Friends and Neighbors,
We're nearly finished with the first half of the legislative session. We've spent the past week on the House floor debating House bills. We'll continue debating House bills next week, before beginning hearings on Senate bills.
As expected, education has continued to dominate the conversation in Olympia. Since the McCleary ruling in 2012, the state legislature has been tasked with fixing a broken education funding system which unfairly burdens some rural school districts. Our state constitution and McCleary both state that it is the responsibility of the Legislature to fund basic education. But some overburdened rural school districts have been forced to use local levy dollars to fund basic education. It's long overdue that we address the root of the problem and address the issue of inequity created by the reliance on local levy dollars.
So far, two education plans have passed their respective chambers.
The Senate education plan
The Senate education plan passed the Senate on Feb. 1. It focuses on giving teachers a raise, creating a more student-centered funding structure, and eliminating the dependence on crushing local levies in rural districts to fund basic education.
The House education plan
The House education plan was passed by the majority party on Feb. 22. It calls for an additional $11 billion in education spending. While it also gives teachers a raise, there are some problems with the plan.It does not address fundamental over-reliance on local levy dollars. It also fails to say how Washingtonians will ultimately pay for the $11 billion of increased spending.
With each of these bills now on the table, it's the duty of the Legislature to find common ground and pass a comprehensive funding plan.
For me, funding education using our current revenue, without raising taxes, is essential to protecting the working families of Washington. Making ends meet is already difficult enough. Raising or implementing new taxes should be an absolute last resort. In fact, if raising taxes is the approach taken by the legislature, it means education has been funded last rather than funded as a top priority.
Washington state does not have a revenue problem – it has a spending problem.
Teachers deserve a raise and all students in Washington state deserve an equal opportunity at success. I look forward to fixing our broken levy system, negotiating the nuts and bolts of funding education, and protecting the wallets of all hard-working Washington families.
As always, I welcome your calls, emails, and visits to the capitol regarding this very important issue. Only by hearing your concerns, stories, and questions can I truly continue to represent you in Olympia. Please call my office at (360)786-7990 or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.