Gov. Chris Gregoire has promised help to struggling school districts, and the bill would help them make up for school budget shortfalls. The bill would allow school districts to ask for more money and would let them go back to the voters for more money in the middle of a levy cycle.
"The levy lid law took effect in 1979 and sought to limit levy revenue to 10 percent of a school district's state basic education allocation. It had a grandfather clause, however, and allowed some districts to exceed the 10 percent limit."
Under current law, most districts may bring up 24 percent of their budget through levies, although some are grandfathered at as much as 33.9 percent of their budget. The bill passed Saturday would raise the levy lid by 4 percentage points, from 24 to 28 percent, plus districts grandfathered in at higher rates can also raise their levies by 4 percent.
The bill also would increase the levy equalization rate from 12 percent to 14 percent. This is the amount the property tax poor districts get from the state in addition to what they can raise locally."
So this might be all good and well except that it could have some major fallout. One, it lets the state off the hook for a longer period of time. The Legislature, by passage of the law (with support from the Governor), can say it did something to help schools. But did they really? Two, it makes the differences in funding between districts all that more stark. The equalization rate isn't going to close that gap.
The judge in the basic education court case has said that the state relies too heavily on local levies to pay for education.
"Rep. Skip Priest, R-Federal Way, cited that ruling, saying that if the judge says the state is using the levies in an unconstitutional manner, lawmakers shouldn't then turn around and increase levies.
"That, for me, doesn't pass the straight face test," he said.
Rep. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said that parents want lawmakers to give their schools options.
"They're not caught up in the politics of levies," she said. "They want schools funded for their kids."
Ah, the kids. It's kind of amazing what will be done "for the kids" without thinking of long-term outcomes. The cry seems to be "we need money and we need it now." I can't blame parents for wanting to do everything possible but there are also ripple effects. Just getting money is not enough.
Additional legislation from Saturday pass by the House:
Also Saturday, the House, on a 73-23 vote, pass a school reform bill from the Quality Education Council, the group assigned by the Legislature to manage the process of reforming the way Washington pays for K-12 education.
The measure defines what it takes to run a prototypical school, ranging from teacher-student ratios to money for maintenance and supplies. The bill would set a goal of decreasing class sizes in kindergarten through third grade to 15 students by the 2015-16 school year. It would require all-day kindergarten across the state by 2017-18. And it would move up the schedule for the state paying for all school transportation costs to 2011.
I think we've heard promises about lower classes sizes before.