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Washington School Finance: Exploring the History and Present-Day Challenges for Fiscal Equity

In this forthcoming book chapter, the authors provide an in-depth description of the history and current issues pertaining to public school finance in Washington State, including how recent federal stimulus funding impacted resource levels. The state uses a resource-based funding model, where the amount of funds each school district receives is based on the district’s enrollment level and a series of staffing ratios and salary schedules. In contrast, most U.S. states use a simpler, dollar-based funding formula that determines district funding levels using a per-student dollar amount. Dollar-based funding models typically include student weights that drive more state funds to school districts with greater need. Washington’s resource-based model does not have weights and provides approximately equal per-pupil state funding regardless of local need. When combined with the state’s local tax revenues, Washington’s K-12 finance system provides higher per-pupil funding levels to districts serving wealthier student populations. The system creates racial funding gaps that systematically disadvantage Latinx and Pacific Islander students. Federal COVID-19 stimulus funds were allocated progressively with respect to student income level; however, these funds are temporary, and districts may need to reduce budgets or identify additional funds once the federal stimulus is expended. The chapter concludes with recommendations for further reading.

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EdWorkingPaper suggested citation:

Knight, David S., Pooya Almasi, and JoLynn Berge. (). Washington School Finance: Exploring the History and Present-Day Challenges for Fiscal Equity. (EdWorkingPaper: 23-702). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University:

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