Union-Bulletin: Fund education before employee pay increases; Not all education budget problems originate in Olympia

More support for the proposition that the state’s collective bargaining agreements add to budget controversies can be found in this Walla Walla Union-Bulleting editorial, which concludes:

Basic education must be funded. After that, lawmakers should do what they believe is best in funding the wage hikes.

And, while the state has been found at fault for its failure to fund basic education fully, the Seattle Times editorial board says that the Seattle schools can’t blame all their budget problems on Olympia

DURING most school-budget cycles, parents are only vaguely aware of the process. That’s not the case this year in Seattle Public Schools, where Superintendent Larry Nyland sent an alarming letter to families earlier this month, warning of the district’s dire budget shortfall.

The letter erroneously lays the full blame for the district’s projected $74 million deficit for the 2017-18 school year — about 10 percent of the district budget — on the state Legislature…

But Seattle school administrators deliberately ignored financial realities when they cut a deal with the teachers union to end last year’s strike without a plan for where the extra money for salaries would come from after reserve funds were tapped. The district also has spent millions in local dollars to give administrators and other school employees salaries well above what the state provides because of the city’s cost of living.

But while the district suffers from some self-inflicted fiscal hardship, the Times concludes,

While Superintendent Nyland’s letter might have been melodramatic and somewhat disingenuous, it underscores the serious urgency facing the Legislature to solve the McCleary problem. Students, their schools and the communities that support them can no longer limp along without a coherent education-finance policy from the state Legislature — one that solves the untenable disparities between wealthy and poor districts and provides a quality eduction for every child.

It’s not just the Seattle public schools that have made some bad budget choices. The Olympian editorial board takes a look at Washington State University and finds that WSU needs a budget class.

Following the first comprehensive budget review at Washington State University in almost a decade, the results show that lapse in time was obviously too long. And now the university has some major catching up to do.

WSU President Kirk Schulz announced recently in an email to the university that WSU is projected to have a $17 million deficit through next June. That is on top of the $13 million shortfall of the WSU Athletics Department made public earlier this year.

Steps are being taken to bring the deficit under control.
But, across the board, what we wrote two years ago about the state budget has broader application.

A commitment to sustainable budgeting replaces … uncertainty with stability, supporting long-range planning and assuring that a consistent level of vital services can be maintained in varying economic conditions.

That, of course, means making sure that high priorities are funded ahead of lower priorities and the new ventures are undertaken only when they can be carried out with a predictable, stable revenue stream. It’s a principle to remember in the months ahead.