Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Education reform bills hit legislature

It looks like Washington state is finally ready to address inadequacies in its public education system, and with negative reports coming out hot and heavy lately, it comes not a moment too soon. The question is not that reforms are needed, but how can we pay for them?

The results of 17-months of work by the Basic Education Finance joint task force have been drafted into two bills, HB 1410 and SB 5444, which are gaining momentum in the legislature and new legislators are signing on daily. Are your lawmakers on board?

There’s a lot of good stuff to like in there: increased high school graduation requirements, universal all day kindergarten, a more equitable teacher compensation system and better financial accountability. Basically, our schools could start to resemble average schools around the country.

Wait a minute, you say! Our schools aren’t that bad. Well, that’s not what national studies and rankings keep telling us. Education Week magazine just awarded Washington an overall C grade for education, putting us in the bottom 20 states, which is similar to the grade we received from the League of Education Voters this month. Added to that, we are near the bottom of just about every national metric there is: class size, teacher pay and funding. Moving up to just average would be a huge leap for us.

Successful schools don't come cheap. We’re looking at an extra investment every two years of eight to ten billion dollars over current state education allocations. That’s an increase of around 85%--pretty substantial.

So, we need the money, but where will it come from? Task force member and former state Treasurer Dan Grimm has some suggestions:
His first is an extension of the sales tax to services, such as health care and financial advice, providing enough for $3.1 billion in improvements. Or, a package could authorize local property tax levies for community colleges, a payroll tax for the Basic Health Plan, a capital gains tax and a sales tax on motor vehicle fuels.
This is not an exhaustive list. More options are possible. If we want to boost our kids up to the national average, if not actually above it, we need to put on our own thinking caps and figure out a way to do it.


Blogger Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

Why not start talking about a "high-incomes tax". Personal income over $250,000 gets taxed. Why not???

January 31, 2009 9:37 PM  

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