Want to Understand the Issues over Local Levies and School Funding?

The Washington State Budget and Policy Center does a great job unpacking these issues of why the Legislature would want to reform local school levies.  The article is about the competing bills in the House and Senate over this reform (bold mine).
Local levies – property taxes approved by voters for a specified school district – have become increasingly used to fill gaps left by inadequate state resources. Although local levies are intended to fund “enrichment programs” like extracurricular clubs and advanced learning programs, the funding from them currently supports a multitude of school’s basic needs. Things like teacher salaries and textbooks.

When the State Supreme Court ruled in its 2012 McCleary case that the state had failed to meet its constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education, it asserted that this model doesn’t work. The court noted that the state’s reliance on local property taxes to support basic education – instead of broader, statewide taxes – fails to provide the ample funding required by the Constitution.

Heavy reliance on local resources has resulted in an uneven education system, in which wealthier localities are able to raise more money than poorer areas of the state (see graph). To fix this structural problem and safeguard access to basic education for all kids, adequate state funding is needed.
I don't know about you but I got my property tax bill and it is pretty high for local levies.  I can only imagine the burden for those who are less well-off and struggling to keep their homes.

I don't mind be taxed but I do mind the state using those taxes to avoid fully funding education as Constitutionally mandated.  I actually had been meaning to write a thread about the arts because even though I have yet to meet a parent who did not want arts in their child's education, adequate funding never seems to be there.  And yet we have local levies - both school district and City - neither of which truly moves any money towards the arts.


Anonymous said…
After reading this it is interesting to consider the issue of rent, and the high cost of it, we are seeing in Seattle.

Yes, there are crummy landlords who are cashing in, I will give you that. But I know many more who are not, who are struggling to address the increases in water/sewer/garbage rates, insurance costs and...property tax increases.

You see, when there are levies passed to fund things that should really be funded by other revenue avenues, and property taxes creep up, landlords pass these costs right down to tenants in the form of rent hikes.

So property taxes effect not only homeowners but renters, too. That needs to be included in any rent-based issue/argument, and it would be great to draw a line between those costs and the house of cards manner that we're using to fund our schools.

I keep flashing back to Maria Goodloe-Johnson's robo call encouraging us to vote...Remember?

Great point, Renter.
Anonymous said…
So ... "advanced learning" is not enrichment. (Really. It is included in the state's definition of basic education, whether you think of "advanced learning" as college prep or highly capable.) And that captures an ongoing problem about K-12 funding legalities. Way back when, the courts decided to differentiate between "basic" and "enhancement." But very little of what's getting funded as "enhancement" is. For instance, the arts are a core element of K-12 education in WA (with learning standards and everything), and all students, at all grades should have access to an arts education. But it's funded as an enhancement. Another, all kids need to be given the "opportunity" to meet college and career graduation requirements. That implies support -- tutoring, counseling, etc. Also funded as an enhancement.

-Ramona H
Anonymous said…
As a renter and someone who works in SPS it is an issue which one struggles.

I vote no on every levy. I already live in a gentrifying hood and will soon be priced out.

Don't own a car so I rely on Metro and the ability to get to work would be a major struggle to make it on time.

I make just above minimum wage and as a result not affected by the rise of April 1.

So I have a second job to make it work.

Sorry but I love your kids and I like my job but I cannot afford to supplement them.

I vote no.

- SPS Employee

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