A new Washington Research Council report headlines the question the state Supreme Court will be answering this fall: Has the State Finally Closed the Book on McCleary? The analysis concludes:
…the state has accomplished something significant here. Including planned 2019–21 spending, it has increased state funding for schools by $13.023 billion since 2011–13 and now spends more than half of the state budget on public schools. Importantly, from the Supreme Court’s perspective, it does so thanks to a “dependable and regular” revenue source, the state property tax. Although districts may still ask voters for addition- al funds to provide enrichments, the state has placed more limits on those levies to ensure that they are not used for basic education. Thus, the state makes a good case that it has complied with McCleary.
On the way to the conclusion, the WRC walks through a 12-page review of legislative history with respect to compliance with the court’s 2012 order. Highlights from the WRC summary:
- From 2011–13 to 2017–19, state funding for public schools has increased by $8.419 billion (62.1 percent).
- In 2019–21, the Legislature plans to spend an additional $4.604 billion to continue implementation of EHB 2242.
- In 2017–19, public schools account for 50.3 percent of state spending.
- EHB 2242 increases state funding for school staff salaries and changes the salary structure.
- Several new accountability measures are put in place to ensure that districts are not using local revenues for basic education.
- Combined state and local property tax rates will increase in every school district in 2018; after that, they are estimated to increase in some districts and decrease in others.
- In SY 2019–20, districts statewide will receive $2.759 billion more from the state and $672.4 million less from local levies.
- Taken together, per pupil state and local funding is estimated to increase by $1,976, to $13,196.
We recommend you read the report. And, we agree, the state makes a good case.