WEA union says losing federal funds is OK, because school districts have “huge amount of money”

March 11, 2014

The Olympian reports today on the conflict between the federal government and Washington lawmakers over Washington’s teacher evaluation law.  The state stands to lose control over $38 million in federal funds if the teacher evaluation system doesn’t comply with federal rules.  Seattle Superintendent Jose Banda, for example, told state lawmakers his city’s schools would lose $2.8 million.

The Washington Education Association (WEA) union says that losing the federal education money is OK.  Union representative Lucinda Young said lawmakers should not worry about the possible loss of control over $38 million because school districts have a “huge amount of money.”  At a March 3rd hearing she told a senate panel on that:

“When you look at OSPI documents as to the huge amount of money that is rolled over by school districts every year in Title I, they will be able to still provide the services that their students need.”

The WEA union has argued against education funding before.  Some years ago the union fought a $13.2 million grant for teachers who improved student learning in math and science.  Union executives said teachers should never receive pay based on how well students are learning.  After several weeks of heated controversy, the grant was withdrawn

In this case, the $38 million in dispute would shift to parents, who would then use it to pay for private tutoring for children who need extra help.  That may be good for parents and children, but it doesn’t explain the WEA union’s odd position in opposing federal education funding in Washington.

It may be unprecedented for the WEA union to argue that school districts have a “huge amount of money.” Generally they say school budgets should receive more funding and that more public money should be directed toward providing their members with higher pay and better benefits.

Still, education spending in Washington is at record highs, bringing school budgets to the highest level in state history.  The legislature is providing $7.6 billion in 2013-14, or $7,279 per student.  Per student spending is scheduled to rise to $7,764 in the 2014-15 school year. 

With added federal funds and local property tax levies, average per student spending is around $11,300, or about twice what many private schools charge for tuition.

It appears union executives push for more spending whenever possible, except when the policy conditions that come with spending threaten their position within the system, then they suddenly say schools have plenty of money.

Comments

I always like to ask how do

I always like to ask how do you come up with your per student costs? Where did you get your statistics? And how does this compare to other states?

Is there a standard way of figuring cost/student?

Dear Anonymous, These numbers

Dear Anonymous,
These numbers are from government reports. See the link included in the blog post. Page 6 of that report provides per student dollars from the state for 2013-14 and 2014-15. Another site with per student dollars is fiscal.wa.gov. See K12 Reports, Statewide Data, Workload/Staffing/Finance, which is also where federal and local revenue can be found. According to the most recent federal government reports, Digest of Education Statistics, in 2008-09 Washington ranked 30th in per student spending in the states and the District of Columbia. Given the recent jump in per student spending from the state, Washington will climb significantly in this ranking.
Liv Finne