Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have reached House policy committee cut-off week. Friday, Feb. 17 is the final day for House committees to consider bills introduced in House. As a result, for the next few weeks we will be focusing our time on final action on House bills approved by their committees.
Legislative survey results
First, I would like to thank everyone who participated in my recent legislative survey. Your answers help me to identify the issues that matter the most to you. If you did not get a chance to fill out the survey, and would like to share your concerns, comments or ideas, please call my office. My contact information is at the bottom of this update.
In the coming weeks, I'll highlight the results of the survey and share information with you about discussions taking place in Olympia on each issue.
With over 64 percent of those surveyed, fully funding education without raising taxes is a priority. Since 2012, the Legislative has responded to the State Supreme Court's McCleary decision by increasing certain aspects of state funding for schools by $4.6 billion dollars. Now, it's time for us to confront the issue of inequalities in our education system.
As the Legislature considers a new education funding plan this year, we need to keep our goal in mind – education funding reform that ensures all students receive an equitable, high-quality education.
Creating true equity for our schools
For the past several years I've worked closely with K-12 school districts across the state. I've helped teachers to develop and deliver curriculum content for their students. I've also witnessed first-hand the gaps in our education funding system and the residual effects on our schools, students and teachers.
Money for teacher and staff salaries comes from two sources, local dollars raised through levies and money allocated by the state. Local school districts often rely on levy dollars to pay for basic education salary expenses. This over-reliance on levies is the main component of the State Supreme Court's McCleary decision. But, the state created the problem by paying less and less for these costs over the years. Many local school districts rely on levy dollars to fill in the gaps.
Here is the problem – smaller, rural school districts are less able to raise funds by passing local levies than bigger, richer school districts. This means levy tax rates vary widely across our state. Some amount of reform must happen if we are going to create a equitable education funding system.
The Senate's proposal includes a solution to this issue. It seeks to change the current education funding model. Instead of paying school districts based on the number of school employees, teachers and staff, they would receive a per-pupil allocation. It sets a minimum funding level of $12,500 per child and pays school districts based on the number of students enrolled. Additional funding would be available for students with needs such as special education, language barriers, and low-income students. It also provides additional payments to help school districts unable to raise enough money to meet the minimum per student ($12,500) funding requirement.
The plan would also reduce or eliminate many local levies and put in its place a uniform statewide property tax. This would reduce property taxes for most homeowners in the 17th District by about 30%. Statewide property taxes would be reduced overall by about $2.4 billion statewide. The state would then provide the rest of the money necessary to meet the minimum amount required per student ($12,500) for school funding from the general fund. The transition would add about $1.4 billion in new education dollars every two years without imposing new taxes.
Education funding is a complex issue and there is still a great deal of work to do. I believe this proposal is a good starting point for discussion and debate in the weeks to come.
Watch my legislative update video on education
My door is always open
Your Legislature works best to represent the people when you are involved. Please keep in touch with my office any time you have questions, comments or suggestions about state government and legislation. Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you in Olympia.