Community Forums Network Round 2:“Where’s the consensus?” ReportDownload the PDFSummary of survey findings on K12 Education FundingExecutive Director: Carrie Shaw
Analysis by: Carrie Shaw & John Spady
Technology Management: John Spady
1. Funding Public education: The paramount duty2. Survey Highlights3. Where’s the consensus?4. CFN Advisory Board5. CFN Partner Organizations6. Round 2 Partner Organizations7. Top grant recipients for Round 2 included:8. Survey Questions – Consensus Summary9. (T-1) Do you think current K12 education spending in Washington State is10. (T-2) Should the Sate Legislature fund a dedicated K12 education budget?11. (T-3) Do you support the idea of a levy swap?12. (T-4) Should school districts reduce their administrative costs?13. (T-5) Should school principals have more control over their individual budgets?14. (T-6) How should the state fully fund “basic education?”15. (T-10) How important to you is average classroom size?16. (T-11) Should closing the academic achievement gap be the top priority?17. (T-12) Should the state fully fund early learning education?18. Disclaimer Clause19. What is a PC RatingTM?
Funding Public education: The paramount duty
The Washington State Constitution says…”it is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.” (1889; bold type added).
The key words are; “paramount duty,” meaning most important duty, and “ample,” meaning sufficient.
In January 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court in the McCleary et al versus State of Washington said that the state was not meeting its paramount duty to fully fund education based on what the State Legislature defines as “basic education” for all children.
This funding gap has a large price tag – beginning with about $300 million of additional spending in 2013 and increasing to $2 billion per year by 2016. According to the State Office of Financial Management, Washington already faces a projected $900 million state budget shortfall for the 2013-15 biennium.
With our current economic realities, any new education spending will have to be funded with either new tax revenue, substantial cuts in funds for other programs, or a combination of both.
Community Forums Network asked citizens some of these tough questions on school funding during a round of discussions and surveys conducted from September 14 through October 28, 2012. We had 3,244 people share their opinions on how the state should meet its constitutional obligation to fully fund K12 public education. Consensus emerged on what we should spend and how we should spend it, but with less agreement on where the increase in education funds should and should not come from.
More funds for K-12: When asked about funding, a near supermajority* of respondents – 65% – said that current spending levels of $12,597 per pupil per year were “not enough.”
*Note: A supermajority represents 2/3 or 66% or higher of respondents
Fund K12 first: A supermajority of respondents – 70% – support the idea of a dedicated K-12 budget that legislators fund first before any other spending.
Lower administrative costs: The greatest area of consensus emerged over the idea of asking school districts to lower their administrative costs so that more money could be spent at the classroom level. Seventy-seven percent (77%) of respondents said “yes” to this idea.
Classroom size matters: Respondents overwhelmingly stated that the student-to-teacher ratio and average classroom size matters with 72% saying it is “very important” (51%) or “important” (21%) to help a child be successful in school.
Find new revenue: A plurality of respondents favored fully funding basic education by “both increasing taxes and cutting funding for other government services” (28%). However, when given the choice of specific tax increases, a majority said “no” to increasing the state sales tax (52%), with most respondents (but under 50%) saying “no” to increasing state property taxes or the state Business & Occupational tax. The outliers were participants from Seattle, who favored increasing state property taxes 56% “yes,” to 36% who responded “no.”
Give Principals more control: A strong majority of respondents (59%) favored giving principals more control over spending at their schools.. Thirty-nine percent “agreed” (39%), or “strongly agreed” (21%) with the statement “school principals should have more control…including the authority to determine how best to allocate funds to serve their students.” This included the majority of public school teachers (53%) who “agreed” (35%) or “strongly agreed” (18%).
Swap levy funds: A strong majority of respondents generally agreed with the idea of a levy swap (59%) but respondents were split on how best to implement a swap: 29% liked the idea as long as it was “revenue-neutral” (where local property taxes must be reduced dollar-for-dollar in exchange for the new state dollars), while 29% supported the levy swap but only if local school districts still had the freedom to raise additional local property tax revenue.
Early learning education support, but where? In general, a majority of respondents support state funded early learning education (52%). But there was no clear consensus on whether state funds should cover all children or just at-risk children.
How should new spending be targeted? There was also no clear consensus from respondents on whether or not to prioritize funds toward closing the academic achievement gap between disadvantaged students and other students – although female participants in Seattle showed the strongest support (with 77% consensus) and male participants outside Seattle and in the rest of Western Washington showed the weakest level of support at 31%.
Where’s the consensus?
This “Where’s the consensus?” Report highlights those areas where agreement emerged and provides more detail on the demographic breakdown of survey responses. Some of the breakdowns include age, gender, employment, and whether or not respondents had children attending public school (27%). Women were overrepresented in our sample size (61%), as were public school teachers (19%). Some ethnicities were underrepresented compared to the state’s ethnic makeup. A more detailed analysis of the full report, including respondents’ comments and the polarization/consensus rating methodology, can be accessed at: http://www.communityforumsnetwork.org/topic-reports
As a statewide public engagement platform, CFN’s mission is to bring people together to talk about issues. We present different perspectives on topics, inform citizens, and encourage open dialogue for the purpose of discovering where we agree on possible solutions.
CFN offers Washington residents an opportunity to share their views on important topics through both online and in-person forums, encouraging all to voice their opinions.
CFN is not an advocacy organization and does not make policy recommendations. It is our hope and goal that insights gathered from Washington citizens are useful to policymakers in creating a more solutions-based approach to the biggest challenges we face in our communities.
Executive DirectorJohn Spady
Polarization/Consensus rating methodologyWendy Dore
Partner Development ManagerFawn Spady
Project ManagerSigurd Gustafsson
Communications Director, WA Secretary of StateDiane Douglas
Executive Director, Seattle City ClubSantos Contreras
Harborview Medical Center Board of Trustees,
former Deputy Mayor of KirklandMarty Hartman
Executive Director, Mary’s PlaceGreg Lane
President & CEO, TVWBob Larkin
Heathcare Technology Management ConsultantLindsey Lund
Compass Housing Alliance Communications CoordinatorSheely Mauck
Business Development Executive at Telefini
Premier CommunicationsLawrence Pang
Executive Director, Greater Seattle Chinese
Chamber of CommerceJerry Pugnetti
Chief Policy Director, State Auditor Brian SonntagMaurice Ward
Executive Director, Come Clean
CFN Partner Organizations
At the heart of CFN’s mission to discover consensus on issues, is a statewide network of diverse, nonprofit organizations representing education, labor, social services, youth development, and business interests. CFN currently has 64 Partner organizations that participate during a topic round by hosting forums and promoting the online survey to their members and supporters.
Association of WA Businesses
Association of Women in Communications
Boys & Girls Clubs of King County/YouthForce
Camp Fire of Central Puget Sound
Central Area Chamber of Commerce
Chinese Information & Service Center
City Club Seattle
Committee for Children
Community for Youth
Compass Housing Alliance
Council on American Islamic Relations
Eastside Friends of Seniors
Edmonds Community College
El Centro de la Raza
Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington
Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce
Greater Spokane, Inc.
Issaquah Chamber of Commerce
Issaquah History Museums
Issaquah Schools Foundation
King County Library System Foundation
Kelso Longview Chamber of Commerce
Listen and Talk
Master Builders Career Connection
Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce
Omak Chamber of Commerce
Parent Trust for Washington Children
Partnership for Learning
Pasco Chamber of Commerce
Queer Youth Space/Three Wings
Read the Dirt
Ready by Five
Renton Technical College
San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce
Seattle University Youth Initiative
Skamania Chamber of Commerce
Snoqualmie Valley PTSA
Treehouse for Kids
Union Gospel Mission
Valley Cities Counseling & Consultation
Washington Business Week
Washington Education Association
WA Federation of Independent Schools
Washington Policy Center
WA Restaurant Association Education Foundation
Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce
YMCA of Greater Seattle
YWCA advocacy network/Firesteel
Nonprofit organizations can earn grants up to a total of $4,000 for 2012. Partners earn points based on the number of survey responses that they generate during a topic round. During Round 2 on K12 Education Funding, 55 of CFN’s 64 Partner participated and generated 3,244 survey responses, with 194 from in-person forums and 3,050 from online surveys.
Silver Grant ($1,500):
King County Library System Foundation, Washington Education Association
Bronze Grant ($1,000):
Compass Housing Alliance, DECA, Issaquah Schools Foundation
Boys & Girls Club of King County, Council on American Islamic Relations, Eastside Friends of Seniors, Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington, Mary’s Place, Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce, Pasco Chamber of Commerce, Union Gospel Mission
“It has been a pleasure partnering with your organization to bring vital topics affecting our state and community to the forefront for some candid discussions. The surveys are a great way to provide feedback in a quick and easy to use format.
Our citizens often feel their voices are not heard in Olympia and our partnership is offering a way to open discussions and to let their thoughts and ideas be heard.
The Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce looks forward to continuing this relationship as we bring people together to talk about the issues and discover consensus.”
Debbie Doran-Martinez, Executive Director
Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce
Funds for the CFN partner grants are provided by the Spady Family of Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants, Inc.
A near supermajority of survey respondents – 65.3% – said that the state’s current spending levels were “not enough.” Support for more spending was shown across geography, age, employment status, ethnicity, and whether or not respondents had children in the public schools.
There was strong consensus on this question with almost 70 percent of survey respondents – a supermajority of 69.9% – favoring the idea of a dedicated K12 budget that legislators fund first before other spending.
A strong majority of survey respondents agreed with the basic idea of a levy swap (58.8%). A plurality of support basically split between either a levy swap that is revenue-neutral for those school districts that lower their local property taxes in exchange for more state money (29.5%), or a levy swap that still allows local districts to raise more local property tax revenue up to each district’s current cap (29.3%).
Based on the survey responses, the key issues for support of a levy swap were a fair exchange of funds and local freedom to raise additional revenue.
There was strong consensus for lowering administrative costs with a supermajority of survey respondents – close to 80 percent (77%) – agreeing that school districts “should reduce administrative spending.”
Support for reducing administrative costs was in the majority across all ethnicities.
One of the highest levels of support for reducing administrative costs came from teachers, with 83.5% of respondents who identified themselves as public school teachers saying “yes.”
“Level the gap between district administrator and teacher pay. More school power to streamline the way money is used in order to limit waste and resource materials cheaply. Less standardized test funding. Re-format school programs, and look to successful schools in other countries for inspiration. Let teachers teach. Think outside the box.”
Survey comment from public school teacher
“Incentivize the consolidation of school districts in order to reduce administrative costs. Hold these consolidated districts accountable for reducing administrative costs and put more money into classrooms.”
Survey comment from an employer
(T-5) Do you agree or disagree with the following statement:
“School principals should have more control over their individual budgets, including the authority to determine how best to allocate funds to serve their students, instead of those decisions being made at the district level.”
A very strong majority of survey respondents (59.3%) favored giving school principals more budget authority. Thirty-eight percent “agreed” (38.7%), or “strongly agreed” (20.6%) with the statement.
Majorities across all ethnicities “agreed,” or “strongly agreed” with the statement to give “school principals more control over their individual budgets…”
In the geographic breakdowns, majorities “agreed,” or “strongly agreed” with the statement to give “school principals more control over their individual budgets…”
This included survey respondents from Eastern Washington and from Seattle, the largest school district in the state.
- A plurality of survey respondents favored fully funding basic education services by “both increasing taxes and cutting funding for other government services,” (28%). However, when given the choice of specific tax increases, a majority said “no” to increasing the state sales tax (52.3%), with most respondents (but under just 50%) saying “no” to increasing state property taxes (48.1%), or the state Business & Occupational tax (47.3%).
- A strong majority of survey respondents from Seattle (56%) supported increasing the state property tax, the only geographic group to support a tax increase.
- A larger plurality of survey respondents that identified themselves as public school teachers (40.7%) also supported “both increasing taxes and cutting funding.”
- When it came to ethnicity, Black/African American respondents (42.8%) were more likely to support “redefining basic education to match what we can currently afford without raising taxes or cutting other government programs.”
- Both a plurality of respondents with school-aged kids (30.5%) and without school-aged kids (27.6%) chose “both increase taxes and cut funding.”
- Respondents that identified themselves as working or retired were more likely to support “redefining basic education to match what we currently afford to spend, without raising taxes or cutting other government programs.”
“Change education concept to a 21st Century concept rather than continue the 19th Century concept where children have summers off to help on the farm.”
Comment from retired survey respondent
Increase State Sales Tax?
Increase State Property Tax?
Increase State Business & Occupational Tax?
Survey respondents overwhelmingly stated that the student-to-teacher ratio and average classroom size matters with 72% saying it is either “very important” or “important” to help a child be successful
Overall, there was no clear consensus on whether or not to make closing the academic achievement gap the top priority for any future increases in education funding.
However, there was strong majority support among certain ethnicities. A near supermajority of survey respondents whom identified themselves as Black/African American (65%) said “yes” when asked if closing the academic achievement gap should be the top priority for any future increases in education funding. A strong majority of Asian/Pacific Islander (56%), and Hispanic survey respondents (56.7%) also answered, “yes” to the academic achievement gap question.
Female survey participants in Seattle showed the strongest support (with 77% consensus) and male participants outside Seattle and in the rest of Western Washington showed the weakest level of support at 31%.
Overall, for those respondents who currently have children in the K12 public schools, there was no consensus on making the academic achievement gap a funding priority with 32.2% saying “yes,” and 43% saying “no.”
In general, survey respondents supported the idea of state-funded early education (52.3%). But there was no clear consensus on “who” should receive state funding for early learning. Of the 52.3% that expressed general support for state funded early learning, a plurality (30.4%) of respondents indicated that, “the state should fully fund early learning education for all children, with 21.9% saying “only children who are low-income or otherwise at-risk.”
Survey respondents with children currently in K12 public schools also supported the general idea of state funded early learning education at the same percentage of overall respondents (53.1%) with 31% in support of state funded early education for all children and 22.1% in support of funds only for children who are low-income or at-risk.
Black/African American and Hispanic survey respondents were more likely to support state funding for early learning education for ALL children.
The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the individuals who participated and
do not necessarily represent the views of Community Forums Network or the participating
These results are not representative of the entire state of Washington, and are the compilation of those individuals who, through their participation, expressed their interest and opinions about the topic at a specific point in time. As humans we all have the ability to receive new information, consider it, and change our views.
A Polarization Rating (weight given a question) of 100% means that everyone participating answered “yes” or “no” and nobody selected “abstain” or “object.” A Polarization Rating of 50% means that half of those participating answered “yes” or “no” and half selected either “abstain” or “object.”
A 100% Consensus Rating means, “all responses favor the positive side of the scale.”
A 0% Consensus Rating means, “all responses favor the negative side of the scale.”
A 50% consensus rating means, “there is no consensus — people were equally split.”
Think of a seesaw that groups people to one side or the other. The PC Rating is useful in comparing responses to a series of questions, to compare the response of different demographic groups to the same question, or to compare responses of the same demographic group to related questions.
As introduction to the methodology, we have provided samples using the geographical and gender breakdowns on certain survey questions. For more information and details on the following data, go to www.CommunityForumsNetwork.org and click on “Topic Reports.” There you will find:
- Additional breakouts of survey data
- Polarization/Consensus Ratings
- Comments from survey participants
All of our different demographic breakdowns are available for private analysis—please ask!
CFN Observation on Question 4:
4) Do you think that school districts should reduce their administrative spending so that more money is spent at the classroom level? — Yes or No?
The results for this question showed the highest consensus rating in the entire survey at 90 percent regarding the idea to reduce school district administrative spending. There was overwhelming support from participants (from both men and women) across the state: Seattle (90%), Other Western Washington (91%), Spokane (85%), and Other Eastern Washington (87%.)
PC Rating Question 4: 86% had 90 Consensus
CFN Observation on Question 10:
10) How important to you is average classroom size and the student-to- teacher ratio to making sure every child gets the individual attention they need to be successful?
Likert Scale: Very Important (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) Not Important
The second highest consensus rating in the survey is at 85 percent regarding average classroom size and student-to-teacher ratios. Again, there was overwhelming support from participants (and again from both men and women) across the state: Seattle (89%), Other Western Washington (85%), Spokane (86%), and Other Eastern Washington (83%.)
PC Rating Question 10: 90% had 85 Consensus
CFN Observation on Question 5:
5) Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “School principals should have more control over their individual budgets, including the authority to determine how best to allocate funds to serve their students, instead of those decisions being made at the district level.”
Strongly agree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) Strongly disagree
The third highest consensus rating in the survey is at 79 percent regarding school principals having more control over their individual budgets. And again, there was overwhelming support from participants (and still again from both men and women) across the state: Seattle (85%), Other Western Washington (79%), Spokane (70%), and Other Eastern Washington (75%.)
PC Rating Question 5: 90% had 79 Consensus
CFN Observation on Question 2:
2) Should the State Legislature fund a dedicated K-12 education budget first before budgeting for any other spending? — Yes or No?
With an overall consensus of 77%, more than two-thirds of participants were in support of the idea to fund a dedicated K-12 education budget first before budgeting for any other spending. This support never falls below 63% consensus (male participants in Spokane) and is strongest at 84% consensus (female participants in Western Washington excluding Seattle)
PC Rating Question 2: 91% had 77 Consensus
CFN Observation on Question 8:
8) Would you support [Increasing the State Property Tax] if the new revenue was dedicated to education funding needed to pay for the State Legislature’s recently expanded definition of “basic education” — Yes or No?
The overall consensus (46%) was not supportive of the idea to increase state property taxes to help pay for “basic education” — but interestingly, both men and women participants from Seattle were most supportive (62% and 61% respectively) while women in the rest of Western Washington were split equally (50/50) over the idea.
PC Rating Question 8: 89% had 46 Consensus