BELLINGHAM - When it comes to funding, not all school districts are created equal.
For example, Bellevue School District got about $2,200 more per student than Meridian School District in the 2010-11 school year, according to revenue numbers from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
That money comes from a mix of local levies and state and federal funds, so it varies per district, with more affluent metro districts often able to raise more money locally than smaller rural ones, said Greg Alarid, a Washington Education Association representative.
That variability might be news to attendees of the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County forum about understanding education funding in Washington state. The free forum will run from 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 17, in the downstairs meeting room at Bellingham Public Library, 210 Central Ave.
Alarid will speak at the forum about the sometimes dramatic differences in funding among districts.
"That to me raises a question of equity, not just in terms of funding but the ability to provide equity in teaching and learning opportunities," he said.
Dan Newell, an assistant superintendent with OSPI, had been scheduled to speak at the forum as well, but he had to leave the state for a family emergency.
League member Michael Jay said the forum still will include a PowerPoint presentation that Newell had put together that includes information on state-level funding.
"I think what'll be surprising to them is how much the funding is put on the local tax base," Newell said before the family emergency. "I think they've heard the state doesn't fully fund education, but I don't think they understand why, and I don't think they understand that up to 28 percent can come from local levies, some districts even more. I don't think that it's widely recognized that we hang taxes on local communities to educate their youth."
Alarid also will talk about the state's mandate to fully fund K-12 education by 2018, and what fully funded might mean to different people.
"We all care about quality schools and quality education," he said. "It's important because a huge amount of money has been taken out of the K-12 public schools system over these last three years, and that had a tangible impact on public education."
Those cuts have meant larger class sizes, which can affect students' abilities to learn and teachers' ability to teach, he said.
For part of the event, the audience will break into groups to talk about education funding and how they might discuss it outside of the forum.
"Dialogue is a good thing. I would hope that people consider these questions, questions around what school funding looks like, what should it look like, and why," Alarid said. "What are we trying to accomplish and how do we go about accomplishing that?"
Reach ZOE FRALEY at email@example.com or call 756-2803.