Republicans' plan helps solve state's education funding puzzle
Friday, February 24, 2017 11:30 AM
By J.T. Wilcox
"There is a lot to like in the Senate Republicans' comprehensive proposal" for meeting the McCleary court ruling on school funding, says state Rep. J.T. Wilcox.
On Jan. 27, state Senate Republicans proposed their McCleary solution, known as the One Washington Education Equality Act. While things will change as all four caucuses come to the table for budget negotiations over the next two and a half months, there is a lot to like in the Senate Republicans' comprehensive proposal. It provides ample and equitable school funding, while focusing on better student outcomes, increased accountability and keeping quality teachers in the classroom.
Senate budget chairman John Braun and his colleagues deserve a lot of credit for proposing numerous reforms to replace our current flawed system, which relies too heavily on local levy dollars.
Chief among these reforms would be the implementation of a flat, statewide local effort property tax. This would reduce property taxes in property-poor school districts, like many in our communities. Those in property-wealthy school districts would pay a little bit more in property taxes, ensuring students, regardless of their ZIP code, would receive the same funding and opportunities.
In addition to replacing high local levies with a constitutional funding source, this plan would empower local decisionmaking, implement performance-based expectations, and increase oversight. The existing one-size-fits-all approach to K-12 education is not practical, which is why local decisionmakers must be brought into the process to help schools meet the needs of students and parents, as well as the community at large.
The Senate's plan also addresses the important issue of attracting and retaining quality teachers. Starting teacher pay would begin at $45,000 per year - a 26 percent increase from the current average. Additionally, school districts would be afforded the flexibility to provide housing allowances for teachers in high cost-of-living areas.
It's important we continue building on the good things we've accomplished the last four years – investing an additional $4.6 billion in K-12 education, ensuring smaller K-3 class sizes, expanding access to full-day kindergarten, providing meaningful teacher raises, and more.
We will ultimately be judged not on the process, but on our solutions to make our K-12 education system more equitable for students, teachers and taxpayers. Let's make sure that gets done this legislative session and solve the final piece of the McCleary puzzle.
J.T. Wilcox, a Republican, is a state representative from the Second Legislative District, which includes south Pierce County and part of Thurston County.