Last week, in nearly 200 local elections across the state, Washington voters overwhelming supported their local school levies, approving $5.4 billion dollars in funding for schools.
While a few elections are still too close to call and the results will not be certified until February 25, of the 194 levies that passed, 150 were for maintenance and operations and raised nearly $4.9 billion total for districts across the state. Forty-three capital levies and one transportation levy also passed.
Fifty-four of the levies passed thanks to simple majority, a 2007 voter-approved constitutional amendment supported by the League of Education Voters. Between 2008 and 2013, more than $4.7 billion was raised for schools through local levies.
In many districts, local levies make up 25 percent or more of the total operating costs of their schools. These local dollars often pay for necessary school costs like staff salaries, textbooks, or a sixth period in school—a far cry from the “extras” they were originally intended to provide.
In January 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in McCleary v. Washington that the state was not meeting its constitutionally mandated duty to fully fund basic education. The court ordered the legislature to overhaul how education is funded in the state by 2018. Last year, the legislature added nearly $1 billion to support K–12 basic education funding and gap closing strategies and programs.