Shoreline School District leaders advocate in Olympia for school funding

Friday, March 17, 2023

Student representatives to the school board Helen Murphy, Lily Fredericks, and Luke Smith

Shoreline School District leaders recently traveled to Olympia to advocate for lawmakers to increase support for schools. Board members Sara Betnel, Meghan Jernigan, and Sarah Cohen and student board representatives Lily Fredricks, Helen Murphy, and Luke Smith, along with Superintendent Susana Reyes, participated in the annual "Day on the Hill" on February 27, 2023 organized by statewide organizations of school leaders.

"The majority of our district funding and policy requirements are set by the state legislature. Engaging directly with our representatives in Olympia around our legislative priorities and funding needs is one of the most important ways we ensure they know how the decisions they are making impact our students, staff, and community," according to Sara Betnel, who leads legislative advocacy for the district as the board’s legislative representative. 
“Day on the Hill is a great moment of collective advocacy with district and student leaders across the state that builds on the conversations we have with legislators all year long.”

Advocacy has been particularly vital this year, as Shoreline and many other districts across the state are facing a funding shortfall, as the Board shared in a letter to lawmakers sent in January. 

In Washington, the state government controls and allocates most of the revenue available to public schools, based on the funding model established in response to the 2012 “McCleary decision” that held the state responsible for funding basic education. 

In Shoreline, 59% of the budget used for teaching and other school operations comes directly from the state on a per-student basis, while 14% comes from the state for specific purposes, 5% from federal funding sources, and 16% from local levy support (capped by state law based on enrollment).

Helen Murphy, OSPI Superintendent Chris Reykdal, Luke Smith, Lily Fredericks, School Board Director Sara Betnel, Shoreline Schools Superintendent Susana Reyes

Chris Reykdal, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, emphasized that public school funding is a statewide emergency in a Seattle Times interview timed to coincide with the advocacy day. 

Reykdal explained that Washington school districts, especially in the Puget Sound region, face a “perfect storm” of fiscal challenges, with declining enrollment due to demographic factors and accelerated by the pandemic, rising inflation, and deficiencies in the state funding model.

Conversations with legislators focused on key areas of student need, where legislation under consideration has the greatest potential to have a positive effect on the district's budget outlook. 

One of these areas, special education funding, is particularly important because districts have a legal obligation to provide special education services, but the state's current allocation falls far short of the true cost; in Shoreline, the yearly gap is about $8 million. 

This means that the district must divert about one third of local levy funds intended for “enhancement” to meet its legal - and moral - requirement to provide basic education to students with special needs.

Front row: WA State Representative Lauren Davis (32rd), Sara Betnel;
Back row: Susana Reyes, Luke Smith, Helen Murphy, Lily Fredericks,
School Board Director Meghan Jernigan, School Board President Sarah Cohen

Speaking to the importance of special education services, student representatives from Shoreline provided first hand testimony to lawmakers about the impact of funding on students’ lives.

“School funding is integral to ensure every student has access to the essential tools and mentors that will illuminate their pathways to success,” shares Lily Fredericks, Shorecrest High School junior and student representative to the school board. 
“These students will go on to become the many doctors, artists, and political leaders that stand as the pillars of our community and larger world. Funding education is not a privilege: it's an investment in humanity, an inviolable civil right—the very Paramount Duty of our state. The responsibility falls on our legislators to regard it as such.”

Student voice was a key component of the advocacy, as seen in a segment on KING5 News. Student representatives from Shoreline met with Governor Jay Inslee, Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck, Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, and Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, as well as lawmakers from local districts.

“As we work diligently within our own school system to rebalance the budget for long-term financial sustainability, it is also important that we stay engaged with Washington State legislators to help them understand the difficult budget realities that Shoreline and other school districts are currently facing, and how their decisions impact the daily lives of students, staff, and families across the state,” says Superintendent Reyes.

Budget information can be found from the news section of and directly on the Budget Information page.


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