The following content was originally released as a newsletter on Feb. 6, 2017. Those who receive my regular e-newsletters have access to information straight from the state Capitol. Sign up today, and you can take the next step toward participating directly in your state government. My newsletter is emailed about every two weeks. To subscribe, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
The choices here are getting clearer—big new taxes on energy and an income tax on capital gains, OR reforms that invest the resources we have more wisely.
I promised to keep you posted on the action here in Olympia and much has changed in the last week. First, some background – in 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court issued the McCleary ruling. The details are complicated. Some things the court got wrong—especially concerning the constitutional separation of powers. Nevertheless, what the court got right was identifying fundamental inequities in the way we fund our education system. For over 30 years, the state paid less and less of the costs of basic education, our fundamental duty. To make up for the shortfall, some areas of our state could not afford to pay as much as others for their children’s public education. Moreover, others with high property values can more easily cover the cost, so much so that such homeowners pay LESS per $1,000 of valuation than do most others. For example, much of Pierce County pays more than Seattle. The Legislature needs to make education funding, from region to region, more uniform and equitable.
Earlier this year, Gov. Jay Inslee issued his plan to address McCleary. Unfortunately, the governor’s proposal completely ignored the disparity between property-rich areas and those with smaller tax bases. Instead of equalizing property tax rates statewide to pay for education, he proposed a new income tax on capital gains, a huge tax increase on small business, and a big new carbon (energy) tax. Again, he did nothing to address the inequity of local funding for education. His party’s leaders in the House and the Senate appear to agree with him. Inslee’s historic tax increases would raise taxes by $8 billion per biennia. It would increase the current budget by more than 21 percent and would increase spending equivalent to the dollar amount the state budget has grown over the last ten years. Put another way, his new taxes would be greater than the current state property tax and gas tax revenue combined.
We can do better. The One Washington Education Equality Act passed the Senate last week. It reflects a fundamental shift in how we fund education and how we reward teachers. Property-rich areas, such as Seattle, would pay a little more, and Pierce County residents would pay less. The plan reflects a governing principle of our leadership, which is to treat taxes as a last resort and to govern within our means.
I hope you will take the time to review this description of the One Washington Education Equality Act and what it means for the 28th Legislative District.
Senator Steve O’Ban
One Washington impact on 28th District
More student funding and reduced property taxes for the 28th
If the One Washington Education Equality Act becomes law, the overwhelming majority of school districts would see an increase in funding per student compared to the current system, and the 28th Legislative District is no exception. For example, Clover Park schools would see an increase of almost $1,200 per student. University Place School District would see an increase of $910 per student.
***(UPDATE: These numbers may change somewhat based on some modelling/assumption changes, I will keep you updated.)
Levy reform and property taxes
One of the challenges identified by the McCleary decision was the need to create an equitable funding system. Currently, funding levels for students vary enormously by district—and so do tax rates. In some districts, because of high property values, large amounts of revenue can be generated with a relatively low increase in levy rates. In other districts with low property values, comparative levy rates can be extremely high, yet raise much more modest amounts.
Under the One Washington plan, a “local effort levy” of $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed value replaces the existing maintenance and operations levy. The current statewide average M&O levy is $2.54 per $1,000. In the majority of districts, property owners will see a property tax cut. For some others, there is a mechanism within the plan to use future revenue growth to help pay down the rate.
As you can see in the above chart, the plan benefits the 28th District, both in terms of per-pupil funding and property tax relief for the average homeowner.
A student-centered funding solution
The plan repeals the existing one-size-fits-all school-funding model and creates a statewide per-pupil funding system. It establishes funding per student at a minimum of $12,500 and provides additional funding based on each student’s unique needs. For example, a student from a low-income family will result in the school district receiving between $2,000 and $5,000 in additional funding. Special education students will receive $7,500 in additional funding. If a student is homeless, the district will receive an additional $1,500 in funding.
The plan also increases funding to help prepare students for their careers. It doubles state funding for highly capable students and doubles state funding for vocational education.
This student-centered approach to funding creates an ample, dependable and equitable funding model for all the students in Washington.
Attracting and rewarding quality teachers
Beginning teachers are not getting a competitive salary under the current system. Under the current pay scale, new teachers receive $35,700. Under the new system, the starting salary for teachers increases to $45,000.
The plan rewards excellence. It establishes a process to identify the top five percent of teachers and reward them. The top 5 percent would earn an additional $25,000, and the top 2 percent would be awarded an additional $50,000. For teachers in areas with a high cost of living, a new housing allowance of up to $10,000 is provided. Health care for families is also addressed and made more affordable for teachers.
In our schools currently,
•54 percent are meeting the state standard in 3rd grade literacy.
•48 percent are meeting the standard in 8th grade math.
•78 percent of high school students graduated in the 2015-2016 school year.
•61 percent of our students enrolling in college after high school graduation do not require remediation.
The One Washington Act sets new goals, including:
•86 percent meeting the state standard in 3rd grade literacy by 2020.
•72 percent meeting the standard in 8th grade math by 2020.
•89 percent graduation rate for high school by 2020.
•93 percent of students enrolling in college after high school graduation not requiring remediation by 2020.
•5 percent reduction in the opportunity gap on math and English tests by 2024.
Schools that meet performance standards would be exempt from most state regulations, though all districts would still be required to follow health, safety and non-discrimination laws. As many as 5 percent of the schools not meeting standards could apply to be an innovation district.
The plan gives districts greater flexibility to reward teachers for performance, aides in identifying poorly performing teachers, and enables districts to hire non-traditional teachers, such as a career military retiree or a software executive.
To learn more about the One Washington Education Equality Act, please click here.