Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This is the final day for House committees to consider bills introduced in the House for the 2017 legislative session. As a result, we are now focusing our time on final action on House bills already approved by their committees.
Education funding reform
Education funding is a complex issue. Since 2012, Washington state has increased K-12 education funding by 36%. Now we need to tackle the remaining piece of the puzzle – addressing the inequalities in our K-12 funding system. It is essential all students in our state are given the opportunity to receive a high-quality education.
The remaining piece of the State Supreme Court's McCleary decision requires the state to take on the full cost of teacher and employee salaries. Currently, money for local schools comes primarily from two sources: local dollars raised through operational and maintenance levies and money allocated by the state. For too long, the state did not pay enough for the costs of basic education. To accommodate this shortfall, local school districts became dependent on levy dollars to fill in the gaps. The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus recently introduced a plan with some key reforms to solve this issue.
A shift in focus
One of the most important elements of the plan is a shift in the funding model for schools. Traditionally schools have been paid based on a formula of the number of staff and teachers. The Senate's plan would pay districts based on the number of students. School districts would be given a minimum of $12,500 per student. Additional funding would be available for students with needs like special education, language barriers, and low-income. Additionally, the state would provide extra resources for smaller, or property-poor school districts unable to raise the minimum amount per student.
What about levy reform?
The next big step in the plan is local levy reform. The Senate's proposal would eliminate many local levies, including the local maintenance and operation school tax levies. These local levies would be replaced by a uniform statewide property tax levy. Right now, funding levels for school districts vary enormously. High property value districts, typically in urban areas, are able to generate more revenue with relatively low levy rates. Other districts with low property values, pay comparatively higher rates that raise much smaller amounts of money.
|School District||Proposed per pupil funding 2019||Current per pupil funding||Increase in per student funding||2016 local levy rate||2019 New levy rate||Change in levy rate||Property tax savings for average homeowner|
What about teacher pay?
The proposal includes a big lift in beginning teacher pay from $35,000 to $45,000, plus benefits. Cost of living adjustments for staff and teachers would be made through the per student payments given to school districts. In addition, teachers living in areas with high housing costs would get an extra allocation of up to $10,000.
Read more about the Washington Education Equality Act by clicking here.
Telephone Town Hall
I will be co-hosting a telephone town hall meeting with Sen. Steve O'Ban, R-University Place, for 28th District constituents on Wednesday, Feb. 22. The community conversation, which is similar to a call-in radio format, will begin at 6 p.m. and last an hour. To participate, community members can call (253) 258-3248. Once connected, they can listen-in and press * (star) on their telephone keypad to ask questions.
My door is always open. If you have questions, concerns or comments you would like to share, please feel free to give me a call or send me an email. Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you in Olympia.