OLYMPIA…The Senate this evening voted to extend a temporary increase of local school-levy authority, but only after including reforms that would force school districts to closely account for locally generated dollars to ensure they are not used for basic-education expenses.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said the near-unanimous passage of Senate Bill 5023 is in keeping with the levy-authority provision contained in the Education Equality Act passed Feb. 1 by the Senate. He views the vote as another step in moving the funding approach for K-12 education back to constitutional ground, as called for in the state Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision.
“The bill that came over from the House regarding the so-called ‘levy cliff’ would have done nothing to wean school districts off the use of local dollars to pay for basic education. The changes we made to the Senate version of that bill, before passing it tonight, bring in the accountability needed to help put the K-12 funding system back onto solid constitutional footing. The bill is now in line with the levy-authority reforms that are part of Senate Bill 5607 – the Education Equality Act that has been on the negotiating table for weeks.
“My colleagues across the aisle seemed convinced that school districts would have been making deep cuts had we not taken this vote tonight. My legislative district includes 29 school districts, and none of the superintendents who talked to me seemed panicked about it. But we managed to turn a ‘kick the can’ bill into a worthwhile reform, and hopefully get others in the lawmaking process to return their focus to the real task at hand – a constitutional approach to funding our schools.”