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Friday, May 29, 2009

Broadly available education and opportunity is fundamental to the future of our state. Education opens doors to better job opportunities, higher wages, and greater job security. Success in today’s competitive, knowledge-based economy will require more than a basic education. Our children need schools that provide sophisticated, high-quality learning environments so they can graduate with the skills and knowledge to succeed in the global marketplace.

This year's budget process resulted in significant budget cuts in education, as shown in the table below (click on it to see a larger version).

In K-12 education, the largest cuts were to two voter-approved initiatives (I-728 and I-732). I-728 called for funding to school districts for specific quality improvements such as class size reduction, extended learning, early learning, or professional development. I-732 called for a cost of living adjustment for education professionals. This cut will diminish the state's ability to attract and retain high quality teachers, a proven factor in improving student performance in school. A number of other education reform efforts were also suspended, eliminated, or reduced.

Higher education will also suffer under the new budget. Despite federal stimulus efforts, community and technical colleges will have $226 million less in state support during a time when the need for workforce training is growing dramatically. In addition, the university system will receive $384 million less in state support. Tuition will rise and services will be cut as a result.

These cuts will harm the long-term economic competitiveness of our state as well as the availability of quality education for all of Washington's students.

* Note: Federal stimulus funds not directly affecting the near-general fund balance are not included.

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