*By Jeannie Magdua, Legislative Action Team Lead
The Democrats in the Washington state legislature are relentless in their pursuit of your money to fill the insatiable coffers of our public education system. Two bills regarding levies are set for a hearing on Wednesday, January 10th at 10:30AM First, is SJR 8207, which is a proposed amendment to the state constitution to change the requirement for a proposed levy from a three-fifths majority vote to a simple majority. They’re also proposing SB 5823, which would authorize school districts to ratify indebtedness by a simple majority of the voters, also a change from a three-fifths majority requirement.
Levies are voted upon during special elections in our state. Voter participation in regular elections is already low, but they occur just after we have felt the sting of paying our ever-increasing property taxes. It’s a time when we can see that more than half of our property taxes funds our public education system. Special elections, where districts decide on levies, usually occur in the months just prior to paying those property taxes. If voter participation in regular elections is low, participation in special elections is abysmal. A three-fifths majority requirement during these low-participation elections has held back some of the increases via levies, and the Democrats would like to change that.
Some readers may recall that the McCleary decision was supposed to keep school levies low and were to only fund special projects or student enrichment programs. Now, school districts are using these levies to fund the salaries that are (and I use this term loosely) “negotiated” with the school boards. In my district, the Everett School District, the median total compensation for teachers is $150,000/year. Now, I don’t begrudge a teacher being well paid, but the community has no say in the salaries they are funding with their property taxes. Administrators are also paid exorbitant salaries. Some superintendents in our state are paid between $400,000 and $600,000/year.
In short, Democrats are looking for ways to make it easier to make us pay higher and higher taxes for higher and higher salaries.
We have all heard the cries from public school officials and elected leaders that the schools have budget shortfalls and need more money. As a society, we love our children and want them to have as many opportunities as possible to be prepared for their future. We’re generous people. Democrats are taking advantage of that. Let’s take a look at some facts to help us have a reasoned response to these demands for more and more of our money.
First, the per pupil expenditure – the amount of money allocated to each student’s education in our state – is $19,000. NINETEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS! This is more than the tuition for nearly every private school in our state.
Second, more than 80 percent of public-school funding goes to salaries, and only half of the salaries are for teachers.
Lastly, the increase in public school funding has not resulted in better education for our students. The report card on the state’s education website shows that more than half of our students cannot meet minimum standards.
The Director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center, Liv Finne, recently spoke to newly elected school board members at a conference in Bellevue. She informed them of the fact that Washington schools have plenty of funds to educate our students. Her presentation slides for that conference are incredibly informative and I would encourage you to take a look them here.
In the 2023 legislative session, our lawmakers added $3 billion to our K-12 public education budget, but it is never enough. It is time for us to say no to their demands for more money and make some demands of our own. We should demand that our public education system be more effective in teaching our kids to read and achieve higher scores in math and science. If they can’t do that with $19,000 per student per year, they definitely don’t deserve an easier pathway to yet more of our money.
TAKE ACTION!! – the links below are inactive as of 1/10/24 4pm
Make your voice heard. Please click on each of the buttons below to sign in CON (Opposed) to the SJR 8207 and SB 5823 BEFORE January 10th at 9:30AM
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