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Tag: McCleary


Levy swap is critical to state K-12 funding

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

On public school funding, lawmakers are right and their critics are wrong. The 2013 Legislature made a big step toward ample funding of public education by earmarking an addition $1 billion for the K-12 system.

Compliance with the Washington Supreme Court’s McCleary decision will require more, of course, but all the money was never going to materialize overnight.

One remarkable thing has been going unremarked.

The Legislature and supreme court are co-equal branches of government. Lawmakers conceivably could have brushed off McCleary the way Andrew Jackson once brushed off an 1832 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court: Enforce your own damn decision.

Lawmakers instead worked in good faith to satisfy the Washington Constitution’s mandate that the state “make ample provision for the education all children rising within its borders.”

But Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn makes a fair point when he says the Legislature picked the “low-hanging fruit” to come up with that $1 billion.

The easiest fruit to grab was $354 million from the state’s public works account, which provides local governments with cheap loans for local water, sewer and street projects.

That’s one-time money. The Legislature must come up with something better for future bienniums.

One obvious place to go is the levy swap. The basic theory:

• Many districts are currently being forced to come up with 20 percent or more of their budgets from property tax levies that pass or fail depending on the mood of the taxpayers.

• The McCleary decision says all basic education money should come from the state – from a reliable source. Levies don’t count as reliable. (Raids on the public works account aren’t reliable, either.)

• Under the swap, the state would increase the property taxes it collects for schools, and districts would be required to decrease their levies accordingly.

• The switch would be roughly revenue-neutral. Taxpayers as a whole would pay no more, though there’d be some shift from the wealthiest districts (largely in King County) to poor ones.

Read more »


Dollars alone won’t ensure first-rate public schools

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Last year’s McCleary decision is not just about money.

As the Washington Supreme Court noted 14 months ago, the state constitution mandates that the Legislature “make ample provision for the education” of all the state’s children.

What does “education” mean? The court defined it – logically – as “the basic knowledge and skills needed to compete in today’s economy and meaningfully participate in this state’s democracy.”

It’s a question of quality as well as quantity.

You could spend fortunes feeding fast food to kids, and they’ll grow up malnourished. Likewise, the Legislature could dump another

$5 billion a year into the K-12 system without offering students the skills they need to survive in the 21st-century economy. More money is necessary, but not sufficient.

Lawmakers this year have been taking important steps toward improving the quality of public education in Washington.

One pair of bills would create a date certain – July 1, 2015 – for increasing state high school graduation requirements to 24 credits.

More important, the credits must mean something. The plan is to align graduation requirements with college admission requirements. Students shouldn’t just be given a piece of paper when they graduate; they need the intellectual tools to succeed in a four-year college, two-year college or technical-vocational program.

As things stand, many students – especially from low-income families – have only a foggy understanding of what college demands. They often wind up with a hodgepodge of credits that don’t add up to a marketable high school diploma.
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Schools must override all else in 2013 Legislature

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

“Paramount duty” are the operative words for the 2013 Legislature.

As in: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.”

That sentence – from the Washington Constitution – spells out lawmakers’ overriding obligation; it is the core of the state supreme court’s McCleary decision.

The high court spoke pointedly to the Legislature last January when it defined those words: Read more »


Agenda for action in 2013

This commentary will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Again this year, The News Tribune’s editorial board has identified what we believe should be fundamental priorities for Washington state, this region and our communities.

The agenda below reflects the values and concerns that will guide our commentary through 2013.

At the top is education. With Washington’s economy recovering from five years of distress, this state should finally be able to invest more in its public schools and colleges. The state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision is more than enough reason to expand the opportunities we owe our children and grandchildren.

Our 2013 civic agenda:


Public education needs a radical rethinking this year.

For decades, the Legislature has been evading its responsibility to fully fund the state’s schools, expanding other programs while forcing school districts to rely on local levies to pay for such basics as textbooks, school nurses and bus drivers.

That’s got to stop, said the Washington Supreme Court last January in its landmark McCleary decision. The court demanded that the Legislature comply with the Washington Constitution, which states that “ample provision” for basic education is the “paramount duty of the state.”

Nor does basic education consist of harried teachers in overcrowded classrooms. As common sense and the court defines it, “ample” means far more the bare bones. Every child, even in poor school districts, must be offered the high-end academic skills needed to succeed in a complex, technology-intense world.

This means the Legislature must appropriate hundreds of millions of dollars more per year to the K-12 system. That’s going to require some very tough choices in Olympia, probably including more taxation.


The Supreme Court has no authority to raise taxes or micromanage legislative budgets. Budget-writers are accountable to the voters, which means that the public holds the ultimate power to demand or deny adequate funding for schools.

The public understands that simply dumping more money in an underperforming school system will produce only a more expensive underperforming school system. But Washingtonians can be persuaded to invest more in the system if they see greater accountability in their schools, high academic standards, and science-based teaching and administrative practices.

Voters will pay for results. They won’t pay for the status quo.


College opportunity doesn’t fall under the constitutional definition of basic education, but few students will find success in tomorrow’s economy without vocational or academic training beyond high school.
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