Understand the consequences of underfunded K-12 students

Local Control & State Districts — Local school boards and local budgets

The State and The People — Local Control Issues

Local control plays a large role in a State-level problem. There are 295 independent school districts in Washington. For each school district there is an elected volunteer school board (often 5 or more members) working with a school Superintendent and administration.

The largest school district is Seattle with approx. 40,000 students. The smallest several dozen districts have fewer than 1,000 students - some count a few hundred children.

How are public schools in Washington organized? Washington is largely considered a “local control” state. This means that local school districts are generally responsible for delivering the actual instructional programs for the state’s elementary and secondary school-age population. Each district is governed by a locally-elected school board whose members serve staggered four-year terms. Each school board hires a Superintendent who oversees the day-to-day operation of the school district. Currently, there are a total of 295 school districts. The public school system in the state of Washington involves various entities at both the state and local levels, including the Legislature, the Governor, the State Board of Education, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the federal Department of Education, the State Auditor’s Office, the Professional Educators Standards Board, Educational Service Districts, and local school districts. Each of these entities play a role in establishing educational policies, implementing these policies, or providing administrative and financial oversight of the public school system.

Source: 2008 Citizen’s Guide to K-12 Finance prepared by staff of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Committee with staff of the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program (LEAP) Committee.

The bottom line is that the WA State legislature controls the purse strings while local school boards have to fulfill all the laws and policies — there is a substantial and significant disconnect.

· 2008 School Districts per Legislative District per PTA Region

There Are Multiple Levels of Control

Who does what, and who gets to do what within the funding system?

Many of the questions around local control challenge us to think about our ideals for democracy and the pragmatism of financial efficiency and accountability. Who really should decide how the theoretical money meets the very real student faces on the ground? Who should decide what benefits a community best, and how those decisions are processed?

Should the State dictate a prescriptive method for spending money, or do local school boards request a flexible funding mechanism to apply dollars as they best see fit? And how do you know if either the allocation or the spending are being successful in getting the desired results?

But is minimizing costs to the State the same thing as efficiently applying the funding at the local level? Many legislators and policymakers lay out an argument that there is a higher vale (rate of return) gained from local decision making than there is from tightly controlling prescriptive allocations.

Incorporating local control does change the equations. Providing a local control infrastructure impacts nearly every aspect of the funding equations—generally, it increases the overall costs. To list just a few of some factors:

· Autonomy of decisions

· Choice of curriculum

· Policy development and outcomes

· Inefficiencies of varying volume per district

· Choosing and hiring of staffs

· Demographics

· Capital costs

The funding proposals submitted to the Basic Ed Finance Task Force will be carefully evaluating the role of local control, and integrating their perspective into their funding formula methods.

Funding Washington Schools

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School District Links and Info

Mar 16, 2013: 2013 Wa State Fiscal Information: School District financial data - review stats per school district.


CPE’sEight characteristics of effective school boards


OSPI makes available a large amount of specific data on each school district and every building.

Find data and stats specific to:

· your school district

· your school building

Find funding data allocations specific to your District and school: 

· District Allocation of State Resources Portal 2011-12


More web pages for OSPI are listed below.

Specific web pages for OSPI resources:

OSPI Homepage

Search for Publications

Data & Reports

Data & Report Files 2002-07

District Report Cards

Compare your District or School

Data & Report Files 2002-07


WA State Board of Education

Some samples of what a few school districts provide about their budgeting process and numbers.

Seattle SD — 2007-08 Operating Budget

Seattle SD — 2007-08 Capital Budget

Shoreline SD — Ed Funding Primer

Spokane SD—2007-08 Budget Presentation

Spokane SD—2007-08 Development Overview

Bellevue SD— 2008 Budget Reduction Plan

Lake Washington SD—2007-08 Funding Primer & Budget Summary    (Kirkland & Redmond)




Local School Levy Results: Check your County Elections Office


Why do some school districts get more money in their disbursement formulas ?

· Grandfathered Salary &/or Levy Rate status

· Difference in # of high-cost students (special ed, bilingual ELL, free/reduced lunch eligible, etc)

· Difference in staff mix (less experienced staff generate fewer state dollars)

· Differences in administrator and classified salry rates (LEAP2)

· Small school/district enhancement (remote & necessary)

· Levy Equalization Assistance (State Assistance for Property Poor Districts)

· Local deductable revenues )e.g. timber sales)

Source: Handout 05/29/08 41st District town hall by Sen. Eric Oemig)