CRITICAL DISTRICT ISSUES

Local Enrichment Levy – Regionalization Factor

The regionalization factor used on state apportionment is not applied to local levies, which diminishes the purchasing power of levy dollars. We are asking the legislature to apply the regionalization factor to the local enrichment levy allowable collections so that local levy dollars have the same buying power as funds received from the state.

The state recognizes the higher cost of living in some areas of our state by applying a regionalization factor to staff salaries in the appropriation model. This increase in funding is passed on to staff in the form of higher salaries. Districts use enrichment levies to hire additional staff who are on the same salary schedules as staff funded by state appropriations. Current levy rules do not recognize the varying costs of living in different areas of the state because regionalization factors are not applied. Without the regionalization factor being applied, districts with higher costs of living and higher employee salaries, have less purchasing power with their levy dollars than other districts resulting in inequitable local levy funding. This solution has no impact on the state budget.

Additionally, for districts that do not have the same ability to leverage additional local levy dollars, we support an equitable update to the Local Effort Assistance (LEA) formula by increasing the maximum per pupil limit to match the impact of local levy regionalization for districts like Bellevue or at least to return to LEA spending levels from 2018.

Special Education – Our Paramount Duty

We are asking the legislature over the next two years to fully fund Special Education costs using a model that recognizes student needs, eliminates the funding gap, and allows for greater access to appropriate services for all students.

The current special education funding model results in a funding gap of hundreds of millions annually requiring districts to use local levy dollars to meet student needs. Districts are incurring varying levels of subsidizing special education costs creating an inequitable financial burden. For the 2022-23 school year in the Bellevue School District, there was a $30 million gap between state funding for special education services and what we spent on those services.

The per pupil state allocation model ignores the unique needs of students, and as a result, families across the state have varied access to services and many districts are not able to provide programming for students with multiple disabilities. Without state funding options for early intervention in a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS), choices for families and students are limited to either general education or special education, with nothing in between to meet student needs. The application of inflation factors for revenue increases does not recognize the disproportionate growth in special education costs resulting in larger gaps year over year.

IMPORTANT DISTRICT ISSUES

Student Well-being and Mental Health

The BSD used federal ESSER funds to launch an innovative framework for school-based mental health services. The Mental Health Assistance Team framework provides well-being screening and short-term, research-based counseling provided by an interdisciplinary team of counselors, social workers, and psychologists. These one-time ESSER funds are no longer available to support social emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs which were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic and have continued. We encourage the legislature to enhance investment in mental health support, social emotional learning, and substance abuse prevention.

Affordable Housing, Workforce Housing

Supporting affordable housing is crucial for building inclusive and sustainable communities. Affordable housing contributes to the well-being of individuals and families by ensuring they have access to safe and stable living environments. The same applies to our staff, as access to affordable housing helps attract and retain a high-quality workforce and allows staff members to develop a sese of belonging in our community. The prohibitive cost of housing is a major factor in our declining enrollment. We support legislation that expands affordable housing and equips school districts to either provide or partner with other entities to provide affordable workforce housing.

Early Learning

Enhanced access to publicly funded early childhood education for pre-K children improves school readiness and those children who attend an early learning program have high literacy numeracy, and language fluency skills and develops critical social emotional skills like empathy and self-regulation. Access to early learning programs for low-income families reduce disparities in academic and social emotional outcomes while providing more opportunities for parents of young children with the ability to pursue employment and education and mitigate child-care concerns. We support legislation that expands access and provides funding for quality early learning programs.


ADDITIONAL ISSUES WE SUPPORT

The Bellevue School District is committed to improving outcomes for all students in all schools in all districts. The state has a paramount duty to fully fund basic education to allow students to fully participate in their learning. The current state appropriation formulas result in funding gaps that require districts to use local funds to cover the costs of meeting student needs. To address these critically important operational issues and ensure every student is provided full access to their basic education and required services, we support legislation to address the following issues.

Transportation

Revise the student transportation funding formula to be transparent and predictable and fully fund the actual costs of student transportation. Allow additional types of vehicles to qualify for funding to provide more flexibility and stabilize operations, particularly for students with disabilities and requiring specialized transportation, students experiencing homelessness, and students in foster care.

Classified Staff Salary and Prototypical Model

Classified staff, including paraeducators, are essential members of school communities, providing instructional support as part of students’ basic education and ensuring safe, clean, and welcoming learning environments. Recognize and compensate classified staff and paraeducators as valued employees by increasing the state allocation for their compensation and increasing positions in the prototypical model that reflect the staff needed to run a school and support student outcomes.

School Construction Formula Modifications

The current school construction cost allocation program is antiquated and does not adequately reflect the true costs of school construction, with no meaningful increase in the funding formula for decades despite significant increases in construction costs. Increasing state funding for both the area-cost allowance and the square-foot-per-student allocation for school construction is critical.

School Materials, Supplies, and Operating Costs (MSOCs)

MSOCs such as technology, utilities, insurance coverage, curriculum, library materials, professional development, facilities and maintenance, and other supplies and supports, remain unfunded or underfunded, despite being categories in basic education. Current MSOC revenues provided by the state have not kept up with inflation. School districts are left to pay for these essential, basic education supports from local levy funds.

The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.