|We are entering the final stretch of the 2021 legislative session. Last week, the Washington state revenue forecast was released, providing a baseline for how many resources the legislature will have to allocate to the 2021-23 biennial operating budget which will fund operations from July 2021 through June 2023.
The revenue forecast provided some positive news with a much-improved projection that has the current combined revenue projections for the remainder of this budget cycle and the upcoming 2-year budget cycle being just $58 million less than what was projected prior to the start of the pandemic in February 2020.
The budget talks will intensify late next week as the state Senate is expected to release its budget proposal on Thursday, which will be closely followed by the House of Representatives.
In addition to the deliberations about finalizing a budget to fund the state for the upcoming two-year budget cycle, Washington will also be making decisions on how the recently passed federal stimulus legislation will be spent. Most of the $1.85 billion Washington state will receive for K-12 education will be made available to districts to meet the immediate needs of students, but a portion will be allocated at the discretion of state-level decision-makers to direct how they feel best meets the needs of students.
As folks scramble to understand the provisions of the legislation, uncertainty still remains as to whether the state legislature or the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) will ultimately decide how the funds are spent. As more clarity is gained on the federal stimulus, the Investing in Student Potential Coalition is determining our advocacy priorities as key funding decisions are made in the coming weeks. From what we have heard from parents, students, and educators in recent months, we have developed a draft list of priorities to focus our advocacy efforts in the upcoming discussions on how to invest the federal stimulus dollars.
- Compensatory and recovery services
- All students have faced challenges in accessing their education, but students receiving special education services, in particular Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color, have been especially impacted by remote learning models and the lack of access to the supports and services outlined in their IEP. We must provide equitable access, including language access supports, to families to enable students with disabilities to access the educational supports they have had limited or no access to since the pandemic began in March 2020.
- Student mental health and social-emotional supports
- Ensure students have the access to the social-emotional and mental health supports they need to meaningfully engage in learning and return to a safe and supportive in-person learning environment.
- Addressing structural barriers
- We must work to meet the urgent and immediate student need that is present across the state, while taking steps to address the systemic and structural issues students and schools face in providing culturally relevant, accessible, and impactful supports to students and families so that as schools emerge from this crisis, they are better prepared to meet the ongoing student need that will outlast the one-time infusion of federal resources.
If you have any thoughts on the above draft priorities or would like to share your vision, please feel free to share your perspective in this survey.