Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How did Tacoma lose money in the state's new school funding formula when other Districts gained?

The state funding formula gives us $50 million in so-called new money—but our local levy will drop by $46 million a year when the 2019-20 school starts, leaving just $4 million a year more than we currently receive in total funding. Moreover, $14 million of that state money comes with strings attached. The state says we must spend it on things such as expanding career and technical education transportation and other areas that are not currently our highest priorities.

How bad is it?

  • Tacoma Public Schools will get $389 LESS per student beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.
  • That, plus inflation in costs of doing business and already built-in pay increases in collective bargaining agreements, equates to about a $25 million budget deficit for Tacoma Public Schools next year.
  • One time Hold Harmless funds allowed for continued operations in the 2018/2019 school year, but without a legislative fix in the 2019 session, a year from now we face significant staff and programs cuts.

Q: Wasn't the Legislature's response to McCleary supposed to solve school funding challenges?

The McCleary lawsuit was intended to provide additional resources for school districts through State funding and to end reliance on local taxes. The legislature believes that they have accomplished this task by increasing the State tax rates and decreasing local tax rates in addition to providing additional funding. This resulted in some communities supplementing the funds provided to other communities for education funding but the limiting of levy funding without the same level of funding being replaced with State dollars results in losing districts.        

Q: What happened with the $12 million one-time funding that Tacoma Public Schools received from the State for the 2018-2019 school year?  

We received that money from the legislature for the 2018-2019 school year to avoid budget cuts and layoffs in the upcoming year. The funds are being used for a variety of expenses, including salaries.  
 
Q: Why can't the district use funding reserves to provide pay increases?  
Tacoma Public Schools is required to have 5 percent of our operating budget in reserves for use in case of an emergency. (Board policy 6015, Regulation 6015.1R) Our projected reserves as of August 2018 are 6 percent. Additionally, the Board drew $5 million out of reserves during the 2017-2018 school year to balance the budget and avoid staff and program cuts. 


Q: What is the district doing to fix the funding challenges.

  • We will continue to advocate for a change in the regionalization to 18% for the I-5 Corridor. Washington Senate Bill 6362 changes our ability to maintain competitive salaries. Fund us for the competitive market that already exists.
  • We will work with legislators to fix the funding disparities under the new law, and allow us to collect the levy dollars we need to operate. Restoring Tacoma School's ability to collect voter-approved levy funding at the $2,500 per student rate versus the $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value to help restore lost revenue.
  • We will continue our prudent and responsible financial planning to prepare for the shortfall in 2019-2020.

 

Q: Didn't we vote to give more money to schools last February? What happened to that funding?

In February, our voters approved a levy that would allow us to collect $72 million a year. But the state's new formula limits our local levy to $40 million a year. That's $32 million less per year than our voters said they'd support and $46 million less every year than voters have given us over the past four years.

The state funding formula gives us $50 million in so-called new money—but our local levy dropped by $46 million a year, so that's just $4 million a year more than we currently receive in total funding. Moreover, $14 million of that state money comes with strings attached. The state says we must spend it on things such as expanding career and technical education transportation and other areas that are not currently our highest priorities.

 

Q: What can we do to advocate for fair funding for Tacoma Public Schools?

Our local legislators—Reps. Laurie Jinkins, Jake Fey, Christine Kilduff, Steve Kirby, Dick Muri and Sens. Jeannie Darneille, Steve Conway and Steve O'Ban—have fought for us. They can't do it alone. The solutions for Tacoma and other districts statewide require legislators from across the state to come together to fix the inequities.

Write or call your area legislators to fix the funding disparities under the new law, and allow us to collect the levy dollars we need to operate. Find your representatives.

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