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Shoreline School Board Letter to the WA State Legislature: The Financial Emergency Facing Our Public Schools

On Thursday, January 26, 2023, Shoreline School Board Director Sara Betnel sent the message below and the following letter to WA State Legislators. The School Board voted to approve this letter in the January 24, 2023, board meeting and was sent by Director Betnel on behalf of the Board following the joint action and agreement to do so.

This message and letter align with the Board-approved Shoreline Public Schools 2023 Legislative Priorities.


Dear Esteemed State Senators and Representatives of the 1st & 32nd LDs, as well as the members of the Education, Early Learning & K-12, Appropriations, and Ways & Means Committees,

As our district navigates extremely difficult large budget reductions for the next school year and beyond, the Shoreline School Board finds ourselves compelled to bring to your collective attention the impending financial emergency that is developing for public schools across the state.
Please take a moment to read and consider deeply our attached letter to you all. 
As the decision makers for education and state funding for Washington, we implore you to look at the full picture of funding for public schools and understand that many pieces are coming together at this time that are forcing districts to make large and impactful reductions to staffing, programs, and student supports due to increasing, unfunded costs and mandates. You have the ability to address this with the budget you pass this year.
Our students don't have the next biennium to wait for their next two years of school. Please create the next state budget with them and their futures in mind. We are ready to work with you to do so and fulfill the promise we all made to them when we took our oaths of office.
Sara Betnel, on behalf of the Shoreline School Board
Sara Betnel
Director, District 5 / Legislative Rep.
Shoreline School Board

January 26, 2023

Dear Esteemed State Senators and Representatives,

We are writing to you with the utmost urgency in this legislative session around the current significant funding shortfall facing our school district for the 2023-2024 school year - and in solidarity with the many other districts across the state facing a similar situation - which will be impacting our students, schools, families, and communities and the education we are here to provide them.

Each school board in the state is charged with financial oversight for their individual districts. Managing our district budget responsibly in collaboration with our district financial teams is one of our paramount duties.

As we look to next year we are in the position of needing to make significant reductions in our expenditures due to the following key state funding shortfalls:

  • Decreasing regionalization factors and local levy limits
  • Continued deeply underfunded special education services
  • Misaligned and underfunded building and support staffing models
  • Unfunded portions of IPD and SEBB for staff
  • Ongoing unfunded mandates

The severe impact and inequity of leaving our state’s prototypical school funding model with little modification since the McCleary decision has never been more apparent. School districts had only 1.5 years following the decision to work with the new funding model before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in our state – upending schooling and bringing the inequities of our current system into sharp focus. A funding model based on enrollment – not student need – without baseline staffing needed to run each school and support the whole child while lacking an effective mechanism to account for the true differences in costs for operation and staffing in different areas of the state, regardless of enrollment, are coming to a head at this time.

Our district is facing ~10% reduction in expenditures in order to arrive at a balanced budget for next year; directly due to the current funding model. In recent communications we have learned of similar reductions happening in Anacortes, Port Angeles, Everett, Bellevue, Issaquah, Monroe, Marysville, Tahoma, Wenatchee, Ellensburg, Spokane’s Central Valley, and Seattle; among others. This is not one district, nor one area of the state – the current funding model is impacting districts large, small, north, south, east, and west across Washington.

At stake in these reductions are important student supports and programs that are essential educational and individual lifelines for our most impacted students. And, yet, with the current funding model and legal mandates we are constrained within, there is little we can do to counter these reductions.

Therefore, it is with your deep consideration of the next biennium’s budget in mind, that we write to you to urge you to prioritize public school funding as a continued key investment – and your paramount duty – in our state.

Notably, we ask you to make the following significant investments in the 2023-2025 state budget:

  • Fully fund special education - Fully fund the true cost of fulfilling our students' rights to special education services by substantially increasing the multiplier, lifting the artificial cap, and preserving SafetyNet funding. In our district, this is currently an $8mil funding gap and accounts for 33% of our local levy funds.
  • Support the whole child - Realign and fund the staffing allocations for building and support positions needed to have comprehensive learning and care for students in each building (principals, assistant principals, deans, counselors, librarians, nurses, psychologists, family advocates, custodians, and front office and nutrition services staff). Provide for universal school meals to ensure students have the nutrition needed for learning.
  • Respond to regional costs - Establish sustainable, ongoing parameters for district regionalization based on the true cost of living and labor markets regionally. Create a predictable, regional approach to IPD / COLA salary increases to account for true cost of living. Note that when you pass an IPD the state funding only covers state allocations - leaving districts to cover the IPD increase out of levy funds for federally funded employees and employees not fully funded in the state model (e.g. special education teachers and staff, deans, nurses, counselors, etc.).
  • Fund the true cost of transportation - Fuel costs are rising, fleets are in need of maintenance and replacement, and staff deserve the same support as educators.
  • No unfunded mandates - Ensure all public school directives have the necessary funding included for implementation. Even the smallest additional cost is significant.

If you haven’t yet, we encourage you to connect with the school districts in your legislative district to learn how the current decrease in state funding in the face of increasing costs is impacting their budgets and ability to best serve students.

Our students don’t have another biennium to wait for their next two years of school. Please help us fully support them in this time as they deserve - especially after all they’ve just endured during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We know there are many competing priorities you are being asked to address this session; particularly around our state economy, community stability, and public safety. Education is not separate from these, but rather foundational to any of their success. This is what compels us to write to you to highlight the vital importance of the investments in public education needed to continue to support every child in our district and across the state, and our urgent request to keep their health, safety, learning, and futures at the center of your decision making.

Please let us know if you have any questions or could use any additional information to assist you in this process.

We are ready to collaborate with you to achieve this necessary funding.


Sara Betnel, School Board Legislative Representative –


On Behalf of Shoreline School District Board of Directors –