by Eric Webb
The 68th Biennial Legislative Session commenced in Olympia on Monday, Jan. 9.
Although this session will negotiate a new biennial budget for the next two years, decisions made during this 105-day session will greatly impact the future of our school district for years to come. Although we work hard to advocate for adequate and equitable education funding each year, the stakes are much higher this year!
After only five days into this session, a total of 700 pieces of legislation have already been introduced, compared to a total of 1,100 bills, resolutions, and memorials introduced during the entire 2021 session. This is concerning, as we have the opportunity to influence two very impactful pieces of legislation that are detrimental to the future of San Juan County Public Schools.
I. This legislative session presents the first opportunity for significant change in education funding since the McCleary decision of 2018. The legislation is scheduled to address the Regionalization Funding process and rates for the first time in six years. In 2018, the island school districts of San Juan County were assigned a low Regionalization Funding Factor of 12%, although our median home values rival those of King County, the recipient of an 18% Regionalization Factor. Throughout our attempt to appeal this decision with legislators, the district was informed that this measure would be addressed and corrected in 2023.
“The Legislature uses “regionalization factors” to fund schools, which are a percentage increase in state funding of up to 18%. School districts’ eligibility is based on home values in the community. Regionalization factors provide needed funding to retain educators in school districts with higher community property values.
Because regionalization factors are assigned by individual school districts, many areas across Washington see significant differences in state funding between neighboring school districts. In these cases, the school districts with lower regionalization factors struggle to hire and retain employees because a neighboring district can offer higher salaries”… Chris Reykdal, State Superintendent
II. Our second opportunity for change is to address the Levy Cap placed on the amount of funding school districts can collect on their Educational Programs and Operations Levy. This arbitrary cap was placed on all districts in the State of Washington, with the exception of those districts that exceed a student enrollment of 40,000, such as Seattle. Districts such as Seattle are allowed to collect $540 dollars more per student. We feel that our students in the island school districts of San Juan County are just as deserving as the students in Seattle of this increase that voters have already shown support for and approved.
The students and staff of the island school districts of San Juan County deserve adequate funding for our schools. Please consider helping us bring these two issues to the attention of those that can make a difference in Olympia. You can help by visiting our Legislative Website and flier at https://supportislandschools.org/flier to learn about and stay informed on regionalization and the levy cap that is impacting funding for our school districts. Please consider signing our petition and contacting the listed legislators to share your opinion regarding fair and just funding for the island school districts of San Juan County.
Thank you for your steadfast support of Orcas Island Public Schools.