Dorn Unveils Proposal to Move Washington Toward Full Funding of Basic Education

OLYMPIA — State Superintendent Randy Dorn today released a draft of a bill that would move Washington state toward the full funding of basic education in the event that the Legislature fails to do so by Jan. 1, 2018.

Among other things, the bill calls for a one percent increase in sales tax, an increase in state property tax to $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed value and a decrease in local levy authority – the so-called “levy swap.”

OSPI estimates the bill will increase education funding by $7.5 billion in the 2019-21 biennium.

The 2018 deadline was imposed by the state Legislature in a bill passed in 2009. That bill was cited by the state Supreme Court, in its 2012 McCleary v. State of Washington decision. In the case, the Court ruled that the state isn’t meeting its state Constitutional duty to fully fund basic education.

In January 2013, prior to the legislative session, Dorn said that $1.4 billion was needed in 2013-15 budget to get the state “on the road to meeting McCleary.”

The $1.4 billion would fund student transportation; materials, supplies and operating costs; full-day kindergarten; and lower class sizes in grades K-3. That would, according to Dorn, fund the first of three phases needed to achieve full funding. The three phases were proposed by the Quality Education Council, a committee created by the Legislature to make recommendations on funding.

Depending on the source, however, the 2013 Legislature added either $750 million to $1 billion to education spending.

Dorn’s proposal makes it clear that the intent of the Legislature is to create a process that will comply with the McCleary decision. The compliance consists of three major parts:

1. Sales tax: An additional one percent would be collected. The money would go toward funding education.

2. Property tax: The portion of the state property tax that funds basic education would be raised to $3.60 per thousand dollars of valuation, the maximum allowed by law. At the same time, the “levy lid” – the maximum amount a district can ask for in a levy – is reduced by the amount of new revenue generated by the increase in the state property tax. This is commonly referred to as a “levy swap” of revenue from local sources to the state.

3. Local levies: Funds generated by local levies may not be used to pay for basic education costs, such as student transportation; materials, supplies and operating costs; and salaries of school and district staff. Levies may still be used for supplemental contracts to compensate staff for extracurricular activities, such as coaching.

These changes would take effect Jan. 1, 2018, unless the state Supreme Court finds that the Legislature has achieved full funding of education in compliance with the constitution.

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