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.
LEV welcomes Gov. Jay Inslee and congratulates him on his inauguration today. We, too, are “proud to live in a state where education is the paramount duty,” and look forward to working with Gov. Inslee on fulfilling that duty this legislative session and in the coming years of his term as governor.
We applaud his commitment to innovation in Washington State. In education, Inslee’s call to bring “real reforms using proven models” is heartening. Particularly, we appreciate his prioritization of meeting our constitutional requirement to amply, equitably, and sustainably fund education, per the McCleary decision. As we work to meet this requirement, we agree with Gov. Inslee that we should not allow the funding debate to mask issues in our education system that demand innovation and reform.
We appreciate Gov. Inslee’s calls for a focus on STEM education, investments in quality early learning, aligning the education system from early learning through college, improving and expanding teacher and principal evaluations, and aligning what is taught in schools to help our students get the jobs of the 21st century.
We look forward to working with Gov. Inslee on these issues as we push to support a world-class education system for all of our state’s students.
Today our own George Scarola testified in support of a new bill before the House that creates a joint taskforce on fully funding education programs. The bill also proposes to remove the class size initiative that started LEV in 2000, Initiative 728.
Voters approved the measure by nearly 72 percent, one of the highest majorities for a ballot initiative in the history of the state. I-728 was supported by a vast majority of Washington Voters to increase quality outcomes for kids by investing additional resources wisely and strategically. I-728 has provided over 2 billion dollars of additional funding for public schools since 2001.
We think all stakeholders must be prepared to compromise for the greater good, and we hope this helps set the table for a rational and robust discussion about funding.
We’re comfortable with this approach because of a combination of factors. Legislation that has passed in recent years sets the table for defining how the state should prioritize funding for public schools. In particular, 2261 and 2776, bills that redefine basic education and education funding formulas, are a solid start. Many of the values of LEV’s original initiative are reflected in that legislation. Additionally, the recent McCleary ruling demands a fully funded solution based on those pieces of legislation by 2018.
The Supreme Court ruling was clear that it is not just funding, but outcomes that matter. We believe the best way to ensure the State fulfills its paramount duty is to have stable and secure funding for our schools, but it is not just about money. We must fund a system that increases positive outcomes for kids.
You can see George’s testimony on TVW