Senate supplemental budget heavy on education funding
The Washington State Senate supplemental budget proposal passed last week includes a total of $192 million to boost enrollment at public colleges and universities, buy new classroom equipment and technology, help working families afford college, and make public schools safer.
The bulk of the money, about $150 million, will be one-time investments from the state's $730 million budget surplus. The budget includes funds to:
The Senate budget also establishes a $28 million "Child Protection" initiative that focuses on protecting children under state supervision who live in foster homes, group homes, or with at-risk families. Highlights include:
- Provide space for 4,100 more full-time students: 3,100 at the four-year schools, and 1,000 at the community and technical colleges ($16.5 million).
- Expand access to higher education opportunities through the Washington Higher Education Network or "WHEN" (19.4 million operating, $15.3 million capital).
- Help families afford college, including the creation of a self-sustaining loan program for middle-income families and a "prepaid tuition" program that will help parents and students save for college, with the guarantee that those savings will meet future tuition requirements ($32.6 million).
- Bring computers and technology to the classroom and create linkages between schools, colleges, and universities ($67 million).
- Create "safe schools," including background checks for all school employees, security grants to secondary schools, and alternative education for expelled or disruptive students ($29 million).
Another provision is $1.1 million to hire experienced, outside experts to correct mismanagement problems within the Children & Family Services Division of DSHS. Experts skilled in helping dysfunctional organizations get back on track would work intensively with frontline workers and supervisions over a nine-month period to develop and implement workable solutions.
- More child-protection services workers and support staff ($7.7 million).
- Help for runaways and at-risk youth as outlined in the 1995 "Becca Bill" ($6.8 million).
- Expansion of family preservation services for at-risk families ($4.5 million).
- Substance abuse treatment for all chemically-dependent parents of children who are being monitored by child-protection service caseworkers ($3.5 million).
The Senate budget provides for $140 million more in education than does the House budget: $66 million more in K-12 public schools and $74 million more in state colleges and universities.
The $150 million supplemental budget increases total 1995-97 spending by less than one percent to $17.749 billion, $150 million below the Initiative-601 limit, while still maintaining a $353 million emergency cash reserve.