In an op-ed in the Seattle Times, Dan Evans and Slade Gorton assess the education finance and reform plan recently passed by the state Senate. The two distinguished state political figures – Evans a former governor and U.S. Senator; Gorton, former state attorney general and U.S. Senator – first critique the status quo:
The present system requires school districts to use special tax levies to fund a significant portion of basic education. It includes wide differences in the burden imposed by those special levies from district to district, generally imposing heavy taxpayer burdens on the poor districts and often fails to recognize the higher cost of housing for teachers in urban districts. Clearly, the system does an inadequate job of educating our students, with high school graduation rates falling below 80 percent.
Putting more money into a failed system just creates a bigger, more expensive failed system.
Then, they praise the Senate Republican plan for tackling funding and reform:
The proposal, Senate Bill 5607, puts the students first, exactly where they belong.
The new idea establishes a guaranteed level of state investment per pupil, and a stable, predictable funding source that meets constitutional requirements and the court’s test. It also offers teachers new opportunities for pay increases while giving districts an unprecedented amount of freedom to allocate their funding.
Every school district is assured of $12,500 a year for every pupil, a level that would rank Washington among the highest nationally. It would clearly meet the constitution’s mandate and the supreme court’s order. It adds to that figure substantial amounts for every student from a low-income family, for each special-education student, for those for whom English is a second language, for homeless students, for highly capable students and for vocational education.
We recommend reading the op-ed, which goes on to discuss the bill’s property tax swap, accountability measures, and referendum.