Funded: State Policy Analysis

A Detailed Look at Each State's Funding Policies

Below, see summaries of the state’s education funding policy in each issue area. Click the Expand icon next to any summary to see more detail, if available, about that state’s policy regarding that issue area. Click the Citation icon
next to any summary to see the sources of the information regarding that issue area.
Funding Basics
Formula Type

Washington has a primarily resource-based formula. It determines the cost of delivering education in a district based on the cost of the resources, such as staff salaries and course materials, required to do so.  

Services for students identified as gifted, students enrolled in especially high-poverty districts, and students in sparsely populated districts are provided through program-based allocations. Services for students with disabilities are funded through the application of a multiplier to the district’s average per-pupil cost. Specific grade levels, bilingual education services, and career and technical education programs programs are considered in the allocation of funding for staff costs.

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Base Amount

The state of Washington uses a resource-based funding formula and therefore does not use a base per-student amount as the basis for its funding.

Expected Local Share

Washington does not expect districts to contribute revenue to their public schools. However, school districts are permitted to impose taxes to generate supplemental revenue for maintenance and operations, debt service, capital projects, and transportation equipment.

The vast majority of Washington school districts impose a supplemental maintenance and operations tax. This tax is limited to a rate that varies depending on the district’s revenue history. A district that imposes such a tax is eligible for a partial or full matching amount of additional state aid, with higher optional maintenance and operations tax rates generating more additional aid.

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Student Characteristics
Grade Level

Washington provides different levels of funding for students in different grade levels.  It does so through its resource-based formula by specifying different student-to-staff ratios for four different grade spans, and providing funding for staff positions accordingly.

The state assigns a student-to-teacher ratio of 25.23 to 1 for grades K-3; 27 to 1 for grades 4-6; 28.53 to 1 for grades 7-8; and 28.74 to 1 for grades 9-12. Dividing each grade span’s enrollment by its assigned class size and adding an adjustment for planning time determines the number of teaching units to which a district is entitled. The planning time adjustment increases the number of teacher units by 15.5% in grades K-6 and by 20% in grades 7-12.

Principals, librarians, guidance counselors, nurses, and other school-based staff are also assigned to schools in accordance with different student-to-staff ratios for elementary, middle, and high schools. In addition, the state specifically provides funding for small schools that is partially dependent on grade level; see “Sparsity” for a description of this allocation.

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English-Language Learner

Washington provides increased funding for English language learners (ELLs).  It does so through its resource-based formula by specifying ratios of full-time-equivalent ELLs to hours of instructional time and providing funding for staff positions accordingly.

The state assigns a rate of 4.778 hours per week of additional instructional time for every 15 full-time-equivalent ELLs. (A reduced number of hours is assigned for students in their first year after exiting an ELL program.) These hours are converted into full-time-equivalent staff positions, generating state funding for teacher salaries and benefits.

The allocation is targeted towards the non-English-speaking students whose need is greatest, so many but not all students enrolled in ELL programs will qualify for this funding.

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Student Poverty

Washington does not provide a standard, higher level of funding for individual students from low-income households. However, increased funding is provided to certain districts with an especially high concentration of low-income students.  See “District Poverty” for a description of this allocation.

source(s):

http://www.k12.wa.us/safs/PUB/ORG/15/OrganizationFinancing2015.pdf

Special Education

Washington funds special education using a single student weight system, providing the same amount of state funding for each student with disabilities, regardless of the severity of those disabilities. It does so by applying a multiplier of 1.9309 to the district's Basic Education Act (BEA) allocation rate for students with disabilities. (The BEA allocation rate is the average amount spent on non-disabled students in the district as a result of the state's resource-based formula calculations.)

However, only disabled students up to 12.7% of each district’s enrollment may generate supplemental special education funding. There are also funds provided in each district’s general education funding apportionment based on the number of special education students enrolled and the amount of time during the school day they receive special services.

Additionally, the state maintains a special education safety net to provide funding when a district serves a high-cost student (that is, a student whose services impose costs above a certain threshold, which was set at $27,613 in FY2016) or provides an overall special education program that, for reasons beyond the district's control, impose a “disproportional and extraordinary cost” on the community.

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WA Ann. Sta. § 392-140-60110

Gifted

Washington provides increased funding for gifted and talented students to districts that apply. It does so through its resource-based formula by specifying ratios of full-time-equivalent gifted students to hours of instructional time and providing funding for staff positions accordingly.

The state assigns a rate of 2.159 hours per week of additional instructional time for every 15 full-time-equivalent gifted students. These hours are converted into full-time-equivalent staff positions, generating state funding for teacher salaries and benefits.

The number of students for which districts may receive this funding is limited to a percentage of the district’s total enrollment. In FY16, this percentage was 2.314%, though the intention is for this funding to eventually fund gifted and talented education for up to 3% of students.

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Career and Technical Education

Washington provides specific funding for career and technical education (CTE) programs.  It does so through its resource-based formula by specifying student-to-staff ratios for CTE programs and providing funding for staff positions accordingly, and through a grant program.

The state assigns a student-to-teacher ratio of 26.58 to 1 for CTE classes in grades 7-12 and 22.76 to 1 for Skills Centers, which are regional centers that provide CTE programs that would be too expensive to offer at individual high schools. Dividing each program’s enrollment by its assigned class size and adding an adjustment for planning time determines the number of teaching units to which a district is entitled. The planning time adjustment increases the number of teacher units by 20% in grades 7-12.

The state also provides secondary CTE grants for programs in high-demand areas and the collection of evidence regarding CTE programs.

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Community Characteristics
District Poverty

Washington provides increased funding to certain districts based on the concentrations of students from low-income households that they serve. It does so primarily through its resource-based formula by specifying lower student-to-staff ratios for high-poverty elementary schools and providing funding for staff positions accordingly. It also supports high-poverty schools at a slightly higher level than other schools through a program-based academic support allocation.

For elementary schools where grades K-6, or any grade within that range, have a student population that is more than 50% eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRL) under the National School Lunch Program, the state specifies lower target K-3 class sizes: 18 students in kindergarten, 19 in first grade, 22 in second grade, and 24 in third grade, instead of the usual class size of 25.23 students in all grades K-3. As districts lower class sizes in these high-poverty grades, the state provides additional funding for teachers. Maximum funding is achieved through when districts attain the target class sizes.

Additionally, the Learning Assistance Program, which provides funds to support students performing below grade level in core academic subjects, allocates funding primarily on the basis of student enrollment. However, districts of equal size will receive different levels of funding in accordance with the percentage of students they serve who are FRL-eligible.

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Personal communication from T.J. Kelly, Director, School Apportionment and Financial Services, Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, on 5/9/16

Sparsity and/or Small Size

Washington provides increased funding for small school districts in the form of additional funded staff positions, with the precise number of positions dependent on district grade levels and enrollment levels. The state also guarantees a minimum number of teacher positions for small districts operating only two high schools. State transportation funding is also calculated using a formula that considers district sparsity.

Small school districts with fewer than 25 full-time-equivalent students are guaranteed certain numbers of teacher and administrative staff positions. Small schools with more than 25 full-time-equivalent students receive additional funding for staff positions. Small districts operating no more than two high schools with no more than 300 students in each also receive staff position funding, in accordance with formulas that consider the number of students enrolled and the number of students in career and technical education programs.

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