The educational landscape is rapidly changing due to the lingering impact of the pandemic on statewide educational funding. The state legislature is actively debating how and where to spend current and upcoming school year funding. To combat losses in enrollment funding, the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) proposed $522 million in state funding, based on declining October 2021 enrollment, to stabilize funding and allow school districts to use 2019-2020 enrollment numbers.
Supported by District 5 Reps. Lisa Callan (an Issaquah Highlands resident) and Bill Ramos, House Bill 1590 and the identical Senate Bill 5563 aim to stabilize enrollment funding to overcome enrollment declines caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both bills address the pandemic’s impact on student learning, a key factor in declining enrollment, while recognizing COVID-19 continues to affect education across the state as school districts resume in-person instruction.
“School funding and student enrollment are inextricably linked. Over the past several months, I’ve worked closely with my colleagues to get the funding our school districts need to provide our students the high-quality education they deserve,” said Callan. “As this legislation and the state budget continue to evolve during the legislative session, I’ll be fighting to get our local school districts the resources necessary to meet their contractual obligations, overcome the effects of this pandemic, and provide our students the individual learning and health support they need.”
Funding declines affect a district’s ability to maintain staffing and resources to deliver education services. Because state funding and student enrollment are linked, student enrollment impacts district-provided programming. Last year, OSPI stabilization funding maintained ISD essential staffing, programs, and services amid enrollment decline. The state legislature could vote to stabilize the funding loss seen this school year and its resulting impacts on the 2022-2023 school year.
“We need help from our legislators in Olympia. We’re still battling the effects of the COVID pandemic,” ISD Superintendent Ron Thiele said. “I do believe a significant number of our enrollment decline is related to the pandemic. But you have to follow the conversations in Olympia. I’m nervous the bill won’t make it through.”
Issaquah Middle (IM) School PTSA President and Issaquah Council PTSA Advocacy and Legislative Representative Cortney Eldridge encourages everyone to learn more about the process.
“While I am the IM PTSA president and advocacy-legislative rep on Council, every single individual in ISD is a stakeholder,” Cortney said. “We all hold a stake in the success of our school district. Legislators are affected by numbers of people showing interest…We can use advocacy to get the messaging out there…but it is up to all of us at the end of the day to speak up.”
As ISD stakeholders, we can participate in the community conversation and advocate for our students’ educational futures.. Learn more about the status of each bill (HB 1590 and SB 5563) and share your input. You can share comments on each bill online on the Washington State Legislature’s website, or contact local legislators directly.
Join Reps. Lisa Callan and Bill Ramos, and Sen. Mark Mullet for a virtual Town Hall on Thursday, Feb. 24.
Tracie Jones writes the “School Spotlight” column for Issaquah Highlands media and is a Wisteria Park resident. Rep. Lisa Callan provided additional information for this article.