OLYMPIA…Less than two years after legislators brought Washington’s school-funding approach into the 21st century by rebalancing state and local school-levy rates, Democrat members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee are supporting a return to higher local school taxes.
Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia and an architect of the landmark education-funding updates enacted in 2017, offered this comment following the early-morning passage of Senate Bill 5313:
“To me this looks like political pressure prevailing over good policy. I have to believe my Democrat colleagues on the budget committee know in their hearts that this goes completely against the lessons that should have been learned from the McCleary court ruling in 2012, and the Doran ruling more than 40 years ago. Any increase in local-levy authority will eventually cause districts to rely more on local tax dollars, and give some districts an advantage over others when it comes to funding, which leads back to the educational inequities we worked so hard to eliminate in 2017. If the intent is to get going toward McCleary 2.0, this vote to enable a 67-percent increase in local school-levy rates is the surest way.
“If there are funding needs that rise to a statewide level, like support for special education, then the Legislature should consider them. But the Senate has already passed bills that would do much more for special education, including the bill I introduced, so it’s obvious from this move – which took place at 1:30 a.m. – that other forces are at work. Considering the House has also proposed a lift of the local-levy limit, this may be a done deal, and that’s bad news for taxpayers. They’ll be able to thank Democrats for any increase in their local school-tax rates.”