House budget leaders in Olympia held a work session on a key factor in Washington’s education funding crisis Thursday morning. Dan Frizzell reports all people may be created equal, but the same can’t be said for all school district tax bases.
House budget chair Ross Hunter, a Democratic representative from Medina, brought together lawmakers, stakeholders, and non-partisan staff to look at levy reform and teacher pay Thursday. It’s a multi-billion dollar issue, and one that lawmakers are wrestling with as they work to comply with the state Supreme Court’s order to fully fund basic education. To illustrate the wild disparity in local school funding, Hunter pointed to a pair of districts on opposite sides of the Cascades.
In Bellevue we have a school levy of about a dollar-five for every thousand dollars of house value. That generates about $2400 per student. In Yakima, they have a levy of $2.79, almost three times as much, but it only generates $800 per student. If you use local property taxes, you wind up with very different capacity.
Several competing bills before the Legislature each aim to solve the problem, reduce the bite on at least some local taxpayers, and provide fair compensation for teachers in rich and poor districts alike. In the meantime, lawmakers have one more week to agree on a state operating budget before the the current special session comes to an end.
In Olympia, I’m Dan Frizzell.