King County allocates $318 million for education

Money will go toward early education and postsecondary support.

In this January 2019 photo, Gov. Jay Inslee visited the new Children’s Home Society of Washington Highline Early Learning Center in Des Moines to applaud the benefits of early education programs and promote his funding proposal to continue to fund programs like it. Sound Publishing file photo

In this January 2019 photo, Gov. Jay Inslee visited the new Children’s Home Society of Washington Highline Early Learning Center in Des Moines to applaud the benefits of early education programs and promote his funding proposal to continue to fund programs like it. Sound Publishing file photo

King County will spend most of some $318 million in state money on K-12 and postsecondary education programs along with early learning and in-home care providers.

Discussions on how to spend the one-time lump of cash from the state has been debated at the King County Council in recent months as council members hashed out a few main target areas to put the money toward. The funding itself was approved by the state Legislature in 2015, and comes from a sales and use tax paid by Sound Transit as it builds out Sound Transit 3.

King County will receive payments in annual installments through 2034, raking in $318 million of the total $518 million. Pierce and Snohomish counties will receive the rest. In King County, council members decided to award around $112 million to K-12 and postsecondary programs as part of its King County Promise program.

This program focuses on getting more people through college or training programs, with a focus on communities of color. The Promise program has a goal of getting a college degree or career credential to 70 percent of students in the region by 2030. More than 87 percent of students on free or reduced lunch would be eligible for Promise help.

To help get there, the council has earmarked more than $40.8 million to go toward community-based organizations that support that vision. In total, around $112 million will be spent on King County Promise programs and around $153 million will go to early learning.

With the funding, special attention will be given to children and youth of color, children from families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, homeless or foster care youth, kids in the juvenile justice system, LGBTQ youth and those with disabilities.

The spending measure passed 7-1, with council member Kathy Lambert casting the only no vote. During the Aug. 28 meeting, Lambert said she would have liked to have seen more early opportunity funding.

Council member Claudia Balducci said the funding is not guaranteed in the future because the Legislature has to approve funding each year. In the past, the state has cleared out accounts earmarked for education and has used that money elsewhere when under pressure, she said.

“We’re also going to need to continue to fight for these resources over time,” Balducci said.

The hours-long meeting was well attended by community advocates from across the county, many of whom asked the council to preserve funding for organizations that aid children of color.

Advocates for foster kids have also been paying attention, including Treehouse, Friends of Youth and YouthCare. Less than 50 percent of youth in foster care graduate high school and only slightly more who are homeless end up with a high school degree, according to Treehouse.

The language in the measure was intentionally vague regarding how the money should be spent, and instead focuses onoutcomes the county wants to see. This gives organizations some leeway in implementing programs that could help achieve their education goals.

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