King County is set to receive about $318 million between 2019 and 2033 from the Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account (PSTAA) to be used for educational outcomes defined by a striking amendment to proposed Motion 2019-0245.

The funds come from 2015 transportation funding legislation approved by the Legislature that allowed Sound Transit to proceed with its ST3 construction projects. PSTAA is supported by using a sales-and-use tax offset fee of 3.25 percent of total costs paid out by Sound Transit for those projects.

The Metropolitan King County Council Committee of the Whole passed the striking amendment out of committee without recommendation on Monday, July 29. The striker identifies three areas of focus and the percentage of funding allocations for each.

The areas of focus named in the striking amendment include early learning; K-12 education for youth that are vulnerable or underserved; and access to college, career and technical education, according to the striker.

The striker originally stated that 10 percent of these funds would go toward evaluation, administration and technical assistance for the PSTAA itself. The plan was that the remaining funds, after the 10 percent allocation, would be separated into two buckets: 55 percent for programs and facilities dedicated to early learning and 45 percent for programs that would affect educational outcomes for all levels of education, from kindergarten to postsecondary credential programs.

King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci successfully proposed two amendments to this striker. The first reduced the amount of money going toward evaluation, administration and technical assistance from 10 percent of the $318 million to 7.5 percent, while the second ensured that the bucket with 55 percent of the remaining funds would be earmarked for capital projects alone, rather than the additional focus on programming.

Balducci also proposed, then withdrew, several amendments that would ensure the funds be laser-focused on specific educational priorities to be defined by the council at a later date. For this reason, the Council of the Whole passed the striking amendment out of council without recommendation,

Simply put, the councilmembers left much work on the table, Balducci said.

The funds need to be focused, she said, because the money may not go as far as the council imagines.

“It sounds like a ton of money but, when you lay it out over a series of years, it actually isn’t as much as you think," Balducci said. "And so what I wanted to do was make the most use of this money by having a small number of areas of focus that get deep investment and attention, so that we can move the needle. It’s enough money to move the needle in a few areas. It’s not enough money that it could, like, not just disappear if we try to spread it over everything.”

King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert received support for an amendment to ensure no area of the county is off-limits for this legislation's focus on the development of early learning facilities, despite talks of funneling the money toward "access deserts," or "service deserts," which refer to regions identified as needing the most aid.

"I would suggest that there are kids all across the county that have high needs, and to discriminate that there would be places in this county that wouldn’t even be eligible is probably not that appropriate," Lambert said.

The amendment made specific use of the terminology, "geographic equity," which some councilmembers bristled at.

"Speaking for myself, particularly because this is to early learning facilities, I’m not going to be supportive," said King County Councilmember Joe McDermott. "I believe we have already spoken to a geographic need by addressing service deserts and don’t want to overlay or conflate broader geographic equity with service desserts we are trying to address."

However, Lambert's amendment passed, affectively killing the discussion surrounding the "service desert" concept.

"There are many needs for early learning facilities throughout the entire county, so geographic equity should be a consideration when moving forward," Lambert said. “It doesn’t mean that it has to be equal, but it should be a consideration."

Other amendments that passed worked to clarify language. If passed by the King County Council at its Aug. 28 meeting, the proposed Motion 2019-0245 would require an implementation plan to be presented for vote at a council meeting eight months down the road.

McDermott identified the target populations that the funds would support as children and youth of color; from families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level; who are homeless and in the foster care system; in the child welfare system; involved in the juvenile justice system; children and youth with disabilities; who identify at LGBTQ and otherwise vulnerable children and youth.