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Why are local schools short of money when school district budgets are going up?

Washington Policy Center

Posted 9/7/2014

A mom in Seattle contacted me recently and asked how much money her children’s school, Blaine K-8, receives from the Seattle School District.  I looked it up and we were both stunned to discover how little funding, barely half, reaches a typical neighborhood school out of the central budget.

Many people wonder how education budgets can keep rising while local schools remain chronically short of money, so thought I would share my findings with my readers.

Seattle Public Schools is receiving more than half-a-billion dollars ($689.4 million) in public money this year . The budget lists how much each school receives per student.  Page 272 shows that Blaine K-8 is receiving only $5,882 per student. (To look up other Seattle schools go here.)

Yet Seattle District administrators, based on enrollment of 49,974 students, are receiving $13,795 per student in tax money.  District administrators provide food services, bus transportation, cleaning and maintenance services to schools, as listed on pages 78, 79 and 80.  Still, we were surprised to find that central administrators keep $306.8 million, or fully 45%, of the total education budget, leaving only $382.5 million (55%) to be divided among Seattle’s 97 community schools.

In the 1990s, Seattle Superintendent John Stanford sent 70% of education dollars to local schools.

For comparison across the state, in 2013-14, schools spent on average $10,832 per student. You can dig into this at this link maintained by the state government:  If you put your cursor over Statewide Reports, a drop-down menu appears. Select Workload/Staffing/Finance, and you can see the $10,832 figure at the bottom right (FTE means Full Time Equivalent student).

If you put your cursor over School District Reports and select Workload/Staffing/Finance, you can select these reports for every district in the state.  In the 2013-15 budget, lawmakers added $1.7 billion to K-12 schools, so the money sent to district administrators is rising by $500 per student, bringing the total average to about $11,300 per student in 2014-15.

Next time your local school has to hold a bake sale to keep the music teacher, or parents try to raise money for a math tutor, you might ask, “Why do central administrators keep so much education money?  Why don’t they give more money to principals to fund teachers?”

As lawmakers debate the McCleary decision and education funding, a good first step would be for administrators to send more money to schools in the community, where it can be used directly to help children learn.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref.]

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