You did not see that headline last week, but you should have.

You may have read reports about levies in a particular district or county, but there was precious little attention paid to what happened all across the state. What happened was that voters overwhelmingly supported their local schools and voted for $2.6 billion in taxes to support education.

Let’s say it again: Voters overwhelmingly supported their local schools and voted for $2.6 billion in taxes to support education.

Out of 295 school districts, 157 went to their local communities seeking support to the tune of over $2.7 billion dollars in property taxes. Out of the 157 school districts that put levies on the ballot, 152 of them passed. In a time where we hear that voters will not support revenue, the local election results stand in stark contrast to that narrative.

In most cases, local dollars make up around 25% of the total operating costs of a school district. We are a far cry from local levies being about the “extras” they were originally designed to provide. As the economic crises drags on, the importance of local levies has increased. Local communities have responded to that crisis with overwhelming support for their schools.

Simple Majority, the gift that keeps on giving
It seems odd, but Washington state has a fondness for requiring super majorities when it comes to revenue. It used to be that local schools had to receive more than 60% of the vote to secure a local operating levy. Thanks to Simple Majority (also known as I-4204, passed in 2007) we returned to the most basic of democratic principles, majority rules. That means that 51 levies representing $1.2 billion have passed because of Simple Majority. That is $1.2 billion to support the students in those districts that they otherwise would not have received.

Our support for majority rule extends to the state Legislature, where the law currently requires two-thirds majority to raise revenue. The I-1053 lawsuit, which we filed along with the Washington Education Association and other plaintiffs in October, will have its first hearing in March. We hope that the combination of the McCleary ruling and the eventual ruling on I-1053 will clear the way to fund our schools at the level they need, and local voters seem prepared to support.

8 comments on “Washington voters pass $2.6 billion in taxes for education

  1. Can you clarify a bit on the ‘simple majority’ rule? Does that mean that a majority of ballots cast passed these levies? I recall that there used to be a rule that a levy ballot could not be passed unless the total number of ballots cast was at least a certain percentage of the most recent general election. Under the old rule, not voting was more effective than ‘vote no’. If only a simple majority of ballots actually cast is all that is required, then that would be a significant change to the voting landscape.

    1. In 2007, voters approved allowing simple-majority approval of property tax levies for local public schools. I believe the initiative also removed a requirement that an excess levy or bond election be validated either by a voter turnout of 40 percent of those who voted in the most recent general election, or by “yes” votes of 60 percent of 40 percent of the votes cast in the last general election (per an old P-I story).

  2. Meanwhile 3 democrats turn against their party, joining hands with republicans to gut K-12 budget another 44 million, and higher ed another 30 million….

    Folks: We’re fighting for scraps for the schools while those who can and should be paying their fair share aren’t.

    Misguided efforts at rooting out bad teachers and turning struggling schools into charters are not solutions. They merely facilitate the ease with which our common interests are divided and our social conscience is fragmented, ultimately leading to the inevitable survival-driven pathology of “everyman for himself.”

    Hollow, disingenuous slogans like “supporting great teachers” do not mask LEV’s intentions to further the agenda of those who don’t work within schools to nevertheless set the agenda for teachers and students. This is no different than calling a clear-cutting logging proposal a “meadow restoration act,” which fools no one, and only tarnishes the reputation of organizations which speak in such manners.

    If you want to help, or save, public education, stop kissing the hands and behinds of the wealthiest among us, and start confronting them and demanding they play by the same rules as everyone else and pay their fare share for the large slices of the pie they eat everyday.

    1. @wseadawg – A bit brash, but I couldn’t agree more with you, you’ve summarized the current situation well right here. Remember, we are in Washington which mandates adequate funding, not over zealous marketplace streamlining. By any other name, it’s still the same thorns as it were. Applause for all the voters who stood up and said they support their respective district’s levies. Olympia can’t seem to quite step it up they way you have yet.

  3. We want to remind everyone of the rules of this blog: Be respectful. Be civil. Stick to the facts or even your feelings (hey, this *is* Washington).

    You are really smart folks who know how to argue your points. If you want to spend hours on the web debating policy and comment on every post, that’s your choice. Fantasic. But be respectful. Be civil. You might even give someone a break – or consider their point of view.

    Consider your intention when posting: Are you trying to influence or are you trying to insult? If it’s the latter, you will most likely find your post – and you – removed.

    We respect your choice to disagree with us and with other organizations or political parties or politicians or commenters. We respect your choice to voice it. But if you are going to be disrespectful, it won’t be on our blog. You will be removed and your comment will be deleted.

    The definitions of all of this remains with us. We’ll do our best to be reasonable, just as we’ve asked you to be.

    Be safe out there.

    1. LEV,

      At minimum, when you delete a comment you should leave a note that the comment was deleted.

      It’s best practice and prevents your readers and posters from wondering whether some technical glitch is consuming the posts.

      It also helps stifle rumors that LEV removes opposing comments to make it appear that all their readers are completely in accord with LEV’s opinions.

      The frequency with which LEV deletes what to appear to be fairly innocuous, but dissenting, comments has, I think, been damaging to LEV’s reputation amongst people who are very engaged and devoted to improving education in our state.

      1. Thank you for your suggestions.

        We are dedicated to keeping the comments on this blog focused on discussing and debating the issues, using data, studies and personal stories as the foundation for doing so. We appreciate that people have strong feelings about education policy and practices and that sometimes people get angry and frustrated. However, we will not allow this comment section to be a platform for personal attacks or disrespect. Other blogs have their own line in the sand, and this is ours. As we said before, the definition of all of this belongs to us. We will do our best to be reasonable, but we respect that others will disagree with some of our choices.

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