One challenge met. Now the Legislature needs more pressure from Washingtonians to meet the bigger goal: answering the Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision.
WASHINGTON residents, worried about imminent, disruptive layoffs in their schools, played a major role in moving the Legislature forward.
But don’t relax just yet. The lawmakers’ compromise on education funding was only a reprieve.
The Legislature’s bigger job to answer the Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary ruling remains undone. That should be the major focus now.
In the meantime, lawmakers passed a compromise bill concerning local levies that will allow school districts to keep collecting property taxes for schools until the Legislature finds a better way for the state to pay for education. The governor signed the so-called “levy cliff” bill on Wednesday.
Pressure from the public was a deciding factor in forcing the Legislature’s hand on this bill, lawmakers say. School officials from around the state sent out warnings about how they would have to cut budgets and lay off staff. And the pressure made the difference.
Voters need to maintain that pressure. The goal of figuring out the best way to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality education and have the state pay for it remains urgent. The Supreme Court’s ruling said the state relies too much on local tax levies to pay the bills.
Disappointingly, lawmakers appear far from a compromise on both the education policy and the money to pay for it. The “levy cliff” bill gives school districts and the Legislature a little breathing room.
But lawmakers still have a deadline to meet this year to solve the problem before the 2017-18 school year.
They need to keep hearing from parents who want to see better graduation rates, a smaller achievement gap between ethnic and economic groups, and more kids going to college or career training programs with the skills they need to succeed. And they need to hear that voters are willing to see their taxes go up in order to pay for these better outcomes.