It should come as no surprise that the state’s top constitutional duty is public education. Our budget plan recognizes that much more than the legal necessity is our broader responsibility to provide all children with a high-quality education. By improving Washington’s public education system all students should be prepared to pursue future academic or vocational training and ultimately earn a good job.
One way to measure a commitment to priorities is the share of the overall budget going to K-12 schools. I’m pleased to say that under the Senate plan public school spending would make up more than 50 percent of the state budget for the first time since 1983. In recent decades its share has dipped as low as 38 percent.
Under the Senate budget the Legislature will have doubled its investment in schools between 2012 and 2021. Of critical importance is that in the Senate we fundamentally reform school financing to ensure that previous and new investments actually lead to better results for students.
It would fail hundreds of thousands of students and taxpayers to continue investing money in the education system without improving results on key indicators like: high school graduation rates; literacy rates by the third grade; and math abilities by the 8th grade.
We’ve included key reforms starting with a new student-centered funding model that guarantees $12,500 per student and provides additional resources for homeless, English language learners, low-income and special needs students.
There are also many other targeted investments in the Senate proposal to help Washington residents. Below are some of the lesser known but important programs.
- Expands meals-on-wheels program to serve 6,000 additional senior citizens who cannot prepare meals themselves.
- Increases funding for mental health treatment and care by $250 million to expand access, improve overall care and better protect workers.
- Overhauls the foster care system to improve outcomes for children and address the recent reduction in foster homes.
- Keeps more repeat DUI offenders off the roads by making someone’s fourth DUI a felony requiring prison time, instead of the current threshold of five.
- Saves taxpayers $1.4 billion over the next ten years by paying an additional $700 million toward long-term state pension liabilities.