Mini-Windows: Largest K-12 Construction Investment in History

An interim series aimed at highlighting lesser known Majority Coalition Caucus-led budget accomplishments in the 2015 & 2016 sessions.

The Legislature invested nearly $1 billion in K-12 school construction this biennia, an all-time record.

A.   Largest Single Investment in State History

The nearly $1 billion investment is almost double the average funds put toward K-12 construction over the last 20 years.1 In no prior biennia has the Legislature invested more than roughly $750 million.2

K-12 Capital Budget

B.  The Senate MCC Led the Way for the Historic Investment

The reason for the historic investment? Credit largely goes to Sen. Jim Honeyford, capital budget chair in the Senate, and vice-chair Sen. Bruce Dammeier.

Both the Governor and the House proposed investments of around $700 million for K-12 construction.3

But Sens. Honeyford and Dammeier proposed the record investment level, prioritizing K-12 within existing capital budget capacity.4 This prioritization was ultimately successful.

Their efforts were part of a concerted effort, also mirrored in the operating budget, to prioritize K-12 in budget writing. Over the prior 20 years, despite a rapidly growing capital budget, spending was largely on other items: K-12 represented only 1 out of every 6 dollars spent in the capital budget!5

C.  What are Students & Taxpayers Getting?  

While the focus has been on the amount spent, what really matters is what those dollars will purchase. In this case, the nearly $1 billion investment is set to pay for:

  • 4.5 million square feet of new or modernized school facilities;
  • More than 525 new classrooms to lower K-3 class size, driven by the operating investments to fund all-day kindergarten throughout the state and lower K-3 class sizes to 17; and
  • Improved Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Facilities across the state.6

The K-3 class size construction funding was driven by a policy bill, 2ESSB 6080 (2015), which created a competitive grant program based on documented need and readiness-to-proceed, ensuring state dollars are quickly and effectively put to best use.7

It is hoped, and expected, that this investment will aid and facilitate students in their learning, leading to better educational outcomes and achievement throughout the state.

Bottom Line

The Legislature made a historic investment in K-12 school construction, an investment that will yield millions of new square feet of learning space for our children for decades to come.


  1. LEAP. Pre-History Capital Budget Database (FY 1995-2015, average total appropriated: $515 million).   FY 15-17 ($946 million)
  2. The previous high water mark was in 2009-11 ($753 million).
  3. In 2015 session, Governor proposed $660 M for K-12; House $690 M; and Senate $948 M. In 2016 supplemental, Governor proposed $36 M; House $47 M; and Senate $74 M.
  4. Id.
  5. LEAP. From 1995-2015, K-12 represented 17% of the total capital budget.
  6. Senate W&M Staff.
  7. 2ESSB 6080 (2015).  https://aor/billsummary/default.aspx?bill=6080&year=2015