Voters should do their homework on candidates running for office, writes editorial page editor Kate Riley. The editorial board will be offering recommendations in state and federal races as well as some ballot measures.

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Just as the kids are dumping their backpacks in the back of the coat closet for summer, now is the time for the grown-ups to start doing their homework. Washington’s Aug. 2 state primary contains a number of weighty decisions, not the least of which includes who will go to Olympia to solve the state’s education-funding crisis.

Sure, most citizens can discuss knowledgeably the positions and travails of the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees. Hillary Clinton is winning endorsements of some Republicans who have made their careers in foreign policy and the albatross of her decision to use a private email service is its own unfolding story. And then there’s Trump and the latest outrageous thing he said (fill in the blank and the blank and the blank).

But beyond this interminable presidential election season, the decisions closer to home are, in some cases, no less consequential and, in others, much more so.

McCleary homework

What does it mean to fully fund basic education? Read more about the McCleary decision at:

Take for example, the election of all 98 members of the state House and 26 senators. The state Legislature is hard up against a crucial deadline to fully fund K-12 basic education in the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, in particular ending its reliance on local levy dollars. The court has grown increasingly cranky, held the state in contempt of court and, starting last August, began fining the state $100,000 a day.

While the Legislature has increased funding for K-12 education by more than $4 billion in the last four years, the heavy lift for lawmakers starts when it convenes in January. Estimates vary, but another $4 billion might be necessary to fill the hole. Disagreements abound about where that might come from and how to ensure that investment will move the needle on student outcomes.

Many, but not all, Republican lawmakers and candidates are reticent to discuss tax increases — this editorial board has supported consideration of new revenues, possibly including a capital-gains tax. Many, but not all, Democratic lawmakers and candidates think that once the state takes over fully funding K-12 education, alleviating that burden on local school districts, it should not take over the responsibility of bargaining for the whole state.

This editorial board thinks it should.

Also in the mix is the complexity of local levy reform. The state Supreme Court is right to order the end to the state’s practice of allowing local districts to pay for basic education. The practice arose out of necessity as local districts struggled to backfill the state’s funding failures, but it has resulted in untenable education equity issues across the state. Under some plans, taxpayers might pay more than they do now to shore up the system.

Daunting choices to be sure. And that’s why voters should pay attention to the candidates who knock on their doors, show up at their community festivals or wave signs at intersections.

The Seattle Times editorial board will be making recommendations for voters in legislative districts throughout King and Snohomish counties, in statewide and federal races and for some local ballot measures. We are starting Monday with our recommendation for the 43rd Legislative District race.

Each endorsement will explain our thinking. But generally we look for moderates with a commitment to work across party lines. We have been surprised so far how often candidates cannot engage even in a superficial discussion about the McCleary challenges.

The echoes of partisan talking points are heard too often. We’re looking for thinkers who will do their own homework, who will compromise, stand up to their parties and special interests and make the best decisions for all of our children, across the state, in rich districts and poor.


AN ANNOUNCEMENT: Our editorial board is boning up even more so on McCleary, too, with the addition of Donna Blankinship as an editorial writer and columnist. We are excited to add an indisputable expert on Washington’s education system and the McCleary story. She has been covering those issues for The Associated Press. Stay tuned.