Hunter plan moves education funding in the right direction
State Rep. Ross Hunter has a thoughtful plan to boost Washington's education spending through a swap of property and local school levy taxes.
Seattle Times Editorial
State Rep. Ross Hunter has a plan to boost Washington's education spending through creative, if intricate, swap of property and local school levy taxes.
With the recent state Supreme Court's McCleary decision on education funding as a backdrop, the Bellevue Democrat wants the state to collect a greater share of property-tax revenue and spend the money on schools. Local levy levels would be reduced by an equal amount to minimize state residents paying a different amount than they do now.
Indeed, poorer districts may not need levies at all. But the system would stay to allow any district to raise additional money if it chose to.
Broadly speaking, Eastern Washington residents would pay fewer taxes but their schools would receive more education dollars than they do now. Western Washington districts would also get a boost in education funding, but some, for example Seattle, would pay more as well.
The plan is not perfect. It is easy to see why some Eastern Washington Republicans like the plan while it gives some Seattle lawmakers pause. But addressing the inequalities in the current levy system is critical. Local levies have risen nearly back to 1970s levels, a point that prompted the original school-funding lawsuit.
Hunter's plan has many moving parts. But give the House Ways and Means Committee chairman credit for having been immersed in Washington's complex education-funding system for the past decade. His plan moves the conversation in the right direction.
The state Supreme Court's McCleary ruling places heavy judicial pressure on legislators to raise the portion of the state operating budget spent on education.
But if education's challenges are to be fully addressed, the Legislature must deal with governance. It is the state's paramount duty to fully pay for education. It should also be able to control the costs. Right now it cannot. Local districts bargain on everything, including teacher salary increases.
Balancing local control with necessary state control is the next battle.