Teachers are protesting, but school spending is up

The Washington Education Association (WEA) called for a "Day of Action" rally in Olympia on the first day of the special session of the legislature.

Teachers and public school employees were urged to leave their classrooms to attend this rally and deliver a "budget cuts hurt kids" message to legislators.

A "Week of Action" was planned for the week prior to Thanksgiving, with teachers across the state wearing "These Cuts Hurt" buttons, and the WEA placing editorials and ads in newspapers across the state claiming that school budgets have been cut.

Despite cries about hurting kids, the state education budget has not been cut. Education spending has increased by $789 million compared to the last budget, rising from $12.9 billion in the 2009-11 budget to $13.7 billion in the 2011-13 budget.

This spending boost includes teacher salary step increases, pension and benefit increases, student enrollment increases, $62.2 million in new programs, $92 million for full-day kindergarten and the start-up costs for spending $300 million to implement a new test for Washington students.

Reductions of 3 percent and 1.9 percent to the highest paid administrators and teachers, respectively, were included in the 2011-13 budget, but many districts were able to avoid imposing these reductions and reduced other areas of local spending instead.

In 2010-11, schools added an additional 235 employees to school payrolls, increasing from 101,675 employees in 2009-10 to 101,910 employees in 2010-11.

Here is a summary, based on data from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program Committee, as well as the State Board of Education:

1. Public school staffing

- Number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees: 101,910.

- Number of FTE classroom teachers: 48,397.

- Number of students per classroom teacher: 20.5

- Share of employees who are classroom teachers: 47 percent.

2. Education spending

- Total education spending in 2010-11 (budgeted) dollars: $10.25 billion.

- Share of each education dollar reaching the classroom: 59 cents.

- Per pupil spending in operating costs only: $10,326.

- Per pupil spending in operating and capital costs (for 2009-10): $12,089.

- Average teacher's pay and benefits: $79,814 (base of $61,396, plus $18,418 in benefits and pension).

- Average district administrator pay and benefits: $127,506 (base of $102,828, plus $24,678 in benefits and pension).

- Average superintendent pay and benefits: $161,856 (base of $130,656, plus $31,200 in benefits and pension).

In Washington 74,000 students attend 228 schools ranked as the worst schools by the State Board of Education's Public School Accountability Index, while only 28,650 students attend 81 schools ranked as the best schools on the Index.

Simply spending more money does not raise student achievement. State leaders could improve schools by passing legislation that:

- Lets principals fire bad teachers.

- Lets students attend a charter school.

- Puts principals in charge of their school budgets.

- The Washington Policy Center is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan think tank that researches public policy issues.


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