount of flexibility with the funds to meet their local community needs.

The model is driven by student enrollment in the school. The more students there are, the more state funding the school will receive. Funds are allocated in order to fulfill student-to-staff ratios as well as non-staff operating costs.

The ratios in the current PSFM are largely based on a legislatively-commissioned study completed in 1975.

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