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More funding could come for Washington schools

January 10, 2014

State Superintendent Randy Dorn released a draft of a bill yesterday that would move Washington toward the full funding of basic education in the event that the Legislature fails to do so by Jan. 1, 2018.

Among other things, the bill calls for a one percent increase in sales tax, an increase in state property tax to $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed value and a decrease in local levy authority – the so-called “levy swap.”

OSPI estimates the bill will increase education funding by $7.5 billion in the 2019-21 biennium.

“This bill is a blunt but necessary instrument,” Dorn said. “A general increase in the sales tax is not the best solution to this problem. But something has to be done, and passage of this bill will, I hope, spur the legislature into action.”

The 2018 deadline was imposed by the state Legislature in a bill passed in 2009. That bill was cited by the state Supreme Court, in its 2012 McCleary v. State of Washington decision. In the case, the Court ruled that the state isn’t meeting its state Constitutional duty to fully fund basic education.

In January 2013, prior to the legislative session, Dorn said that $1.4 billion was needed in 2013-15 budget to get the state “on the road to meeting McCleary.”

The $1.4 billion would fund student transportation; materials, supplies and operating costs; full-day kindergarten; and lower class sizes in grades K-3. That would, according to Dorn, fund the first of three phases needed to achieve full funding. The three phases were proposed by the Quality Education Council, a committee created by the Legislature to make recommendations on funding.

Depending on the source, however, the 2013 Legislature added either $750 million to $1 billion to education spending.

“That’s not on the road,” Dorn said. “That’s still idling in the driveway.”

Governor Jay Inslee issued a statement saying, “I agree with the court’s view that we made progress in the current budget toward meeting our basic education obligations. I also share the court’s concern about the pace we are moving and about all of the work that remains undone.”

He added, “In the end, this isn’t just about complying with court orders. It’s about our children. We owe it to them to fully fund the education reforms we promised.”


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