Understand the consequences of underfunded K-12 students

A History of Funding WA Schools

Current Events Highlight Shortfalls On Students

“We believe that it’s our way of speaking, but it’s actually what we have been given.” David McCullough

Too many graduates from Washington high schools are not up to the post-graduate demands when entering today’s 21st century economy. Most school districts are at a dangerous tipping point, with few options for further adjusting their budget priorities to meet the real-world demands upon their students.

History paved the way for current events. Every few decades, events sharply focus an assessment of our social expectations as well as our personal requirements of public education. The most recent legal reforms to education were in 1993, to legislation of 1978 that still defines public education’s funding today. These laws led to our current predicament. We must smartly plan ahead in order to renew a positive outcome from current reforms.

There is always a history to what we take for granted, as to how we arrived to our current state — here you will explore some of what came before now.

“Learning about history is an antidote to the hubris of the present, the idea that everything in our lives is the ultimate.” David McCullough

Funding Washington Schools

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Background History To The Issue

From the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools

Posted November 20th, 2006

How did Washington get to where we are today? 

The Washington State Constitution says, “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all students....” The State has a duty to provide for adequate funding for public education.

In 1975, the state was taken to court by the Seattle Public Schools and other school districts. They wanted the state to provide the “ample provision” required by the constitution. The state Supreme Court agreed with the school districts, and directed the state to fund basic education with dependable and regular taxes. Forcing school districts to rely on levies to fund basic education was deemed unconstitutional.

In 1977, “basic education” was defined by the Basic Education Act. It also created a state funding formula based on ratios of staff to students.

As a result of these decisions, the state increased its funding of K-12 education to 84.3% in 1980, leaving local districts responsible for only 7.5% of the needed funds, raised mostly through levies and bonds. In 1983, Judge Robert Doran expanded the definition of “basic education” to include special education, bilingual education, remediation assistance and transportation.

In 1993, the state passed the Education Reform Act which created high performance-based standards but did not restructure the funding. The 1993 Education Reform Act changed the system from measuring success based on enrollment to measuring success based on performance.

Since the 1980’s, the legislature has slowly but steadily eroded its support for K-12 education in the state of Washington. State funding of public education has dropped steadily since the early 1980’s, with the state now providing only 78.8% of the needed funds. Local districts are now forced to provide over 14% of the necessary money for the public education our State constitution guarantees.

This places an unfair burden on local communities, when it is the state's responsibility to provide for education of ALL Washington's children.

The Network for Excellence in Washington Schools is a broad coalition of Washington citizens, organizations, and other supporters of public education who filed a lawsuit in January to force the State of Washington to fulfill its Constitutional duty to fully fund K-12 education.


Key Dates in Washington’s History of K-12 Education Finance Reform:


2009 The Joint Task Force issues its final report, and a framework for implementing its recommendations is passed by the legislature in ESHB 2261


2007 The Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance is born out of E2SSB 5627, charged with evaluating how Washington defines a “basic public education” and create a funding system that ties resources to the expected student outcomes


2006 “Washington Learns” final report arrives, the expected new funding structure is missing, but it advocates tying the funding structure to academic performance requirements, rather than the current system of funding a set number of hours of instruction


2001  Congress adopts the “No Child Left Behind” Act, imposing federal standards for public education and a deadline of 2013-2014 for all students to reach “proficiency”


2000  New education improvement programs emerge; I-728 passes, requiring dedicated funding for class-size reduction and other improvements


1999  The Academic Achievement and Accountability Commission works on improvements to “struggling schools”


1993  Basic Education Act is amended to incorporate new learning standards and education improvement programs (RCW 28A.150)


1992  Commission on Student Learning leads to the development of Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) for all grades and the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL); these increase the demands on the State to produce student academic performance outcomes


1983 2nd Doran court decision adding elements to “basic” education, including educating disabled students, transitional bilingual education, etc.


1977 1st Doran court decision requiring the State to define and fully fund a program of basic education