Senators will listen, and review proposed changes to levy and salary policies
Senate Education Committee listening tour
- 5 to 7 pm, Monday, October 19, 2015
- Educational Service District 121 – Puget Sound, 800 Oakesdale Ave. SW, Renton, 98057
By RAMONA HATTENDORF
Vice President, CPPS of Seattle
Got ideas, concerns, feedback or questions about how the state is going to meet its constitutional duty to amply fund K-12 education?
The education committee of the state senate is hosting a listening tour this fall, and they’re stopping in King County on Oct. 19, at the Puget Sound Educational Service District offices in Renton.
The committee’s presentation highlights the unconstitutional use of local levies to fund basic education, including compensation, and gives an overview of Senate Bill 6130, which was introduced in the last legislative session.
In rulings that long preceded the 2012 McCleary decision, the state supreme court had interpreted the provision in Washington’s constitution for “ample” funding of a “general and uniform” system of schools to mean that the legislature must define an instructional program of basic education, and must amply fund it from a regular and dependable source.
Local levies, the court ruled years ago and confirmed in 2012, are neither. The court described them as wholly dependent upon the whim of the electorate; only available on a temporary basis; and tied to the assessed valuation of property at the local level. That is, since land values vary, the amount that can be raised locally varies quite a bit, as does the tax burden on individual property owners.
Yet school districts rely on these levies to cover basic operations and, especially, to offer staff competitive salaries. For instance, Seattle’s recently negotiated contract includes boosts in base pay beyond the state’s salary allocation model. Seattle’s local school levy covers more than a quarter of Seattle Public Schools’ operating budget and is the second largest funding source for our schools. It is up for renewal this February. (SPS 2016-17 budget)
OPINION, PRO & CON:
Some legislators and advocates believe that addressing competitive pay (which can vary by region) and reforming levy collections are key to resolving ongoing constitutional issues with education funding. There have been several proposals for “levy swaps” in which state property taxes increase while local levies decrease.
But while at the state level these are “revenue neutral” proposals, at the local level, taxes will increase for some without any corresponding increase in funding available to local schools. Seattle falls into this category. In general, rural areas would get more state money and local tax relief, while urban areas would pay higher state property taxes and face limits on what they could add locally. A big concern is whether the state hike would be enough to cover funding needs in urban areas. Other concerns are about over-reliance on property taxes and spillover effects on already high housing costs. Some advocates and legislators see revenue reform as a inter-related issue – specifically adding a capital gains tax or income tax into the mix to mitigate over-reliance on property and sales taxes.