Dorn Unveils Proposal To Move Washington Toward Full Funding of Basic Education
Bill would define basic education, raise sales tax and institute “levy swap” if Legislature doesn’t act
OLYMPIA — January 9, 2014 — State Superintendent Randy Dorn today released a draft of a bill that would move Washington state toward the full funding of basic education in the event that the Legislature fails to do so by Jan. 1, 2018.
Among other things, the bill calls for a one percent increase in sales tax, an increase in state property tax to $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed value and a decrease in local levy authority – the so-called “levy swap.”
OSPI estimates the bill will increase education funding by $7.5 billion in the 2019-21 biennium.
“This bill is a blunt but necessary instrument,” Dorn said. “A general increase in the sales tax is not the best solution to this problem. But something has to be done, and passage of this bill will, I hope, spur the legislature into action.”
The 2018 deadline was imposed by the state Legislature in a bill passed in 2009. That bill was cited by the state Supreme Court, in its 2012 McCleary v. State of Washington decision. In the case, the Court ruled that the state isn’t meeting its state Constitutional duty to fully fund basic education.
“I hope the Legislature will get serious about this issue during the next five legislative sessions,” Dorn said. “They need to understand the magnitude of the problem. What I am offering with this bill is a clear path to compliance with McCleary. Given the tax structure currently in place, this is the best way to achieve that if the legislature fails to act.”
‘Still idling in the driveway’
In January 2013, prior to the legislative session, Dorn said that $1.4 billion was needed in 2013-15 budget to get the state “on the road to meeting McCleary.”
The $1.4 billion would fund student transportation; materials, supplies and operating costs; full-day kindergarten; and lower class sizes in grades K-3. That would, according to Dorn, fund the first of three phases needed to achieve full funding. The three phases were proposed by the Quality Education Council, a committee created by the Legislature to make recommendations on funding.
Depending on the source, however, the 2013 Legislature added either $750 million to $1 billion to education spending.
“That’s not on the road,” Dorn said. “That’s still idling in the driveway.”
About the bill
Dorn’s proposal makes it clear that the intent of the Legislature is to create a process that will comply with the McCleary decision. The compliance consists of three major parts:
- Sales tax: An additional one percent would be collected. The money would go toward funding education.
- Property tax: The portion of the state property tax that funds basic education would be raised to $3.60 per thousand dollars of valuation, the maximum allowed by law. At the same time, the “levy lid” – the maximum amount a district can ask for in a levy – is reduced by the amount of new revenue generated by the increase in the state property tax. This is commonly referred to as a “levy swap” of revenue from local sources to the state.
- Local levies: Funds generated by local levies may not be used to pay for basic education costs, such as student transportation; materials, supplies and operating costs; and salaries of school and district staff. Levies may still be used for supplemental contracts to compensate staff for extracurricular activities, such as coaching.
These changes would take effect Jan. 1, 2018, unless the state Supreme Court finds that the Legislature has achieved full funding of education in compliance with the constitution.
Dorn said the issue of full funding is not a new one. “For decades we have studied what it would take to reach full state funding of basic education,” he said. “Twice the Supreme Court has told us that we were not meeting our constitutional obligation In response, we have placed in law a program of education that will get us to full funding – but we have not taken action to fund that plan and reduce the use of levies. In fact, we haven’t adopted a plan to fund the plan.
“I urge the Legislature to seriously consider this proposal, even if they choose not to create a trigger that raises the sales tax. We know what we need to do. The time for debate regarding what constitutes basic education is in the past. The time for full funding is now.”
For more information
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.
OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at (360) 725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.
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