Declining enrollment, funding formulas causing budget woes for several Washington school districts

Some school districts say they want to change funding formulas as they deal with declining enrollment and other challenges.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — As Bellevue weighs decisions about school consolidation, several other school districts in Western Washington say they are also facing budget challenges.

The Everett School District, for example, said it only saw a slight decrease in funding from last year and doesn’t have any short-term plans for school consolidation, but is still facing budget challenges.

“Besides the ESSER going out of business, we have a 2% reduction in Regionalization (part of McCleary’s fix in 2018) and the state continues to fund basic education (e.g. 9 million) dollars in special education expenses not funded by the state),” a spokesperson wrote in an e-mail.

Mercer Island School District said it was also experiencing a budget shortfall, and due to declining enrollment, the school board discussed the possibility of closing an elementary school but decided not to.

MISD said its budget shortfall is “not only because of declining enrollment, but also because there is a long history of underfunded schools in Washington State, where there is a pattern of school funding.” outdated prototype”, and MISD wants to see changes at the state level.

UW Associate Professor of Education Finance and Policy Dr David Knight said enrollments in public schools have fallen dramatically during the pandemic, with enrollments increasing slightly since then — but does not restore the previous total. Because state education funding is tied to enrollment, it has a significant impact on many school districts.

“Many of your costs are fixed in the short term, so you have the same teachers and school facilities from year to year, you can make changes that are sensitive to reduced enrollment , but at the end of the day, the drop in enrollment is going to be a really tough financial situation for school districts,” Knight said.

Knight said a number of factors are contributing to the drop in enrollment. He said some families are choosing alternatives such as homeschooling and enrolling in charter or private schools, and in some areas, there may be a population decline. But he said there should also be a broader discussion, including issues like housing policy.

“I’ve heard people say things like, families living nearby don’t have children, but I think the real problem is, families can’t afford to move into these neighborhoods,” Knight said. “We don’t have affordable housing in or around counties with declining enrollment, so when it comes to county health, we also have to think about housing policy and where people can afford it. viability.” Declining enrollment, funding formulas causing budget woes for several Washington school districts

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