Schools already get lots of funding

Marysville School District is spending $15,700 per student, yet the union wants higher property taxes

For years, through politics, teacher strikes and court cases, we have heard that state lawmakers were underfunding schools. Then, with great fanfare, state leaders passed a historic bill that is providing schools the greatest funding increase in state history. This bill was the legislature’s final resolution of the state Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision, and the latest in a series of six years of enhanced funding to schools. The bill made two important changes in school funding. First, it raised the state property tax, greatly increasing state funding for all schools. Second, it reduced local dependence on levies to ease the burden on taxpayers, to increase fairness and reduce inequity between property-rich districts and property-poor ones. Lawmakers and the court rightly thought it was not fair that a child in Seattle received thousands of dollars more for an education than a child in Kettle Falls, for example.

As a result, funding in the Marysville School District jumped from $10,300 per student a few years ago to $15,700 per student, more than tuition at most private schools. Total spending went from $113 million in 2012 to $167 million today, an increase of 48 percent.

Marysville taxpayers just saw their property taxes increase, in some cases paying 27 percent more to provide this added money. Yet Kim Mead, Washington Education Association union president, says the district should get even more money.

She is pressing lawmakers to raise property taxes again, this time at the local level. Not surprisingly, some rich school districts, like Seattle, want to get more money for themselves and leave poor communities behind. They are pushing Senate Bill 5313, to allow higher local taxes to be imposed on top of the state property tax that was just enacted.

School leaders should consider how the burden of higher property taxes falls hardest on the elderly living on fixed incomes, young couples seeking to buy their first homes, and working families living from paycheck to paycheck.

Lawmakers should resist the union and those school districts that have made bad budget decisions. They should uphold the principle of uniformity and equity in school funding. Lawmakers and the governor should stick with the school-funding plan they passed; a fair limit on the burden of local taxes, a big increase in the state property tax, and equitable funding for all children in Washington.

Liv Finne, Seattle