Senate approves temporary extension of local school levy rate with increased accountability

The Washington State Senate today approved legislation extending a temporary increase in the maximum amount school districts can raise through property taxes for public schools and implementing reforms to provide accountability for how local levies are collected and accounted.

“Washington students deserve a comprehensive solution that provides a world-class education system instead of a temporary fix,” said Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, who serves as chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and sponsored the Education Equality Act. “While I do not support putting a short-term fix before a decades-old problem, I’m pleased that our colleagues across the aisle agreed to join our position on key reforms.”

In addition to extending the maximum rate at 28 percent, the legislation would require school districts to maintain state and local funding in separate accounts. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction would also be tasked with reviewing and certifying that future levies would not be used to pay for the basic education, the state’s responsibility.

“Our colleagues across the aisle made a commitment on the floor today to join us in addressing the broader issue during this session,” said Braun. “Now that this one component of an overall issue has been addressed we can proceed with the difficult part of solving this problem for students.”

The Senate approved the Education Equality Act — the Senate’s comprehensive education funding and reform legislation — on February 1, which included the levy rate extension and accountability reforms. The House approved a spending plan, but has yet to publicly propose how to pay for the more than $7 billion needed to balance.