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Do Washington school districts want even more property tax money?

(Photo : NeONBRAND, Unsplash)

Officials in Spokane intend to lay off more than 300 school employees — mostly teachers — because of funding issues. This is not an issue unique to this particular school district. It is an issue plenty of districts are having to face all over the state of Washington.

Liv Finne, the director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center, joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss what this means for local education. Nearly a year ago, the state Legislature met the court-ordered requirements under the McCleary decision — to fully fund K-12 education.

“The crux of this is that the districts are now telling us they’re going to fire teachers, when only two years ago … they asked for huge increases to their budgets,” she said. “So they asked for these huge increases, they got the huge increases, property taxes were increased in 2017 and the state property tax was increased by the highest amount in state history to provide additional money for the schools.”

“Now they’re saying that’s not enough money, that we need to remove the limit on local levies that was placed in 2017 to ease the burden of a higher state property tax and to reduce the inequities in funding amongst districts.”

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Finne believes this is simply part of an effort to pass a bill that would give school districts greater power in collecting property taxes, which she worries will hurt working people.

“They were not satisfied with the greater state property tax increase for schools. They’re not satisfied with the $9.3 billion extra they got in the intervening six years since 2012, a 68 percent increase in state funding,” she said. “They don’t like having limits placed on their ability to raise local property taxes.”

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Finne also found much of this foreseeable, considering that large raises were asked for during strikes despite the limitations in school district budgets.

“In 2018, there was a surplus of a billion dollars that was provided for the schools, and the union and Superintendent Reykdal jumped on that and signaled to go for this extra money,” she said.

“And so a lot of these districts demanded double digit pay increases for their staff, 24 percent and 30 percent in some districts. Have you ever gotten a 24 percent pay increase in one year?”

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