Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This is the second in a series of email updates based on the results of my recent legislative survey. This week's topic is about basic education funding reform. If you did not get an opportunity to participate in the survey and would like to share your comments, concerns or ideas, please feel free to call my office. My contact information is listed below.
What's the plan?
The Legislature is discussing several plans to fix the problems in our K-12 education funding system. There is good and bad in each of the proposals. The final solution will probably be a combination of each of the various plans.
The good news is, in the past four years, the Legislature has committed $4.6 billion in new investments to K-12 education. Despite these increases, our current system remains inequitable for students, teachers and tax payers. To meet the requirements of the State Supreme Court's McCleary decision we must end the over-reliance of school districts on local levy dollars to pay teacher and staff salaries.
What about levy reform?
For over 30 years, the state paid less and less of the costs of K-12 basic education. Many school districts relied on local levies to fill in the gaps. One of the options being discussed is levy reform. This means reducing or eliminating many local levies and replacing them with a uniform statewide property tax – ensuring it is as revenue neutral as possible for homeowner property taxes. The state would also pick up the tab for local maintenance and operation costs.
The savings from evenly distributing the costs adds up quickly – $1.4 billion in new education dollars every two years. Additionally, some property owners would see a cut in their property tax of up to 30%. Statewide property taxes would actually decrease by about $2.4 billion.
Changing the traditional funding model
Another option being discussed is changing the traditional model for how schools are paid. Currently, schools are funded based on the number staff and employees. This plan would pay schools based on the number of students enrolled. Schools would be given $12,500 per student. Additional money would be available for student needs such as, low-income, special education, homeless students and English language learners.
What about teacher pay?
Another reform is for teacher salaries. Starting teacher salaries would be $45,000 per year. Teachers living in areas with high rental rates would get an extra allocation of $10,000. Cost of living adjustments would be given by increasing the amount of money school districts get per student. This proposal would cost about $1.4 additional dollars from the state's budget.
Another option being discussed would bring in even more compensation for teachers. Beginning teacher salaries would also be $45,000. But, the average teacher salary would be increased to $70,947, plus benefits. This proposal includes a regional plan for cost differences for different areas of the state. Teachers, administrators and staff would all receive cost of living adjustments. However, it would require an increase in taxes of about $6.5 billion.
Watch my video on education funding
My door is always open. If you have questions, concerns or comments you would like to share, please feel free to give me a call or send me an email. Thank you for the honor of representing you in Olympia.