Patience is running short with more than just state supreme court justices as a suitable fix for funding public schools has avoided lawmakers.
A solution to the 2012 order to resolve the underfunding of K-12 schools has remained frustratingly out of reach as districts feel the effects of the financial crunch and justices slap the state with $100,000 per day in fines.
The latest development out of Olympia, though, is promising.
The Republicans’ plans for resolving what is known as the McCleary decision are innovative and precise in both identifying the current shortcomings of the system and shoring them up responsibly. Crafted in large part by Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, the proposal calls for the state to “collect new, local property-tax levies for schools, which would be set at a uniform rate statewide and not be subject to voter approval. The state also would add $1.4 billion per two-year budget cycle to supplement education funding.”
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In step with Braun’s conscientiously conservative legislative track record, the state’s additional commitment of $1.4 billion would not come from new, unnecessary taxation.
“This is an enormous change in how we tax our citizens,” Braun told The Seattle Times.
There is also a referendum clause, meaning voters would ultimately need to approve the plan.
The legislation includes an exciting transformation in how the funding system operates. The state would shift to a per-student funding model, assigning additional resources to students with special needs and others who would require extra expenses within the public schools system.
Pay for teachers would increase substantially, and the burden of the cost of education would be more fairly spread across the state, whereas smaller school districts currently carry an unfair share.
Districts could still ask voters for approval of additional spending, but there would be a cap, and the money could not be spent on basic education necessities that should be paid for at the state level.
The fact that the plan put forth by Senate Republicans doesn’t burden the tax base with onerous increases is what makes it different than proposals by Gov. Jay Inslee and the House Democrats.
To be fair, there are promising and potentially effective elements in those plans as well.
If there is to be an agreement with this gathering of the Legislature, though, we hope Democrats are willing to adjust their usual strategy of fixing problems by throwing more taxpayer money at them.
The Republican proposal is a positive step in the right direction. We look forward to a spirited debate, and we’re thankful that a balanced Legislature requires voices of conservative-minded leaders such as Braun, especially in a state that is not always responsible when asking for and spending the people’s money.