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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  K-12 education

Spokane Public Schools hopes for legislative help on basic education, special ed, transportation

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 21, 2021

The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street.  (JESSE TINSLEY)
The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street. (JESSE TINSLEY)

Spokane Public Schools will bring a familiar wish list to the Washington Legislature next year.

During a special meeting Wednesday night, the board agreed to request additional funding for increases in the Prototypical School Funding Model, special education, transportation, equity and early learning.

The premise of the Prototypical School Funding Model is that school need is linked to student enrollment, so state funds are distributed based on recommended staffing ratios.

A final decision on legislative priorities is expected on Nov. 3.

Presented by lobbyist Melissa Gombosky, the list was headlined by the proposal to achieve “more realistic state-funded staffing levels in all schools.”

That includes better teacher-to-student ratios to improve students’ mental, social, emotional and behavioral health.

However, as Gombosky pointed out, improvements statewide would cost about $6 billion; therefore, it would be phased in over six years.

Another priority, increased funding for special education, is underfunded by at least $300 million, the state superintendent’s office has claimed.

“We have continued every year to raise that concern and testify in public hearings,” Gombosky said.

The state has made some improvements to the model in recent years, most recently funding for additional transition services, professional development and for family liaisons.

“While these incremental steps to reduce the special education funding gap are appreciated, the 2022 Legislature must take more deliberate action to eliminate the current underfunding,” the district said in a statement.

Districts across the state have complained that they are not receiving enough funding under the current Pupil Transportation funding model.

The Office of Financial Management recently found that in most situations, the model will not provide adequate resources to school districts and recommends, at the very least, that more funding be provided to the system.

“It is time to fix this formula,” the district said in a statement.

The district also hopes to close opportunity gaps and improve equity. For Spokane, that means “equitable learning opportunities, and fair treatment for each student,” and to “recruit, support, and retain effective classroom, building, and district staff who reflect the diversity of our student populations, including ethnicity and gender.”

The district acknowledged in a board document that the Legislature has “made significant investments in early learning through the Fair Start Act for Kids in 2021. We urge the continued commitment to early learning staffing and capital projects to support long term viability of our early learning system.”

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