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Where? 12241 Main St Bellevue, WA 98005

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December 14

2024-25 school year budget shortfall is expected to be about $9.8 million. If enrollment trends continue and costs continue to rise, the budget shortfall to be an additional $30 million over the following two years. Consolidating a middle school would help with approximately $4 million/year of that shortfall. However, the projected decline in enrollment has not yet fully impacted middle schools as it has elementary schools. Our middle schools are currently large enough to operate effectively and efficiently. Waiting will give us time to see if innovative programming, a potential post-pandemic rebound, and more affordable housing will reverse or minimize the projected enrollment decline.  

Frequently Asked Questions about School Funding

What is the most important thing families should understand about school funding?

Education funding in WA State is a hard cap. There is no more revenue for a district to go and ask for. So when a district’s costs are outpacing its revenue they don’t have another option. The bottom line is we need more money in education.

Why is this happening? Isn't Bellevue considered a wealthy district?

Student enrollment is down and projected to continue declining until 2030. Since the district is funded by the State of Washington on a per-pupil basis, any decline in enrollment means an immediate loss of funds the district has available. Along with the two demographer reports, the district is providing historical enrollment trends, school capacity utilization, future enrollment, and the impact of declining enrollment on programs and services.

Has this happened before?

Yes. BSD’s history includes several school closures and consolidations, which also come with stories of their impact on people and communities. The last round of consolidation closed two elementary schools: Eastgate and Wilburton. Jing Mei, BSD's Mandarin immersion school has moved to Wilburton's building. BSD plans to move Big Picture to Eastgate's school building sometime in the future.


What is Bellevue School District's budget shortfall?

The budget shortfall was initially estimated in February 2023 at $31 million. However, after the legislative session and additional revenue calculations, the budget shortfall dropped to $24.2 million, or 6.3% of the 2022/2023 budgeted expenditures. 

Additional Revenue Calculations

Read Bellevue School District's 2023-24 Budget Overview Presentation.

On December 14, at the school board meeting, BSD will talk about the shortfall for 2024-25.

What does our district offer that is not funded by the State?

This has an impact in high school because with 6 periods students only get 24 credits (the amount needed to graduate). If for some reason they struggle in one class, they will have to retake the class during the summer. Students would not be able to take 4 years of music AND world language in high school to meet all the graduation requirements.

The district consolidated two elementary schools. Didn't that fix the budget?

Unfortunately no. The fact that enrollment numbers continue to decrease and operational costs continue to rise (lunches, transportation, cost of living, inflation, ...) the district still needs to make additional cuts to balance the budget. So far the district hasn't presented a list of possible scenarios but consolidation of a middle school and cuts to some programs and activities are on the table. Looking back at previous budget presentations, families can expect cuts or reductions to programs not funded by the state: 7-period days in middle school, music/art education in elementary school, extracurricular and athletics activities, etc.

How are public schools funded in Washington State?

Districts receive funds from multiple sources:

For more information on K-12 education funding in WA State, read A Citizen's Guide to Washington State K-12 Finance.

Do all public schools receive state funding?

Yes, but some get more than others. An exception to the formula was allowed and some districts’ teacher salary schedules were “grandfathered” at a higher percentage of the adopted state salary schedule.

The Basic Education Act of 1977 set a formula for sending state funds to school districts. The basic formula gives each district a certain dollar amount for each full-time equivalent (FTE) student - each student attending school all day. For each student who needs extra services, such as special education programs, advanced learning, or bilingual education (MLL), there are state and federal formulas for supplemental support. Districts that employ teachers with advanced degrees get extra funds for salaries. Districts with fewer than 300 students also receive extra money.

What is the regionalization factor?

In Washington State, the regionalization factor is a percentage increase in state funding for school districts located in high-cost areas. This additional funding is intended to help districts attract and retain qualified teachers and staff by adjusting their salaries to be more competitive with the higher cost of living in those regions.

Here's how it works:

Here are some key points to remember about the regionalization factor:

Here are some resources where you can find more information about the regionalization factor:

Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI): 

Cascadia Daily News: 


Why is WA State funding considered inadequate?

There are several areas of education that the state does not fully fund as part of basic education. Examples include classroom support, special education services, the cost of substitute teachers, building maintenance, security staff including school resource officers, elective classes and Advanced Placement testing, as well as student activities and athletics. 

Additionally, the state does not fund all the staff necessary to operate essential services and programs to students such as learning assistants (paraeducators), counselors, and school nurses. The state’s funding formula for K–12 education, called the Prototypical School Funding Model, sets student-to-staff ratios based on a study completed in 1977. The state provides funding that is calculated to be adequate for a certain number of teachers, principals, librarians, instructional aides, nurses and other staff based on student population. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the agency that oversees K-12 public instruction in the state, then issues money to the districts based on what that minimum staffing would be.

Education is vastly different 50 years later, but the Prototypical School Funding Model has not been substantially updated to account for modern educational needs. The majority of districts are left to figure out how to pay for these services and programs on their own.

Didn't the McCleary decision require the state to fully fund education?

What's the McCleary decision? 

Watch this video:

After the McCleary decision (2017), state legislators changed property taxes with the intent of fully funding basic education and lowering local school taxes, not for the purpose of eliminating local school levies.

The state increased what it collects statewide in property taxes for basic education, and capped what school districts could collect locally at $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The McCleary decision also regionalized state revenue amounts. Those districts located in areas where the costs of living were higher received more revenue – up to 124% more of the base dollars. The decision also emphasized the importance of addressing disparities in educational opportunities among schools in different areas, so that all students across the state would have an equitable chance to succeed.

The reality is state funding still falls short. The initial increase after 2017 in state funding for public schools has not only stopped, but after 2020 it stalled and even shrank when you adjust for inflation. Yet districts have seen their costs rise, especially after the dislocations of the pandemic and record inflation.

What about the ESSER funds (COVID relief funds)?

The ARP ESSER fund, authorized by the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), provides funding to schools to support sustained safe building reopenings and operations while meeting the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of students resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

An OSPI chart shows that one-time federal funding from pandemic stimulus, as well as local levies, are making up the difference between state funding and actual costs. Now that the federal stimulus funding stopped, districts will face even larger cuts because they need to figure out how they'll pay for programs and staff funded with those funds.

We pay a lot of property taxes. Where did all the money go?

WA State collects taxes for the state, the county, cities, and taxing districts like schools. Then they distribute the revenue back to them. Taxes also fund voter-approved measures for veterans, seniors, fire protection, and parks. Even if a large part of our property taxes goes to funding education, those dollars do not come back to Bellevue School District. 

What is the difference between bonds and levies?

In general, levies provide for learning, maintenance, and operations. Bonds are used to construct buildings, purchase property or modernize existing facilities. Specific use of funds in these designations is restricted by state law. State law prohibits monies approved for construction to be used for learning programs and staff. This means, even if Bellevue School District sells property, they wouldn't be allowed to use that money for to pay teacher salaries or other on-going costs of day-to-day operations. 

Another way to think about the difference is levies are like paychecks. Paychecks come in at regular intervals and families must budget expenses on that schedule. School district levy “paychecks” arrive twice a year - in the spring and fall when property taxes are typically paid — for the levy's duration as approved by voters. Use of those dollars are budgeted as these levy funds become available.

Bonds are structured similarly to home mortgages. Schools borrow the money upfront and then repay it with interest over time. Typically, bonds are used for new construction or larger remodeling projects. BSD used bonds to rebuild all our amazing school schools.

Is there a limit to the amount of levy money a district can ask?

Yes. Districts may only collect a maximum percentage of their annual state (and some federal) revenue allocations. This maximum is known as the “Levy Lid.” This percentage is set by the state Legislature and the lid amount varies as some districts were grandfathered in at a higher percentage when the law went into effect. If the levy collected is greater than the amount prescribed by the lid, only the voter-approved amount may be collected. These lids aim to balance local funding efforts with state-level equity in education funding.

In 2019, maintenance and operations levies proposed by local school districts and approved by voters were replaced by enrichment levies. Since 2020, for districts with less than 40,000 full-time students, the levy cap for voter-approved enrichment levies is capped at the lesser of:

A district with higher property values - like Bellevue or Lake Washington - will hit the revenue cap of $2,606 per student, while districts with lower property values will be “rate capped” before reaching the revenue cap. In contrast, districts subject to rate caps (where property value is lower) do not experience a reduction in local revenues when faced with declining enrollments. This is because as enrollment decreases, the tax rate and overall local tax revenues remain relatively stable while local tax revenues per student increase.

Can a district borrow money to cover deficits?

A district needs to operate on a balanced budget. To "borrow money", a district needs to accept "Binding Conditions" with the state. OSPI will step in and impose cuts and budget consolidation. For more information on School District Binding Conditions and Financial Oversight visit

Can't BSD balance the budget with a new bond?

By state law, bond money must be used for school construction and improvement.  Bond projects can address building’s systems, such as air conditioning, HVAC, and plumbing, or its physical structures, such as the windows, restrooms, kitchens, and gyms. All funding is used for constructing or maintaining buildings. 

Legally, bond money cannot be used for operational expenses, salaries or anything else. 

For more information about BSD Capital Bond visit and answers to frequently asked questions at

Track the Progress of the District’s Capital Construction Projects

WA State K-12 Funding in the News

Seattle Public Schools 

Capital Gain Tax and other funding

Other School District Funding News,12956?

OSPI news

Washington public school enrollment climbs by nearly 2,000 students - Lynnwood Times

▶️ Contact our Legislators to Advocate for Fully-funded Education

Our legislators prefer to hear from families and students. This has a bigger impact than just hearing from all school districts leaders across WA State. See how to find your legislators.

BSD Middle School Consolidation Study Timeline

November to December 2023

January 2024

Share draft recommendation with the community through a School Board meeting, email, and on the district website.

Compartir la recomendación preliminar con la comunidad a través de una reunión de la Junta Escolar, correo electrónico y en el sitio web del distrito (

February 2024

March 2024