SB 5313, SB 5316, and SB 5466: Lawmakers and school officials seek property tax increase and to return to a policy of inequity in school funding

By LIV FINNE  | 
LEGISLATIVE MEMO
|
Feb 20, 2019

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Key Facts:

  1. HB 5313, SB 5316, and SB 5466 would provide a bailout to school districts by allowing administrators to push for higher local property taxes.
  2. These bills would undermine the court’s ruling in the McCleary school funding case.
  3. The bills would cancel the Legislature’s 2017 McCleary settlement by repealing the bipartisan limit on local levy collections.
  4. The bills would disproportionately benefit wealthy school districts and disadvantage property-poor districts, and create large funding inequalities for children across the state.
  5. Property taxes have already increased sharply.  State funding for K-12 schools grew from $13.5 billion $22.8 billion in six years, an increase of $9.3 billion, or 69 percent.
  6. Still, many school officials put their budgets in deficit and threaten to cut programs if they don’t get a bailout.
  7. The result of this cycle is ever-higher taxes imposed on the people of Washington state.
  8. Lawmakers should maintain the integrity of McCleary funding, and not enact policies to privilege wealthy communities while creating inequalities that harm families living in property-poor districts.

Introduction

Senator Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), Chair of the Senate Education Committee, has introduced three bills, SB 5313, SB 5316, and SB 5466, to provide a bailout to school districts by allowing administrators to push for higher local property taxes, in violation of the court’s ruling in the McCleary school funding case.  If passed, the bills could result in increases in local taxes of up to $2.1 billion a year. 

These bills would cancel the Legislature’s 2017 McCleary agreement by repealing the bipartisan limit on local levy collections and again introduce funding inequality among school districts.  By promoting reliance on local property taxes to fund schools, the bills would disproportionately benefit wealthy school districts and disadvantage property-poor districts.

The three bills would also increase dependency on irregular local levies to fund K-12 schools. These bills would turn back the clock to the pre-McCleary education funding formulas, when the state over-relied on local levies to fund education, creating large inequalities for children across the state.

Download the full Legislative Memo